Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 4, 2014

Rock and hard place

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:04 am

So…I just finished reading through a bunch of letters and emails that were sent to the School Board regarding long time Encinal High teacher, Brian Rodriguez. For people that unaware as to what all the fuss is about, here’s the gist. Brian Rodriguez was slated to be transferred from Encinal High to ASTI. ASTI is a magnet high school located at the College of Alameda and is typically known to be a school for students who want to complete high school with college level courses. Apparently this move was “involuntary” meaning that Brian Rodriguez neither requested the move nor does he want to be moved.

In grand Alameda style this involuntary move has become the subject of Facebook pages and rallies in front of the District Office as though this were some top down move that no one supports except for the District Office.

I wasn’t surprised to see letters from former students saying how much they appreciated the attention and rigorous lessons learned in Brian Rodriguez’s classes and how they credit Brian Rodriguez for helping them get where they are today.  However, while the need that was stated to keep Brian Rodriguez at Encinal was to help the underserved students of color, it’s pretty obvious that these successful former students would have been successful even faced with a less demanding teacher. It’s much less clear from the submitted letters, that he has been wildly successful with challenging students and/or students of color.

I was particularly struck by a letter from a student claiming to be a student of color who mentioned that he faced difficulty in his home life during the time that he was in one of these rigorous classes. Now, granted this could just be some disgruntled student with an ax to grind, but essentially the former student said that while he has been seeing sign about how black and brown kids need this particular student, at the time when his home life was in turmoil and could have used some empathy, he received none.

What I was surprised about is the similarities in the complaints from colleagues at Encinal High School who shared the same critiques about this teacher.   The focus was largely around confrontational and intimidating behavior toward other teachers.  While I’ve read that these critiques seem to echo stereotypes about Latino males in general, and look, I’m never one to shy away from a head on conversation about race relations, I think that is stretching.  A LOT.  These frustrated letters from other teachers clearly speak to an environment where people have tried to work within the system to attempt to make it better but feel like this is the last resort. Where the complaining teachers have believed they have bent over backward and compromised a lot without reciprocity.   The word “divisive” was used numerous times in numerous letters.

While I think it must be very disappointing to be moved in such a manner particularly if the move was not requested, on the other hand the complaints lodged are concerning and — if true — would definitely contribute to a negative work environment for all the other people. It’s definitely a tough position for everyone involved: students, parents, teachers, administrators, and yes, even the district. Perhaps it would be time for a fresh start at a new campus with the types of students that clearly — from testimonial after testimonial — thrive under the pressure and rigor expected of Brian Rodriguez.

Not to drag the teachers’ union into all this, but isn’t this the kind of conflict — between teachers — that would be in the union’s best interest to mediate.   At this point, for solidarity’s sake it might be good to attempt to negotiate some sort of happy resolution (or just any resolution) that doesn’t pit the community  against one another for the sake of a singular teacher.

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28 Comments

  1. Thank you for an article full of speculations, with absolutely zero facts. Unless you have more perspective on this situation, perhaps you should sit this one out, Lauren.

    Comment by Big Johnson — August 4, 2014 @ 8:45 am

  2. I am sorry but I just can’t stay out of this one…so is #1 comment from “Big Johnson” a fact or speculation.

    Comment by Joseph — August 4, 2014 @ 9:44 am

  3. I would venture to say “zero facts” is inaccurate, but there is a fair amount of speculation here isn’t there.? This is not like a teacher breaking a rule such as hitting a kid, but subjectively is about breaching the code of maintaining “positive school climate” ( vague). I don’t know how seniority fits in here, but if it weren’t for that pesky tenure they could just can his ass and hire one of those nifty Teach for America kids.

    Comment by MI — August 4, 2014 @ 10:03 am

  4. Perhaps it’s that “pesky tenure” that enables his “confrontational and intimidating” behavior. Perhaps he wouldn’t be so obstreperous if he had to face the consequences.

    Comment by Just sayin — August 4, 2014 @ 11:46 am

  5. One of the things that has been completely ignored throughout all of this is that there are actually two teachers affected. The History and Econ teacher at ASTI, Matthew Yale, is also being forcibly displaced to make room for Rodriguez. Yale was a good fit for ASTI and, though he was part of the ridiculous pink slipping spree earlier in the year, he had been rehired to fulfill the same role at ASTI before this last school year ended. ASTI can be a really intense environment because it is rigorous and accelerated and the last thing they need is a controversial teacher that doesn’t really want to be there.

