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The Moment of Truth Arrives for Verdugo High Parents and Staff

August 9, 2011

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

Martin Luther King, Jr

Verdugo Hills High, a "gem" of a school located at the base of the foothills in Tujunga

UPDATE The Sunland -Tujunga Neighborhood Council met last night (8/10) and unanimously agreed to send a resolution “with teeth”  to city council member Krekorian and to Deasy condemning the lack of autonomy of  the Verdugo High staff to choose their own principal.  This means they will demand action and state what they will do should the action not be met.  It was clear those on the council had past dealings with LAUSD, with one member stating she had been constantly lied to by the district.  Will this be where the district machine is finally halted? 

Verdugo’s parents refuse to remain silent about the district’s attempt to force a principal the community does not want on this well-regarded and beautiful school located in my little town of Tujunga.

Verdugo High School link

Outgoing principal Diane Klewitz’s picture is still on the website. She just retired after about 40 years in the district and will now join the Peace Corps. This was great timing for her, but unfortunate timing   for the parents, students and staff of Verdugo High, an institutional landmark of pride for several generations of Sunland – Tujunga residents.   Klewitz’s retirement set up a power struggle between the corporatizer Deasy, who is used to getting his way, and the residents of Sunland-Tujunga, also used to getting their way in civic matters, the abandonment of a Home Depot store being Exhibit A.   I bet Home Depot never dreamed that the residents of this sleepy town would triumph over city hall, lobbyists, lawyers and a powerful corporation- but that’s just what we did = John Deasy take note.

 I have an attachment to Verdugo High as I live less than five minutes from the school and many of the students I tutor in a group home attend the school. Iwrote about attending a graduation ceremony here a few months back and being unable to help but to compare it to Fremont’s sometimes chaotic graduations.  I still can hear the two students who sang Vega’s Life is Beautiful at the Verdugo ceremony and I realized at that time as I stated in my post on the graduations that sometime very soon their peaceful, calm world would be shattered by district suits bullying them over test scores. Sadly, my prediction is coming true. 

Once Klewitz retired,  Verdugo parents and staff began a search for a new leader under a deal, according to the Daily News that was ok’d by Ramon Cortines to prevent Verdugo from going charter,  but then of course, timing is everything, and Cortines retired mid- year before the new principal was chosen.  That’s when things got messy.

Reportedly, Deasy had given the deal his blessing but then reneged once Verdugo parents, community members and staff agreed on a candidate.  I know this is sounding tiringly familiar to former Fremont teachers, however, this is all brand new for Sunland-Tujunga.

“It is troubling to me that the new superintendent has such a lack of respect for the voices of the school, parents and community – especially after stating publicly that he wants school sites to have hiring power for all staff,” said Lisa Karahalios, a social studies teacher at Verdugo Hills High (Daily News article by Connie Llanos)  I met Karaholis and a group of wonderful and concerned parents and teachers Monday morning at Verdugo High.  These were not community activists, they were involved parents who had volunteered at Verdugo for years,  but   I could sense the bewilderment  This type of disrespect is not something they can easily grasp and they were searching for the next steps.  They wanted to keep this a “local matter” and not  bring any other issues into what they kept describing as “their school,” but that hope was dashed today with Jason Song’s surprisingly well -written and on the mark article about Verdugo in which he placed it in context with similar power struggles such as the removal of Veronique Wills from Obama  Global Prep School.  One parent talked about the school being a “gem almost no one knows about” and wanting to keep it that way.   They have no precedent for this. Currently, an interim principal well liked by the parents and staff is filling in until, according to Deasy, he can analyze test scores and data.  I have a feeling the crunching of the numbers isn’t going to go Verdugo’s way

LA TIMES ARTICLE: VERDUGO HIGH PARENTS AND TEACHERS FOILED IN NAMING NEW PRINCIPAL

The polite, demure attitude of parents that I met seems to have given way in less than 24 hours to outrage and fury as comments on the LA Times and Daily News websites  demonstrate:

