Integration in the Fullerton Elementary School Districe 1970 to 1972

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  • A new superintendent came to town in September 1970.  D. Russell Parks finally retired and his reign of segregation was over.  First thing Superintendent Robert Crawford set about was to address the “ethnic imbalance” of the Fullerton Elementary School District.

    That was the cover story for closing Maple Elementary School.  “I never did understand why they closed Maple School,” said a woman who had been in the last Maple sixth grade class in 1972.

    The underlying reason for closing Maple was that the residents of the new and affluent neighborhood called President Homes wanted their own elementary school.  The nearest was Rolling Hills School.  The objection to that school by the President Homesians was that their children would have to cross Brea Boulevard, it was said.  But financing assistance from the state was allocated only on the basis of facility square footage per pupil.  Therefore, to get state financing, Fullerton Elementary District had to have less classroom space.

    Crawford’s  plan included the formation of a citizens advisory committee which was intended to recommend closing Maple School, 98.5% minority students.  Without a neighborhood school, all those students would be bussed to various other schools.  That ultimate plan was adopted by the school board, but rocks arose in the road to its achievement.

    I read of the intended committee in the Fullerton News Tribune, that representatives of local
    organizations would be appointed.*  I telephoned Lorril Senefeld, chair of the Fullerton Fair Housing Council, foundation of the later Orange County Fair Housing Council.  “Lorril,” I said, “The Fair Housing Council needs to be represented on that committee, and Mary Stewart would be an excellent person to be our representative.”

    Lorril called me back, said Mary  had declined and had said I would be an excellent representative.  “Well, ok,” I said.  And so started my second significant political education.  And put paid to Robert
    Crawford’s plan, as it happened.

    No one knew anyone else, among the citizens**–school district employees were included in the
    committee–but everyone knew John Jimenez, principal of Maple School.  The representative of a Rotary Club, Roland Hiltscher,  nominated him to be chair of the committee, and he was duly elected at our first meeting.  As I recall, Roland never came to another meeting.  “Idiot!” someone said to me later.  “When people don’t know each other in committee work, you elect an interim chair to serve until you do get to know who’s who.”

    We began in February 1971.   First thing we had done, at the behest of Peggy Martin, AAUW and Elizabeth Beebe, League of Women Voters, was to draft a statement of principles to be adopted by the Board of Trustees so that we could be clear as to what the Board policy was in regard to the obligations and expectations for our task.  Jimenez didn’t like that, but he could not block it.

 

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