    Comment by M.T. - former ASTI parent — August 4, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

  6. Ha Ha – This is a transfer of a union representative for engaging in union activity, clearly retaliatory and has happened numerous times. The tactic is to paper” a file. Case law and contract law states that involuntary transfers cannot happen based on complaints. Complaints have to go through a contractual process. The District skipped this. Why do you think the District released the letters? The Superintendent has set the District up to lose and waste a lot of money in the process.

    Comment by Clueless — August 4, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

  7. What’s hilarious about reading these student complaints in their letters is that the kid who got “locked out” of the classroom…never happened. There’s no record of that from the principal. Another funny thing? Ben Briggance or whatever his name is…I heard that Rodriguez wrote his brother’s letter of rec to Harvard and his complaints all seem to be that Rodriguez made him work too hard. That kid is at UCLA or something…what’s his problem? Another funny thing? The same exact group of teachers forced other teachers of color out of the school by papering their files with B.S. like this. Maybe it is a racial thing, maybe it’s not. But there is a pattern and practice if you look at just pure numbers of who gets involuntarily transferred and just plain pushed out. Numbers have to say something. Isn’t it also very odd that the same exact group of teachers, give or take 1 or 2 newer teachers, are the group pushing Rodriguez out–the same group that pushed out Charles Franklin, Roxanne Brown-Garcia, etc.(all AUSD employees of color and award-winning). One thing disgusting about the District’s actions in this is that they did not release the full record of letters submitted in re: to Rodriguez’s transfer. I’ve heard from other teachers who submitted letters in support of Rodriguez staying at Encinal who were shocked their letters were not included in this release of the record to the public. This seems SO shady that the District only included letters from Rodriguez’s co-workers that painted him as a bully or an intimidator…If dirty laundry is getting aired, it only seems fair that it all be out in the open so the public can get a full picture, rather than just one that the District wants to frame as the full picture.

    Comment by vera — August 4, 2014 @ 2:15 pm

  8. Only letters that are sent to the School Board are considered public record. If the letters of support from other teachers were not submitted directly to the School Board they might be considered “personnel” issues and are, therefore, not public.

    Comment by Lauren Do — August 4, 2014 @ 2:18 pm

  9. Also, how easy is it Lauren to say how obvious it would be that the students who accredit Rodriguez with much of their success would have been successful anyways? That is a ridiculous comment. What makes that obvious? I know a lot of kids from my brother’s class who took Rodriguez’s class who say the same thing about him being a life-changer as far as getting them to believe they could surpass their own believed-limitations. I don’t know on a personal level what he’s like, but it seems so unfair that a blogger could write something like that and put it out there and that other people might actually be dumb enough to believe a blanketed statement like that. How do you know these students would have been successful anyways? Why don’t you ask the students and see what they say to you?

    Comment by vera — August 4, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

  10. No, there is absolute and CLEAR evidence that these letters from other teachers were sent directly to the Board. I’ve literally read the emails from those other teachers to the School Board. I’m friends with a couple of the teachers. Don’t take my word for it, why don’t you ask the District.

    Comment by vera — August 4, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

  11. I’ve read through every letter that the District submitted in response to a public records request. There is only one letter of support from another teacher and it has been duplicated here on Alameda Patch.

    All the other teacher letters have supported the transfer.

    Comment by Lauren Do — August 4, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

  12. That’s exactly what I’m saying Lauren–that the letters released by the District as its response to the public records request is absolutely incomplete. They intentionally omitted a lot of pages of letters. By my estimation from talking to these other teachers, at least 7 letters from other Encinal teachers who support Rodriguez staying their. What I’m saying to you is this–that you are not going to see what I’m talking about by re-reading through the letters the district gave to the public as the full record. You might by being a journalist and asking the District directly if members of the Board received any other letters in relation to this matter.

