Principal Roberto Baeza
Principal Roberto Baeza

Anaheim City School District Board Ignores Parent Protests and Petitions, Transfers Juarez Elementary Principal

Last night, Anaheim City School District (ACSD) board members sided with new Superintendent Linda Wagner's decision to transfer Principal Roberto Baeza out of Benito Juarez Elementary, parent protests be damned! At the meeting, they also approved and announced a new hire for Juarez: current Mann Elementary Vice Principal Cecilia Román, with the supe touting her as a fluent Spanish speaker who has twenty years of experience working in the district--nevermind Baeza can also speakee Spanish, too!

That didn't sit well with Juarez parents.

"I am pleading, begging, imploring you and do not want to cry, but please do not take [Baeza] from our children," said Victoria Burns, one of the few parents who were able to speak during public comments prior to the announcement. "[He] is not done with Benito Juarez. We still need him."

Her words failed to sway the board. "They gave lip service to the public," Burns told the Weekly after the meeting. "They gave an opportunity to speak but it wasn't really taken to heart or considered. The decision was already made."

Last evening's board meeting marked a last-ditch effort by parents who have organized and advocated for Principal Baeza to stay since learning he would be headed to Palm Lane Elementary, but their attempt to show a strong stand of support met challenges. The room was over capacity with end-of-the-year recognitions. The kids were kept waiting until after the meeting and everyone remained shoulder-to-shoulder.

Twenty minutes of public comments regarding Juarez were allotted through speaker cards and took place near the onset. Protest signs lay stacked on a table outside, though, as space was a premium for parents. In terms of persuading the ACSD board to retain Baeza at Juarez, it was all for naught.

Parents marching in Anaheim last month to keep Principal Baeza at Juarez Elementary
Parents marching in Anaheim last month to keep Principal Baeza at Juarez Elementary
Gabriel San Román / OC Weekly

Maria Grant was another parent planning to speak, but was unable to do so. She has a daughter in the Kindergarten dual language immersion program at Juarez. "Why would you disrupt the momentum?" she told the Weekly questioning the transfer. "It's just illogical."

The reason given by Superintendent Wagner when asked by this infernal rag last month was that Baeza was one of three transfers taking place and that it was a fairly common practice. That being said, parents advocated to retain him by holding a protest march, speaking out at numerous meetings held at Juarez by the supe and taking the issue to the board. All to no avail. Some parents blasted ACSD board member, Los Amigos President and Weekly Scariest Person Jose Moreno as being behind the transfer, solely to throw his weight around.

"He acts like he's the godfather of the Latino community but on the contrary he isn't supporting us," Juarez parent Jeanette Saldivar said, in Spanish, of the person she had once voted for. "Moreno sees no political interest in us. If he did, he would be here by our side."

"Dr. Baeza is helping the community and the people hold him in esteem and want him," she adds. "Moreno comes in like a scorpion dragging him down."

Saldivar had planned to speak, but, like Grant, was unable. After the meeting cleared out, she presented the superintendent and board members with a petition of more than 300 signatures in support of retaining their principal. The argument was that since it only took 20 parent waivers to put a dual immersion class into motion, like the one approved for Abraham Lincoln Elementary last night, what they had gathered in the course of a week should be given due consideration.

Unfortunately, like of all their efforts beforehand, it was not...

Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz

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