Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 5, 2014

Rock and hard place, the letters

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

I went through every letter from the correspondence received by the School Board regarding the involuntary transfer of Brian Rodriguez. I was going to toss up the whole document and just redact names and identifying contact information, but then that was getting too messy. So instead I decided to extract out key passages in the emails to present a picture of what the School Board will be grappling with when this topic comes up. I divided them into buckets: good, bad, neutral even though they are much more nuanced than that. I did not include emails that essentially said “WTF is happening” or “he’s a good friend of mine so you should let him do what he wants to do.”

Here is the neutral one, because it’s the only one it gets to go first and probably has the most insightful comment and question that the School Board will need to answer when they deal with this issue which is:

The true problem is not his teaching, but the atmosphere he creates.


Here are the emails asking the School Board to support the decision of Encinal’s leadership and let the transfer happen:




And here are all the folks saying that Brian Rodriguez deserves to stay exactly where he is:

















































  1. Mr. Rodriquez has Oppositional Defiance Disorder

    Comment by Gabrielle Dolphin — August 5, 2014 @ 9:08 am

  2. How does the transfer help? Won’t he teach just as well and be just as obnoxious in his new school? Is this a disciplinary action? For whom–the teacher or the students at his new school? I’m assuming they can’t fire him and so are trying to get him to quit. Am I missing something here?

    Comment by Denise Shelton — August 5, 2014 @ 9:14 am

  3. I find very disturbing to read in many letters under one form or nother said that He is divisive ,
    When you teach using this method , you condition the kids for massive failure in their future , should this be a proven fact , then cut him his final paycheck If He is so good He will not have problem finding a better teaching position .

    California is at will Employement Union or not Union which have remained very quiet on the issue , would it be because they know facts which do not reach the School Board , AKA peer review .

    There is absolutly no distinstinction between a stundent from one side to the other , one school to the next , they all recieve same tax payer s fund , they are all here to teach under the Alameda Schoool district , there are absolutely no reason why teachers should not be moved around , they are not being transfered or bought by Los Angeles or Fresno ,
    As a teacher you have been hired to teach within the Alameda school district .
    Should you want to run your own chool , apply for that position, in the mean time TEACH.

    As for the reply on my previous post that He will have a pay cut , Prove it !
    prove the move will be a demotion , that is unless you can can prove we ignore kids on one side to favor the other .

    As a Teacher you have the basic responsability to teach to who ever walk in the door regrdle of color , belief and the like ” I have been there at what was a leading trade school ”

    Millions of workers re transfered from one state to the other why should it be different for Mr Rodriguez , Oh he is loosing his comfort Zone …..

    Comment by joel — August 5, 2014 @ 10:45 am

  4. 1. taking bets that Trish Spencer will be the lone vote to retain B Rod. Birds of a feather. Her husband’s letter not only defends “Rod” ( spare the Rod and spoil the child) but demands Encinal and Alameda High be investigated for institutional racism. They yanked one of their kids out of AP class at Alameda High and moved her to Encinal. That teacher was awarded Teacher of the Year also. go figure.

    2. I think your questions are logical. One point is that the power he seems to wield at Encinal may be hard to replicate in an entirely new environment, though maybe not the disruption. There are down sides to tenure and seniority, but they would never become so exacerbated without a really extreme case such as this. Ironically, Jeff Smith invokes the Vergara case to defend Rodriguez. But I’m not aware of AEA being involved here.

    It is a bit of a tangent, but since there is not a crazy rush to post comments I’d like to inject something related. Now that Vergara initially got favorable ruling and is in appeal the movement nationally is taking off. Former CNN talking head Campbell Brown is the new face to a movement lead by her organization Partnership For Educational Justice who are suing in New York State. Disappointingly they have recruited David Boies of Bush V Gore and the recent gay marriage case to their cause. Boies could be seen hyping Teach For America the other morning on MSNBC. Note that one of the plaintiffs in Vergara specifically singled out a teacher who had also been awarded Teacher of the Year status, one of the awards B Rod received which people use to defend him. Yet Jeff Smith selectively invokes quotes from the case in some sort of pretzel logic. You have to read it.