    Comment by vera — August 4, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

  13. This is not about Rodriguez, but about all 471 teachers. If one can be moved by an administrator by circumventing the contract like this then all can be moved. And how many teachers does the District have who are in minority groups? Our teachers are mostly female and white, and our students are not. I am surprised Lauren since you make such a big deal of ACLC not enrolling representative minority groups. Oh, and why would ANY teacher write a letter of support if the District targets teachers like this?

    Comment by Clueless — August 4, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

  14. I’ve already asked if any letters have been sent to the District regarding this issue that could be considered public record. If you have seen copies of these support letters perhaps you can ask the authors if they would be open to you publishing them or ask them to resubmit them to the School Board directly. Somehow a significant number of former students were able to address correspondence properly to the School Board to enable them to be a part of the public record. I imagine that current teachers at Encinal would have the capacity to do the same.

    Comment by Lauren Do — August 4, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

  15. So I just found out the reason why the District is able to sidestep giving the public these letters as part of its response to the public records request–apparently district counsel is claiming that these letters were sent to 2 or 3 board members, rather than the “Full” Board. Unless the letters were sent to every single board member rather than half or 3/4, that’s not enough to be considered public record. Seems like a technicality and ridiculous.

    Comment by vera — August 4, 2014 @ 2:39 pm

  16. Storm in a tea cup…..
    Did he get a pay cut ? No
    Did he get demoted ? No
    Did they change his job ? No
    Did he has to relocate ? No
    Did they change his pension ? No
    We can go on …. On and on .
    He is a teacher working in the same district within a small town
    Only change is the building .
    Time to all public employees to realize the comfort and luxury they have , most of the Parents working in California fall under the at will ,meaning they can be terminated at any time without cause or reason , unlike public employee which are nothing but lifer .
    Please give us a break there are plenty of private school to practice in .
    Good luck

    Comment by Joel — August 4, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

  17. Joel:

    He didn’t get “demoted” but there are no AP classes at ASTI so his job is effectually changed.
    He is getting a pay cut of about $5K/year for not teaching AP classes anymore plus he has another position at EHS that isn’t offered at ASTI
    His job is changing–he has been at the same school for 19 years and has built relationships and strong ties to that school…how would you feel to be yanked out from a second home like that? One school isn’t just like any other school to a trueblue teacher. Teachers identify with the schools they teach at and grow attached to. Plus ASTI only has something around 160-170 students total….Rod has far more impact on far more students at Encinal than at ASTI just bare numbers wise.

    Comment by lolly — August 4, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

  18. 6. I have generally not been a big fan of KV administration when it comes to handling teachers, but retaliation for union activity? please, please, please give some detailed and credible proof of that? Just saying it means nothing.

    5. wrote “ASTI can be a really intense environment because it is rigorous and accelerated….”. That sounds like an ideal fit for Mr. R if the allegations by some students of color are true, that he is impatient will underachievers. I share your concern about Mathew Yale, but does he have any chance to be placed at Encinal where he also might be a good fit?

    I read all the letters made public. Even though the numbers in favor are very compelling and by far the majority, the others give pause and are also credible. My personal exposure to
    B Rod is at a public presentation by the union at Paden Elementary on the ongoing labor negotiations with the administration before the current contract settlement. Various teachers spoke. I was and am biased toward teachers. I suppose it was to bolster the credibility of the statements he was eventually going to make about negotiations, but Mr. R introduced himself with a very lengthy list of his illustrious awards and commendations. I think the intro eclipsed the latter portion. Rather than be wowed by this list of accolades, I was bowled over by his incredibly inflated ego, which now makes all the criticisms easy to believe. There are at least a hand full of teachers, current and past, at AUSD who were lawyers. They DID leave lucrative legal careers to pursue teaching, including one of his critics at Encinal whose letter of condemnation was kick ass by the way. I think B Rod is the only formal legal eagle with the distinction of having been disbarred. I don’t think the disbarment was “political” or racially motivated, and it is not exactly irrelevant either, when it comes to character and hubris. One letter of support refers to his having left law to dedicate himself to teaching like it was his choice. Right. I think it was Jeffery Smith’s nineteen page letter in support which put me over and made me be willing to be judge, jury and executioner. Takes one to know one, eh Jeff? By that I mean elitist super egos.

