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Parents Defend Principal at Pasadena Unified Board Meeting, But Complaints Continue

Parents come forward in support of embattled Madison Elementary School Principal Juan Ruelas

Published on Friday, October 28, 2016 | 4:56 am
LULAC members defend Madison Elementary Principal Juan Ruelas.

The now year and-a-half-long battle over the leadership of Principal Juan Ruelas at Madison Elementary School continued unabated Thursday evening but with an additional new element, as parents came forward to testify before the Pasadena Unified School District Board on Ruelas’ behalf.

Dale Gronemeier, attorney for CCEJAM, a parents’ group opposed to Ruelas, led off the public speakers portion of the meeting by distributing a 41-page “White Paper,” which according to Gronemeier details cheating at Roosevelt Elementary School, when that school was under Ruelas’ leadership. Two additional teachers spoke out against Ruelas, claiming that he participated in changing answers along with a staff teacher.

PUSD Board member Patrick Cahalan makes notes on graduation presentation.

At least one former Roosevelt teacher, Karyn Messler, claimed that Roosevelt Special Education teacher John Yang assisted a severely learning disabled student “who could not put two sentences together,” in to achieving a 100% score.

Responding to the accusations, Pasadena Unified Associate Superintendent Mercy Santoro said in a statement, “Concerning the matter of the 2011 Standardized Testing Irregularities reported at Roosevelt Elementary School, the issue was investigated by the District’s Human Resources and Technology staff, and was reported to the California Department of Education (CDE).”

“These incidents are taken very seriously,” Santoro added, saying, “The CDE’s analysis showed that 1.6 percent of students had been involved in the incident, therefore, the school’s academic performance was not impacted.”

“However,” Santoro continued, “because an adult teacher irregularity was found to occur, the school was made ineligible for programs in 2011-12 such as the California Distinguished School Award and the Blue Ribbon Schools Program. This unfortunate incident has been investigated, and the necessary precautions have been put in place.”

Attorney Gronemeier asked for a new and separate formal investigation into cheating by Ruelas, claiming that the incidents listed in his paper occurred in 2015.

Meanwhile, Olivia Arreola, president of the Pasadena-Altadena chapter of League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) led a group of a dozen or so Ruelas’ supporters, saying, “The students are happy, and it’s a healthy environment. Scores have increased among the third and fourth graders.”

Arreola criticized the Ruelas protesters, saying, “They’re here, talking on behalf of the union, when they could be doing something good for the school.”

“Attendance is up. The school is clean and organized,” said another parent.

In other matters, the Board also promised to investigate charges that members of the Boys’ baseball team at Muir High School have been assigned to maintain the new Dodgers “Field of Dreams,” baseball field, which was dedicated last spring. Players maintained that they have been forced to come early to school to prepare the field for daily practice, when the Dodger Foundation reportedly provided tools and funding for such maintenance.

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