Supporters of Madison Elementary School Principal Juan Ruelas Gather at End of Year Party

Gathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan RuelasGathering for Pasadena Unified Principal Juan Ruelas

5:08 am | May 27, 2017


Pasadena Unified’s James Madison Elementary School Principal Juan Ruelas was fêted Friday with an end-of year party by staff members, teachers and supporters of the school.

The event, which featured food trucks and a clown making balloon animals, was held at the Pasadena home of philanthropists Adele and Gordon Binder. Mr. Binder is the retired Chief Executive Officer of Amgen, and Mrs. Binder is a director of Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy, a foundation that built an educational food garden at Madison.

Also on hand were representatives of the Huntington Library Botanical Division, which is partnering with the Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy and Pasadena Unified to provide teacher training, curriculum development, and student field trips.

Although his tenure at Madison has been marked by controversy, his supporters at Friday’s party said Ruelas has been at the forefront of educational reforms at Madison, which for many years has been one of the poorest performing public schools in Pasadena.

In 2015, shortly after Ruelas was appointed to the school and barely before that school year was underway, 100 people representing themselves to be parents of children attending the school spoke at a Pasadena Unified Board meeting complaining about the changes at the school Ruelas was implementing.

That protest was the first of many. Then, in late 2016 and 2017, supporters of Ruelas began appearing before the Board of Education in greater numbers speaking in his defense.

Earlier this week, the teachers union released “a bad report card” for Ruelas, saying that a survey of Pasadena Unified teachers by the union gave Ruelas an average grade of “D” for his administrative performance this school year. School district officials came to Ruelas’ defense, calling the survey “invalid.”

At Friday’s party, there was nothing but support for Ruelas. There were several speeches, rounds of applause, and requests for “even higher and higher standards.”

Mr. Binder noted that when he visited Madison, “I was very pleasantly surprised at how clean, organized, and well-run it was. I wasn’t expecting to be so impressed with what I saw.”

Binder attributed what he called “an atmosphere focused on learning” to “all of you great teachers, and of course to your leader, Juan Ruelas.”

When Ruelas spoke, he thanked “each and every one” of Madison’s teachers and praised the high quality, self-discipline, and personal goals of excellence of his staff. He thanked the Binders, the Pasadena Educational Foundation, the Pasadena Community Gardens Conservancy, and the Huntington Library for taking a keen interest in his work to reform Madison.

Ruelas promised that next year, the efforts to turnaround the school “will be even more focused. Together, we’ll do better and better for the children entrusted to us.”