Don’t Believe Everything You Hear
I attended the last showing of Verdugo Hills High’s wonderful production of Hairspray tonight, and in attendance was Dr. Trimis, the VHHS former principal who was kicked to the curb about a month ago, much to the dismay of parents and students, but from what I hear, not to the dismay of teachers- but I am not defending the teachers in this case. A union rep tried repeatedly to convince me that there were valid, but confidential reasons why Dr. Trimis was removed and banished to the Dark Tower at Beaudry to work in the Arts Education Branch.
But something just rings false about all the innuendo used to try to persuade me that Trimis was a horrible principal. That’s not the impression of the parents, students or some of the staff. It’s also not what my gut is telling me. VHHS is an ESBM school- School Based Management- something of a dying breed in the district I think giving staff control of a school can be positive but I have also seen the less positive side of this type of governance.
After going through the reconstitution of Fremont and having to apply at other LAUSD schools, I was subjected to condescending age discriminating comments like “We don’t use dittos here.” “Oh, is there something about me that leads you to believe I would use dittos?” The comment about “dittos” was from a twenty -something teacher. I found that teachers want to hire other teachers who are most like themselves instead of hiring someone who might bring something different to the staff. Younger teachers also tend to want to hire younger teachers but they often forget- they to will someday be veteran teachers. I also witnessed top-notch teachers forced out during the dark years of the Deasy regime. I’ve seen teachers not support other teachers and others who behave like corporate lackeys, so I am less inclined to automatically believe everything I hear from other teachers or my union. I’m far less gullible and more discerning than I was before Fremont’s reconstitution, restructuring – whatever R word is in vogue for destroying a school.
Principals don’t often have a clear understanding of all the issues teachers deal with in the classroom but that also is true in the reverse- teachers don’t often have an appreciation for the politics, mandates, staffing and budgeting issues principals have to deal with. I was glad to see Dr. Trimis in attendance even though he was supposedly banned. Below is part of the text of a letter sent to Michelle King by a parent dismayed at the banning of Dr. Trimis from school events. I’ve blocked out any identifying parent or student information.
THIS FROM ____________(A VHHS parent):
I was informed today that Dr. Edward Trimis is being banned from attending any school events at Verdugo Hills High School such as musical, concerts, awards banquets, graduation. I sent the following letter to the Superintendent of the LAUSD: April 27, 2016
Dear Ms. King,
My name is ________. I have __________ enrolled at Verdugo Hills High School. They are both seniors and have attended Verdugo since their freshmen year. My daughter _________ is the Deputy Colonel for the LAUSD JROTC and also serves as an alternate student board member for the LAUSD. My daughter __________is highly involved with many of the arts programs at Verdugo.
For the past 4 years, we have enjoyed getting to know Dr. Edward Trimis as he was the principal at Verdugo when they enrolled and he has been integral to their positive experiences in academics, the arts and student leadership. We were very saddened and somewhat enraged when Dr. Trimis was removed from his position at Verdugo. Dr. Trimis had become like family to us, and the thought that we would be missing him and everything he did for Verdugo so close to the end of senior year was nearly unbearable.
Considering this close relationship with Dr. Trimis, our family of course has extended invitations to Dr. Trimis to attend the school events that my daughters are part of and have always enjoyed the presence of Dr. Trimis at in the past. For example, _______ has the stage production and spring musical of “Hairspray” this Saturday. Dr. Trimis has attended all her performances in the past. _________ has the Awards Banquet/Ceremony for the JROTC coming up on May 3. Dr. Ttimis has always attended these ceremonies and had kind words to say to my daughter and the JROTC program at Verdugo. _______ has Spring Concert coming up. Trimis has always been there to encourage, support and praise her and the entire team. Senior Awards and Graduation is coming up. The thought of Dr. Trimis not being there is extremely unfortunate and quite frankly a travesty.
Dr. Trimis’ indefatigable efforts to attend all Verdugo Hills events and to document them on social media to share with the entire student body has been a mainstay in developing school spirit, pride and success. We are all missing him and his uniquely remarkable dedication to students and the school. Make no mistake, my girls are not the only ones feeling this devastating loss. Hundreds of students and parents are beside themselves with grief and angst.
The reason I am addressing these issues with you today is that upon the extension of invitation to Dr. Trimis for these events, I have been informed that the “local superintendent” has blocked Dr. Trimis from attending any events at Verdugo Hills High School.
I will not inquire or pry into the reasons the local superintendent has taken this stance, but I can tell you from a legal standpoint that it is certainly challengeable and a violation of Dr. Trimis basic human rights as a citizen of the United States.
Constitutional provisions provide protection to teachers and school staff at public schools that are generally not available to teachers at private schools. Since public schools are state entities, constitutional restrictions on state action limit some actions that public schools may take with respect to teachers or other employees. One of those rights, that is constitutional in nature, is the freedom of expression and association provided by the First Amendment.
If Dr. Trimis were a family member to me and I invited him to my daughter’s school events, what authority does the LAUSD have to prevent Dr. Trimis from attending the events or to alienate him from the family?
Similarly, if Dr. Trimis is a close family friend, what authority does the LAUSD have to deprive all of us from having his company and association at these momentous occasions?
I implore you to think heavily on these issues which not only violate Dr. Trimis’ rights, but they violate the rights of my family and other families who are a part of Verdugo Hills High School. Any barring of Dr. Trimis from freely associating with us at school events should be rescinded immediately or LAUSD could face a barrage of litigation within the next 10 days.
I hope you will consider this plea and set right this errant course the “local superintendent” and the LAUSD find themselves on.
Generally speaking, both the city and the LAUSD constantly underestimate Sunland-Tujunga. We are one of the most persistent and active communities when it comes to civic and school affairs. I guess this parent got through to Superintendent King because Dr. Trimis was in attendance tonight in the front row and surrounded by students and parents. It was as it should be.
UPDATE: Apparently the letter worked. I saw on a community website that Dr. Trimis would be allowed to attend VHHS events. This means that obviously whatever the reasons for his removal, they could not have been as dire as what the UTLA union rep led me to believe, otherwise Dr. Trimis would not have been allowed back on campus.