    Anyhow, more and more “celebrities” ( Oprah of course) are jumping on the band wagon. Apparently Whoopi Goldberg being one of the most recent. I don’t have her comments as context, but it really doesn’t matter because the rebuttal in this link transcends specifics, which is what makes it so effective. Watch this guy explain tenure and think about the claims against Brian. I’d have loved to have this dude for my Modern World History or Government class.

    Comment by MI — August 5, 2014 @ 10:58 am

  5. Speaking of teachers unions, what is the position of the teachers union’s leadership on this difficult, divisive issue of transferring Mr. Rodriguez?

    Comment by What Does Silence Mean? — August 5, 2014 @ 11:45 am

  6. To “MI” re: the AEA’s involvement…the AEA is involved because this involuntary transfer happened directly after (we’re talking like a matter of a week or two) Rod had a debacle with every single one of the fellow teachers who wrote in letters against him. The debacle was this–he contacted the union (he is a union site rep for Encinal) and asked them a contractual question about an upcoming vote on whether or not Encinal should have an Advisory period again. He asked the union if this was legal because it was being proposed as an additional class with units and wondered if that made it against the contract or not (teachers are only allowed a certain number of units under the contract). Because he asked that, teachers on this committee who were pro-advisory were enraged and publicly labeled him a backstabber/liar. Directly after that these same teachers filed formal complaints on this issue and then apparently according to one email from one of these teachers, had a secret meeting with KV (superintendent) to request his transfer. I was unaware teachers could request the transfer of other teachers. Who is running this District? I also had no idea that teachers could completely circumvent the uniform complaint process and just influence an administrator to move someone you don’t like….So to answer your Q, yes, the Union is involved and is representing him on the transfer because of a lot of substantial evidence indicating that this involuntary transfer is retaliatory for legitimate union activity.

    Comment by lolly — August 5, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

  7. Oh and to Joel: what’s the point of “proving” to you that he has a pay cut from this…I seriously doubt that would be a mind changer for you after reading everything you had to say. Also–the reason why people should care if teachers get moved around like any other worker in CA–people should care about the movement of ALL workers in CA, not just teachers. Just b/c it happens to other workers too without cause does not make it fair or right. People who dedicate their careers to a single school or a factory or a store (or insert X venue) should be given respect and not moved around like used furniture. There should at least be rules that must be followed that assure the public that the move is legitimate. As it stands now, it seems shady to me. I really don’t care how many teachers don’t like his personality, education is not about teachers liking each other. From what I could see there were 100s of pages of letters from students who think Rod’s teaching environment is the best they’ve ever had–and about 4 who didn’t like him. I can tell you from a student’s perspective right now: students don’t give a crap if teachers like each other and the silly office drama between teachers (just the same way that Comcast customers don’t give a crap if your technician gets along with the technician you had last time). They care about their experience in the classroom, what they can take away, and the grade they can get that moves them to their next stepping stone. I have literally NEVER cared whatsoever about whether my teacher likes my other teacher. My point is, it does not affect students. Yes, it affects teachers, but will somebody tell these teachers to put their big boy pants on and just work it out like adults. So childish for middle-aged professionals and so disappointing that the administrators we “pay the big bucks” to don’t mediate this situation better internally.

    Comment by lolly — August 5, 2014 @ 1:51 pm

  8. # 7 actually it would , assuming the teacher loose pay , work and the like I would totally support Him or Her .
    Nothing point to this , just another teacher with a mental condition well spoken by # 1 and # 2 m, I disagree with them very often.
    Bring fact not fiction .
    They are all paid to teach in the Alameda School District , not the entire State .

