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Encinal High Teacher Fights Transfer Amid Racial Allegations

Brian Rodriguez and supporters rally outside of AUSD offices, July 21, 2014. (Facebook)

Brian Rodriguez and supporters rally outside of AUSD offices, July 21, 2014. (Facebook)

An Encinal High School teacher and his supporters are hoping that today, her last day with the district, Alameda Unified School District Superintendent Kirsten Vital will reverse his mandated transfer from Encinal High to the Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).

Brian Rodriguez, his family and his supporters have been rallying on Facebook and at district offices, organizing and making phone calls to school officials to halt the transfer; the group met at an Alameda restaurant earlier this week to plot strategy in advance of a meeting this morning with Vital.

In a statement, which is reproduced below in its entirety, Rodriguez says that Encinal High is plagued with racial discord, and that, “some misguided teacher critics have attempted to paper my file as was done against other educators of color, despite many years of achievement.”

Rodriguez says that he’s the only remaining male Hispanic teacher at Encinal, and one of two male teachers of color.

At a July 21st rally for Rodriguez at school district offices, a supporter held a sign that read, “black and brown kids need Rodriguez.”

California Department of Education data for the 2013 to 2014 school year shows that African American students comprise a larger proportion of students than at Alameda High, the other large high school in Alameda.

In December of last year, The Post News Group ran a story about a student allegedly leaving a drawing of a Ku Klux Klan mask on an African American students desk.

According to that story, “the incident was swept under the rug and ignored until the victim’s parents filed a police report.”

The story also reports from a source that even teachers at Encinal have shown a lack of sensitivity towards African American students.

Historically, Encinal High School has served a student body that is more racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse than Alameda High.

Facebook Page
On the Keep Brian Rodriguez at Encinal High School Facebook page, Rodriguez supporters wrote that “[Rodriguez] acts as that advocate for a lot of students of color that do not have a family behind them who speak perfect English and are therefore uncomfortable attending principal meetings, parent-teacher meetings or board meetings, etc.”

Rodriguez supporters told Action Alameda News that the school district displaced a teacher at ASTI to be able to effect the transfer.

In addition to his statement, Rodriguez provided an 86 page file containing letters of support from past students and others, one of whom wrote, “Encinal represents a diverse body of Alameda’s residents, and although it may not have the wealth of resources associated with other Alameda schools, its success is due to its teachers. The diverse students of Encinal are lucky to have a diverse, driven and relentlessly loyal teacher in Mr. Rodriguez.”

Rodriguez also told Action Alameda News, by e-mail, “many more staff members have told me they would speak out, but are afraid of retaliation by the administration and the ‘leadership’ group of teachers who have targeted me.”

Full Statement from Brian Rodriguez
The full statement sent by Rodriguez to Action Alameda News is reproduced in its entirety below:

I love Encinal! I have been teaching there for 19 years and have developed rich relationships with students and families in the West End in my popular classes. Many teachers have come and gone during this time. I have intentionally chosen to stay to have the highest impact on our diverse student body including opening up the Advanced Placement program to traditionally under represented students.

Due to constant administrative turnover staff relations at Encinal have deteriorated and there have been a variety of racially tinged incidents. As the only remaining male Hispanic teacher at Encinal, and one of two male teachers of color in the school, I have had to deflect racist behavior for years, including the actions of three teachers who were disciplined for vandalizing my room. In 2012, distinguished African American educators such as Charles Franklin, who had taught at Encinal for 12 years, were forced out, and in 2013, Principal Roxanne Brown Garcia was abruptly removed mid year. Concerned citizens have demanded an investigation of this pattern and practice of discrimination.

In 19 years of employment I have nothing but the highest evaluations,including Alameda Teacher of the Year in 2008, and an award as one of the top ten teachers in the nation in 2013. In little over 10 days, since I received official notice of the involuntary transfer on July 7, over 80 positive letters have been written by current and former students, staff members, and community members, requesting the involuntary transfer to ASTI be withdrawn. Sadly, now some misguided teacher critics have attempted to paper my file as was done against other educators of color, despite many years of achievement by claiming I was hard to work with and their criticisms are filled with stereotypes about Latino males. None of the complaints were brought to my attention by supervisors, as required by contract, so I was denied the opportunity to respond. Now I have challenged the allegations as unsubstantiated, discriminatory and in retaliation for union activity.

So serious are the racial issues at Encinal that the District brought in a race relations trainer last September to work with the staff. She tried to address the fact that one out of three African American students will drop out of Encinal, and that 90% of the discipline is given to Black and Brown students, and that conflicts about race ultimately hurt students. I am determined to continue to serve and protect Encinal’s diverse population, and welcome community support.

Go Jets!

Brian Rodriguez

2 comments to Encinal High Teacher Fights Transfer Amid Racial Allegations

  • karen zimmerman

    Ugh. When I moved to Alameda in 1999, it had a reputation as a really racist town. I thought things had gotten much better, but apparently I am wrong. Very sad.

  • It really manifests in the school district (achievement gap, disproportionate use of ‘wilful defiance’ against minority kids, both of which I have reported on) and in the never-ending parcel tax and bond tax measures which strive to keep East and West Alameda divided.

    Finally some other folks have begun to speak up about it with regards to collapsing Alameda and Encinal High to save money in light of the upcoming $180 million tax bond measure.

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