Guest Opinion | Eileen White Read: Let’s Halt Lawyers’ Manipulation of Education in the Pasadena Unified School System

Published : Thursday, May 25, 2017 | 5:14 AM

Principal Juan Ruelas and Madison Elementary School second-grade teachers thank donors from Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy for building an educational garden to promote better nutrition and the study of science.

Thousands of Pasadena taxpayers were shocked last month to read that $65,000 of money we have paid in federal, state, and local taxes was being moved from the PUSD schools budget to two attorneys because of a legal technicality involving an allegedly troubled teacher at James Madison Elementary School. These attorneys then attempted to force PUSD to fire Madison Principal Juan Ruelas on the pretense of a $20,000 “gift” that they would then make to the school. From our tax money. What a neat trick!

Next, these lawyers “released” an obviously faux “survey” of Madison’s teachers, with the requisite slamming of Mr. Ruelas. Credulity was strained irremediably: Missing were an indication of how many of Madison’s more than 30 teachers were “surveyed” along with any mention of an unbiased, independent, certified polling company having been hired to conduct the survey.

It’s very tempting for Pasadena’s non-public-school intelligentsia to find such shenanigans tres amusant and to look away, tisk-tisking that here’s another example of tipplers at Pasadena’s public trough. After all, it doesn’t affect “us” — or does it? First of all, in the pocketbook; my family hands over a painful $35,000 in property taxes to the Golden State each year, and I’d like to think that at least a few of those dollars benefit the commonweal. Secondarily, in the old-fashioned concept of pro bono publico. Pasadena’s public-school families are our neighbors, and their children’s futures matter.

Frequent and well-publicized rigamarole — instead of a tightly focused campaign to boost students’ grades — is exactly why Pasadena bears the shame of having the largest (30% or more) proportion of school-age children attending private schools in the United States. Surely it’s time for PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald and the elected Pasadena School Board to reward Mr. Ruelas for his campaign to reverse Madison’s decades of poor student performance and tighten its lax standards for teachers. I served as Principal for a Day at Madison this year and heard dozens of teachers praise his efforts. They told me his reforms included such common-sense items as forbidding Madison teachers to use their cell phones while they are supposed to be teaching, discouraging them from eating while they are teaching, and requiring them to report for duty before their students arrive each morning.

As for the teacher whose discipline by Mr. Ruelas was the proximate cause of the lawyers’ energetic and creative litigation, I was with several friends attending a recent Pasadena School Board meeting. Three of us turned away from the podium after speaking together in favor of Mr. Ruelas. We noticed among the audience members, the very teacher championed by those creative lawyers. We watched, horrified, as this purported pillar of educational excellence grimaced at us while she raised her middle finger.

blog comments powered by Disqus