    Comment by MI — August 4, 2014 @ 5:44 pm

  19. Where can one see these letters?

    Comment by dave — August 4, 2014 @ 7:24 pm

  20. Curious- does the teachers’ contract specifically prohibit a teacher being moved around the district, and is a teacher hired to teach a specific set of subjects? Not just history, or math or English, but a specific class like English as a second language, or 10th grade geometry, or AP history? Probably not. Don’t I remember the district requiring a few years back that teachers all have a general certificate so they could be placed in virtually any classroom? I’m guessing that the district is not overstepping it’s authority by making a decision where it’s personnel are best placed. Surely, and particularly in our little Eden, the school board decisions are not always (seldom?) popular or easy to make, but that’s why we pay all those people in MV the Big Bucks, right? Especially KV.

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — August 4, 2014 @ 8:49 pm

  21. Teachers are not paid extra for teaching AP. If he has the same number of classes as ASTI as at EHS, he will not take a pay cut. Only if he is teaching less than full time (or more than full time) would his compensation change.

    Comment by You'd never believe it — August 7, 2014 @ 9:26 am

  22. We have 4000 plus students who are not even Proficient in the Classes being taught by these teachers……Your focus is on one teacher being moved to another school…..What about the 4 in 10 Students in these classes your failing…..Where is the OUTRAGE there.

    Comment by It's all about the kids and all other fairy tales — August 7, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

  23. #22: Yes, you’re right, the salary is the same for AP teachers, but any after school stuff or extra programs or continued education for AP stuff you do get paid more than the average teacher would in that circumstance. More so what I was referring to is that he was chosen as a Common Core Teacher and that is a separate program that he heads up for which I think there is a $5,000/year stipend he is paid–and for which there is no such program at ASTI.

    Comment by lolly — August 7, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

  24. 4. just sayin’, he’s facing the consequences though manipulating the system has probably forestalled the inevitable a few years. Tenure is double edged. There is too much ignorance about what it is and why teachers get it. Rod’s case is not a good example for judging tenure because he has so many accolades. It’s convoluted at best. Judging by letters the greater part of his questionable behavior was not in the classroom but was with colleagues, and the questionable behavior in the classroom may have been masked or glossed over by the favorable feedback and what detractors like me think was his proclivity for self promotion.

    http://www.laprogressive.com/whoopi-goldberg-tenure-controversy/

    This article cites three years as a period to obtain tenure which is perhaps what it should be. In the Vergara case in L.A. the period was something like 18 months and I’m not sure if in Alameda it is 2 years?? The negative misinformation that accompanies publicity around this suit includes “facts” such tenure being granted after 18 months EVERYWHERE, which is incorrect. It also promotes the idea that people go in to teacher with the intent to get tenure and then coast on their laurels for twenty fives years which is rubbish, but is exactly the View repeated by Whoopi’s bubble headed co-host on her show.

    Comment by MI — August 9, 2014 @ 6:44 pm

  25. My child was one of Mr. Rodriguez’ students. I found him arrogant. There is a common understanding among parents that “you don’t want to get on his wrong side”

    In the above link about being disbarred, the State Bar found him to have “Moral turpitude”.

    In the opening statement this read “Respondent (Mr Rodriquez) was found culpable by a hearing judge of eleven counts of misconduct, involving three instances of misappropriating client funds and gross neglect of his trust account, sending letters in two cases threatening to file criminal or administrative charges to secure an advantage” In other words he THREATENED AND BULLIED his opponents.

    This same document quotes both Mr Rodriguez and his father admitting he had an EGO problem. He was suspended twice and eventually disbarred.

    That’s enough information for me to fire him.

    Comment by Charles — August 24, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

  26. Also, I wrote a letter to principal Zazo about Mr. Rodriquez, but it was not published because I neglected to cc the district School District

    Comment by Charles — August 24, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

  27. “In other words he THREATENED AND BULLIED his opponents.”
    “That’s enough information for me to fire him.”

    Watch the School Board Meetings where the Teachers and their Leaders passed out Coal to the Board and ranted and raved like narcissistic douchebags……In all about it’s for the Kids Style……

    Comment by It's all about the kids and all other fairy tales — August 25, 2014 @ 10:06 am


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