“One thing this article fails to mention is that Deasy verbally and publically agreed to abide by a decision-making process with the parents and other elected members of Verdugo’s Governance and Staffing committees. After many hours of interviews and discussion by the committee and Deasy’s personal representative, he unilaterally ignored the wishes of the community and reneged on his own deal. No explanation, no apology. Not only is this a personal and professional breach of ethics, it is the complete opposite of the Superintendent’s public statments in his Op-Ed piece for the Times last week, wherein he claims to support reform, innovation, and local school decsion-making. It’s no surprise either that school board member Nury Martinez would be in lockstep support of Deasy’s duplicity. She, like Deasy, has not responded to any community requests for a meeting. These “educational professionals” are highly adept at removing the public from “public school.”

“Maybe the parents of Verdugo Hills should submit an op-ed to the LA Times pointing out that Mr. Deasy’s statements are not worth the paper they are written on. If the LA Times, as is stated in the Opinion section of the Saturday, Augut 6, edition, is willing to give Mr. Deasy a forum because “he was writing to make the larger community aware of issues likely to arise during negotiations with United Teachers Los Angeles,” it is equally important to inform the larger community how Mr. Deasy treats those he is supposed to serve and support even after making a deal. If this man cannot be trusted to hold his end of a publically made deal where the stakes are relatively small (it’s only the hiring of one principal!), can he be trusted to act ethically when dealing with his employees without an iron-clad contract? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

And meet the new board, much worse than the old board, with even schools in the 800 range of API being on Steve Zimmer’s radar, who claims that schools with high API’s who don’t meet all their subgroup targets should be on the table for reform. Is there a bigger sell out on the board than Zimmer right now???

And as for Martinez who is supposed to represent the parents and students of Verdugo High could be found meekly affirming her support for Deasy’s action:

School board member Nury Martinez, who represents the area around Verdugo, said she supports Deasy’s actions. “I have to trust he’s going to do what’s right for the kids of Verdugo,” she said.

(LA Times article)

Really, Nury?  Deasy doesn’t even know the kids at Verdugo and has no knowledge of this community!  What a cop out, and she refuses to attend any community meeting about this issue. 

Deasy, Martinez, Zimmer el al have brought their shock doctrine vision of reform show on the road to the Valley,  hoping to “shock and awe” Verdugo parents, who have proven to have faster reflexes than parents and teachers at Fremont.    Here’s to Verdugo High parents and teachers.  Your moment has arrived.

Life is beautiful, but it’s complicated.
We barely make it.
We don’t need to understand,
There are miracles, miracles

Stand where you are.
We let all these moments pass us by.

It’s amazing where I’m standing,
There’s a lot that we can give.
This is ours just for a moment.
There’s a lot that we can give.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2011 8:44 pm

    The problem was precedents have already been established: Fremont, HP, Jordan, Clay (I consider Clay tto have been a casualty that won’t be returned to public ed until after Green Dot has had their 3-5 years). Since this has already happened at several schools and the voices raised in protest were not loud enough or “important enough”, the “motion carried.” The District has gained momentum and neither UTLA noe PEAC will do squat.I hope and pray they prove me wrong, but if they do, ask where were they when things were going down at HP, at Jordan.

  2. August 9, 2011 9:08 pm

    I understand your doubts but I know this community- they will fight.

  3. August 10, 2011 2:02 pm

    We need to get together as a union of teachers and parents. It is obvious that UTLA can’t handle the new politics that are crushing decision-making by communities and leading us down a fascist-like trail where all decisions come through a central policy-maker. The status quo is ineffectual. Join with the LADisplaced Teacher group. We’ve seen all that Verdugo Hills HS is going through and much more. It’s time to hit the streets again loud and proud! We stand with you!

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  1. Gotta Love Those Rebels at Verdugo Hills High « Fremont Watch

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