May 12, 2006

Heritage Elementary parents outraged by principal’s dismissal

Chula Vista Elementary School District won’t say why Tim Suanico was fired.

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

A group of parents from Heritage Elementary School, in Otay Ranch, are outraged that Heritage Principal Tim Suanico was fired without the community knowing the reasons behind this action.

Meanwhile, a group of parents from another school, Los Altos Elementary School, also in Chula Vista, are also protesting that Los Altos principal is being trasfered to Heritage, something they say will affect Los Altos students.

On March 30, Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Dr. Lowell Billings informed Suanico that he was being released as principal of Heritage effective June 30, 2006.

Neither the superintendent nor the school district has informed Heritage parents about why Suanico was dismissed.

Some parents at Heritage believe that the principal was fired due to pressure that a group of unidentified teachers put on the district. These parents say that since Suanico arrived at Heritage in November, 2004, some teachers didn’t like that he was trying to improve the school’s academic performance.

“Those teachers just don’t want to do more than what they have done in the past,” said Kim Longo, one of the parents who have come together in support of Suanico. “They don’t want to be held accountable. That’s exactly what Mr. Suanico was doing. Making them accountable for the education of our children.”

However, an anonymous letter sent to Billings in November, 2005, by a group of unidentified Heritage teachers, states that “Our staff morale and teaching focus have been severely hindered under the leadership of Mr. Tim Suanico.”

Longo said that although parents are outraged that Suanico was fired, they’re more outraged because the District is not coming forward and telling the Heritage community about its decision.

“In short, they won’t tell us,” she said. “How do they expect the community to be involved if they’re not taking us into consideration?”

In an interview, Suanico said he couldn’t comment on this matter because he might take legal action.

In a telephone interview with La Prensa San Diego, Superintendent Billings said that he followed standard procedure about informing certified personnel who will no longer be reappointed to their current position.

He said that he couldn’t give further information about Suanico’s case.

“It’s not legal or ethical to comment on specific personnel or individuals,” Billings said. “It is not appropiate for me to make public comments on decisions regarding individual personnel.”

Billings said that there’s going to be a change of principals in the 2006-2007 school year. Emma Sanchez, currently Los Altos principal, will be transfered to Heritage.

This has outraged a group of Los Altos parents because they said that Sanchez has improved the school since she arrived there four years ago.

Some of them, like Elizabeth Zamudio, believe that the district is taking away a good principal from a “poor” school to a “richer” school.

“The District thinks that because many of us come from low-income families and many of us only speak Spanish we’re not going to act and that we’re not going to do anything,” Zamudio said. “They’re wrong. We’re taking action, too.”

Billings said Sanchez requested the transfer and called her “a very popular principal, with a wonderful track-record. She was placed in Los Altos so that she would lay the foundations for a better school. She has accomplished that mission there. Now she’s going to use her talent in a larger setting.”

Sanchez couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

Billings said the District is in the process of finding a new principal for Los Altos. He added that there will be a community forum this month to get input from parents and staff.

Both groups of parents from Heritage and Los Altos met on Wednesday, May 10, to plan how they can help each other.

Longo said she has requested a meeting with Congressman Bob Filner and she might request a meeting with San Diego Office of Education Superintendent Rudy Castruita.

Longo said that, in the end, parents need to know the facts of Suanico’s dismissal.

“If it’s not because of immoral reasons, if it’s not legal issues, if it’s not academic, then, what is it? We want to know.”

Longo invites parents from Heritage and Los Altos to attend the next School Board Meeting on May 16 so that parents can express their opinions.

Heritage parents have a website where you can learn more about this issue: www.otayranchheritage.com.

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