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Encinal High Teacher Transfer Affirmed

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)

One of Superintendent Kirsten Vital’s final actions on her last day with the Alameda Unified School District was to affirm the involuntary transfer of an Encinal High School teacher to the Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).

On Friday, Brian Rodriguez, the teacher being transferred, told Action Alameda News that the school district is proceeding with the transfer, and that he is to start at ASTI on August 11th; apparently there will also be a closed-session hearing on the matter at the school board’s August 12th meeting.

Rodriguez, who identifies as a Hispanic man, has said that his transfer, which he has been fighting, is the product of an administrative culture at Encinal High School mired in racial tensions.

Critics have said he was tough to work with.

In a letter to friends and supporters, sent after Vital’s decision, and which he provided to Action Alameda News, Rodriguez wrote, “You will hear charges that I was ‘hard to work with’ as well as ‘uncooperative’ and the truth is that I was sometimes hard to work with when faced with racism, oppression or mismanagement. I stood up for other employees faced with racist situations, such as Charles Franklin, the only African American teacher at Encinal, and a Marcus Foster Distinguished Educator, who the District pushed out in 2012. I supported our first African American Principal, Roxanne Brown-Garcia, when certain teachers bombarded the District with complaints leading to her abrupt removal in 2013.”

Last week, The Alamedan published excerpts from complaints filed with the district against Rodriguez, apparently provided by the school district. Action Alameda News has made a formal public records request to the school district for those complaints, and any others in the district’s possession, and awaits a response.

Linda Onibokun, an Alameda mother of four, asked about Vital’s decision, told Action Alameda News, “That’s very disappointing. I was expecting him to stay for the kids at Encinal. My daughter is in 10th grade. My older daughter who just graduated from Brown, part of her success is due to Brian [Rodriguez]. I really, really, disappointed in this turn of events.”

Onibokun said that one of the reasons her 15 year-old daughter decided to go to Encinal was to take advanced placement classes with Rodriguez.

Her oldest daughter, now 24 years-old, she said, had Rodriguez as a teacher at Encinal and went on to graduate from Brown University, and then earn a masters degree from the London School of Economics.

Her second-eldest daughter, now 21 and working at a Los Angeles law firm, also was taught by Rodriguez, graduated from Brown, and is now going back to school for a PhD.

“The principal at Encinal,” Onibokun said, “did not listen to the parents. She is not flexible. One of the qualities of a good leader is to be flexible and she was not.”

Joel Gonzalez, now a senior research assistant with Kaiser Permanente Northern California, and who studied modern world history and advanced placement U.S. history under Rodriguez at Encinal from 2000 to 2002, told Action Alameda News, “I am stunned by the the district’s decision. I am not sure if Vital clearly read all the letters that students, parents and community members submitted advocating on Brian Rodriguez’ behalf. Overlooking successes and focusing on the negatives, a tremendous asset to Encinal’s history program has been lost, and the achievement gap widened. I think now we are left with a community to further advocate for a healthier and stimulating learning environment at Encinal. To emulate what Brian has left behind will be tough.

“For now, It will be hard for me to be very prideful in saying that Encinal is a diverse teaching system that cultivates diverse talent for students striving for higher education. There are a few remaining teachers that still care about their students at Encinal. I still hope that despite what’s happened, they are looking out for a positive future in these kids. I also hope the community can push more now than ever before to keep Rodriguez at Encinal.”

In his letter to supporters, Rodriguez wrote, “Now begins the period where the [school] District will attempt to sully my reputation to the detriment of Encinal, its students and staff, in order to ‘justify’ their decision…The issues are no longer about me, or my transfer as I have been given a unique opportunity to address and expose larger issues of social justice for our children, the maintenance of a hostile work environment for educators, as well as systemic racism in the school district and I embrace and look forward to my task. ”

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