May 11, 2001

School Board Member John de Beck Outraged Over Removal of San Diego High Principal

From the Office of John de Beck

San Diego school superintendent Alan Bersin and Chancellor for Instruction Tony Alvarado, abruptly removed long-time district principal Tony Alfaro from his leadership position at San Diego High School. According to School Board Member, John de Beck, the immediate buyout was a complete surprise and was never discussed with the school board in an official meeting. The board met on May 8th, but San Diego High School governance team members were not notified until May 7th that Alfaro would be removed by May 9th.

The board is supposed to act on personnel matters in closed session, and de Beck said that the buyout was never discussed. "I was aware that Tony Alfaro was not in the Chancellor's good graces because he openly questioned whether some new policies were good for kids. In fact, at least two board members share his concerns. When rumors of his leaving at the end of the year surfaced, I was flooded by calls from alumni. I told them that I would not vote to remove him from the school. But pulling him out with just six weeks to go, and keeping him away from his final graduating class seems a slap in the face for the Hispanic community Mr. Alfaro has served so effectively for many years."

San Diego High Alumni Association members have called a 10:00 a.m. press conference for Friday, May 11, on the steps of the school. Yolanda Escamilla, Vice-President of the Parent Teacher Student Association, said that the group was "outraged at the behind-the-scenes unilateral decision and disregard for students." Numbers of graduating seniors were said to be unwilling to take a diploma from anyone but Alfaro, and particularly not from board members who supported the "insensitive act."

Former San Diego Assistant Superintendent Dick Jackson, also an alumni of the school, was "astounded and dismayed" at the treatment of an "outstanding educator" by this "insensitive school board."

According to de Beck, the board's action caps a year of district turmoil over the decision to rapidly implement curriculum changes that many feel have the potential to adversely affect high school students. The board has imposed three-hour English and two-hour Math remedial blocks, and is also requiring Physics instruction for these same 9th grade students. "I can see how a principal would be willing to state concerns about what this does to a student's chances for graduation," said de Beck.

While in opposition to this action, de Beck is most concerned about how much the School Board majority allows to happen without their knowledge or consent. "I got elected to set policy and to monitor the district's performance, which includes how we treat our employees. If we are going to act only to ratify Alan Bersin's behavior, then he should be elected directly," said de Beck. "I think the community deserves oversight and discussion of district policies and personnel actions by an informed school board, and that isn't the case at present."

Parents, teachers and other education personnel have been fighting the Superintendent's Blueprint for Student Achievement since its inception. As many as 2,000 marchers have attended various board meetings where the uncompromising school board has voted 3/2 for nearly every proposal made by the Superintendent and Chancellor. "I believe that about 75% of the Blueprint is acceptable, and if the rest were modified through compromise, the students would benefit and the program would be fully supported by the board minority," said de Beck. "The problem is that this all is take-it or leave it stuff, just like the Alfaro action. That's a shame, and the community deserves more from its school leadership."

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