For the past three years, Derek Hendricks has commuted from Banning to attend Beaumont High School, where he has been playing football and baseball, and has been a member of the wrestling team. He has his sights on trying out for the water polo team.
The Banning school district signed off on waivers all through high school in order to allow him to transfer between districts.
Until this year.
According to a May 21 letter sent to the Hendricks family, signed by Banning’s director of Child Welfare & Attendance, Bryan Astrachan, their request was denied because it did “not meet the criteria for an Interdistrict Attendance Permit.”
His mother is confused and concerned at this unexpected response from the district, and is not pleased with the way she feels Banning has been handling the situation.
“I’m being told those previous requests shouldn’t have been approved,” by Banning School District Superintendent Robert Guillen, Christy Jo Hendricks said. “In the five minutes we met, he was adamant about not authorizing an interdistrict transfer. He told me that he was willing to authorize a transfer to Palm Springs. What’s up with that?”
She was livid. “I said to him, ‘You’re willing to allow him to transfer to Palm Springs, but not five minutes up the road to Beaumont? He said, ‘Yup.’ I couldn’t believe how I was treated. I was embarrassed for our district.”
Her three children, including one who is going to be an eighth-grader this year, and one who is supposed to be a sophomore at Beaumont High School this coming year, have been home schooled and enrolled in charter schools in years past.
They chose to send Derek to Beaumont High School so that he could take advantage of public school athletic opportunities, among several reasons.
Hendricks points out, “Beaumont’s schools had better performance, 100 percent of their teachers are full-time, and they have a high teacher retention rate” compared to Banning, which is hiring more than 12 teachers going into the school year that begins Aug. 7. She claimed that Banning High School has been an underperforming school for “several” years, criticized Banning for what she felt was a high student drop out rate, and praised Beaumont for having a higher college-going rate. She also expressed concerns over security issues in Banning.
“The way I was treated between Beaumont and Banning was night and day,” Hendricks said. “Beaumont says ‘Kids are our priority,’” and added, “If this is how Banning treats people, I can only imagine how they treat kids.”
She said that she suspects Banning wants to keep her children there in order to receive the state’s Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding that they would bring in.
Hendricks said that she has been contemplating her next move with the help of an attorney.
Superintendent Guillen told the Record Gazette on Tuesday that money was not a factor in determining whether or not it grants interdistrict transfers, considering that there are eight seniors who are vying for transfers from Banning to Beaumont High School, and at least one eighth-grader.
“I think it would be one thing if they moved to Banning after the start of the school year, and had already started their senior year at Beaumont,” Guillen said. “I would understand that. But this request is happening before they start their senior year,” and explained that, according to Guillen, the state’s education code states that a school district “may” approve interdistrict transfers, but does not require them to do so.
He also felt that the district’s current education policy is stricter than the state’s education code.
“We’ve given them the opportunity to appeal, and we will let the county decide whether to override our denial,” Guillen said. “There are rules, and they need to be followed. I can’t speculate why prior administrations allowed these transfers,” even though a few of them would have gotten through under his administration. He points out, “Approvals for transfers are for one year and one year only. They are not ongoing. Based on the ed code, students should finish school in the district where they are residing.”
According to the letter sent by director Astrachan, among the criteria the district may consider when determining approval of an interdistrict transfer include: a specialized high school program that is needed, but not provided at Banning High School, but is available at their target school; whether or not a parent of the student is employed by the district in which they wish to transfer to; childcare is available for a student younger than eighth-grade; and whether or not the student has started their senior year by the time of the request.
“Your reason for requesting transfer is not sufficient in order to warrant an approval,” Astrachan’s letter states. “When you move to a new school district, you must start the new year in your district of residence,” and advised the family to register their children with the Banning school district.
Guillen has said that he is consulting with his school board to see what the district might be able to do to curtail state education code requirements for the eight senior student interdistrict transfer requests it has received for this coming year.
Hendricks said that, if she exhausts all of her family’s appeal efforts, she will consider finding someone in Beaumont to sign over legal guardianship for Derek in order to let him finish his senior year there, or homeschool her children.
Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at email@example.com.