The Anaheim City School District (ACSD) finally selected a new superintendent after an interim merry-go-round, but the honeymoon is already over for some parents. Linda Wagner, who only started her new position last month, has already made a move to transfer Benito Juarez Elementary School principal Roberto Baeza, angering parents to the point of even organizing a protest march set for Friday morning!
Wagner was appointed by the ACSD in early March by a unanimous vote, coming from a stint as superintendent at Monrovia Unified School District. She brings to Anaheim with her a background loaded with experience in bilingual education.
Sounds good for a school district with a heavily Mexi student body and a lot of English learners, ¿que no?
Whatever her credentials, angry parents are wondering why the new supe is so quick to have Principal Baeza, who has been at Juarez for five years, transferred out to Palm Lane Elementary if she is still new to the game? Those ready to protest the move suggest Wagner is serving as a proxy for ACSD board member (and Weekly Scariest People 2012 Issue honoree) Jose Moreno.
Could the alleged putsch be under the pretext of high stakes standardized testing and failing annual Academic Performance Index (API) Report goals? Scores increased in 2012 from the previous year so that can't be it. Is the matter over the issue of dual language immersion (DLI)? Principal Baeza has overseen the program that offers alternating instruction every other week in English and Spanish to students for the past two years so that can't be the reason either. Or can it?
"Dr. Baeza is one of three principals who are being moved at this time," Superintendent Wagner tells the Weekly. "It is fairly common for principals to be relocated after a period of time at a school site." As for who will be replacing principal Baeza? "We will be seeking a highly qualified principal for Juarez," Wagner says. "We hope to find a candidate who has knowledge of dual immersion, preferably speaks Spanish, and has an excellent track record as an educator and leader."
But is there more to the story than a simple routine rotation? Our sources say there is, indeed, an axe to grind between Moreno and Baeza and that it does, in fact, concern dual immersion. They tell the Weekly that a California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE) fundraiser, partially for the DLI program at Juarez Elementary, was held last weekend at Moreno's home, but with a selective guest list that included Anaheim mayor Tom Tait, Los Amigos Chair Emeritus Amin David (Moreno is David's successor), and the new supe herself–but not Baeza, originally (he did eventually make an appearance). Meanwhile, parents whose children are actually enrolled in the program weren't given an open invitation to the event. ¡Que huevos!
Those who want to see Baeza stay at Juarez Elementary are planning a protest march Friday morning at 7:45 a.m. starting at Boysen Park (on the corner of Vermont and State College Boulevard) and ending at Juarez's library. The action is timed with a scheduled visit to the school by Wagner who wants to solicit input for a new principal, but did no such thing in terms of transferring the outgoing one.
The group of concerned parents will follow up by voicing their message at the next meeting of the Anaheim City School Board, specifically to Moreno, Anaheim's supposed Great Brown Hope.
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz