Longform

Christian Crusade

Page 7 of 7

The war over the Glendale Elementary School District has attracted an audience of anxious observers. Glendale's reviving downtown is buzzing with uneasy conversation about it, with business people and politicians alike worrying that it's a turnoff to potential new employers.

"The people mounting this recall are not rabble-rousers," says Glendale Mayor George Renner. "On the contrary, they are respected members of the community, all with long involvement in making it a better place.

"I share the perception that the district has made great strides forward under the present administration and, frankly, I share the concern about divisiveness that can bring that program to a stop," Renner says.

The brawl also is being watched closely by school officials in the Phoenix Union High School District, where two fundamentalists gained seats on the five-member board last November. Some Phoenix teachers see only one board seat between them and what is happening to their colleagues in Glendale.

Among education professionals, at least, interest extends far beyond Arizona's borders. "I would urge your district to recognize the excellence which is in your own midst," said Eugene Garcia, chairman of studies in education at the University of California at Santa Cruz, in a recent letter to Weis. Garcia said the Glendale schools have been used as a model for school restructuring in Denver, Los Angeles, and El Paso, Texas.

Spady, who says the Glendale district has a national reputation as a model program, says "many other districts" will watch to see if it can sustain the educational reforms of recent years.

"If allowed to continue, this upheaval will damage this and other districts for a long time to come," Spady predicts. "The risk-takers will leave, the skeptics will harden their resistance to change. The chances for conciliation will evaporate."

Conciliation is about the last thing on the minds of fundamentalist Christians, even though most express contentment with their private-school choices. People's rights are involved, says MacPherson.

"When we took our children out of public school it was like the end of the American Dream," MacPherson says. "We moved into this home with the specific idea that our kids could walk to elementary school and walk to high school, and now we feel that's gone."

Burns makes it clear there's a lot of hash to be settled: "I'm not giving up. I'm not going away.

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Kathleen Stanton