    Comment by joel — August 5, 2014 @ 3:38 pm

  9. Joel–It’s all fact, but there’s no way for me to show you a document without violating people’s confidentiality and there’s no way the district is going to release rod’s personnel file showing you his decrease in pay or the changes in his job at ASTI without being an AP teacher anymore. What do you expect to “point to this”? You think you’re going to find something pointing to this in complaint letters from teachers? Or from district comment to the public? NO! You are only going to hear about it like this, or unless you have some personal relationship with Rod and you have the ability to call him up and ask him point blank and get an answer.

    Comment by lolly — August 6, 2014 @ 12:29 am

  10. Lolly, very important to understand union involvement and on the face of it I agree about secret meetings, if that’s what they were. Thank you.

    On the other hand the number of letters in support alone, as compelling as they may be, should not decide the outcome. The minority letter writers do not impress me as whining malcontents. The allegations and implications are serious if you think about it. The letters in support appear to be largely from students who would have gone far if they had not had Mr. R, while most of the letters from minority allege really serious bad judgement and most importantly a real breach of trust, the BASIC trust we hope from teachers when it comes to ALL kids, but especially those who need help the most. The bottom line is that if an individual cannot maintain that trust they have no business being a teacher. It speaks to the whole dynamic of mentoring to kids most in need that this disenfranchised group would be less likely to mobilize or respond. The one letter from the young guy who claims his brother is an overachiever may seem like he has a chip on his shoulder about his sibling, but the comment he claimed was made by Rod about not being more like his sibling goes to the heart of the insensitivity we’re talking about. I experienced teachers who were bullying and insensitive and it was really devastating. Ours sons are also parallel to those brothers and I know them both. Sibling issues aside, I was personally impressed how that letter nailed the essence of Rod’s self serving motivations. Not mere character flaws. 19 years is a long time. Enough time to systematically juke one’s record by monopolizing AP and manipulating who stays in your class. It’s not unlike the un-level playing field where charters claim great success. But that is a digression.

    My posts on this are unfortunately a bit mean spirited but I’m not apologizing. Maybe that’s because I’m an asshole who exhibits the many of the character flaws bad judgement as B-Rod appears to have exhibited with some of his students and his colleagues. But I’m not posing as anything else nor am I a public servant. When I read Lauren’s first post I thought, “Oh boy, this may be a lynching” and attempted some circumspection, but when I read the letters my blood boiled. I’d heard stories about his being difficult ( for years) and seen for my self the INCREDIBLE display of narcissism at the Paden union event, but the allegations in the letters still flattened me.

    Aside from allegations of systematic institutional racism, I think everything in all the letters is true. There is no contradiction because it’s all subjective anyway. As for letters of support from teachers which are not public, I’m curious to read them and especially to know if any where from members of his own department who tried to get him to collaborate. I kind of doubt that. Jeff Smith’s bloviation is the kind of stunt which takes the focus off the issue and makes it all about everything else, especially the letter writer’s ability in rhetorical gymnastics. I don’t doubt Smith and Rod get along.

    Comment by MI — August 6, 2014 @ 10:09 am

  11. I cannot help but question how many of the letters that oppose the transfer are from students of color? He claims to champion them but exactly how many are willing to speak positively on his behalf?

    Comment by Graduate — August 7, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

  12. As someone who was present at the last board meeting, I can tell you that there were about 12 people who came to speak on Rod’s behalf. Of the students, all of them but one was a “student of color.” The things these students had to say really amazed me. One black student said that he was suspended multiple times, and was constantly getting in trouble at school for anger problems and getting caught drinking on campus. School bored him. He then took Rod’s class his Junior year and it completely transformed him. He now goes to college and is the sole supporter/income of his brother and mother. A mother of a mixed child came to speak, and said that Rod mentored her son, a student who was unsure of himself and had a learning disability and was having a hard time finding a place at school. She said Rod gave him a place to go, and had patience to take him under his wing. These were just a couple of the memorable stories I heard. I myself didn’t speak, but just observed. A lof of the letters reference being a “student of color,” but I can’t say for sure what the number of letters was. From what I could tell, probably about 75% were students of color. It seems to me like this teacher is a life changer for a lot of students, and then some don’t like his style and find him to be too demanding, or maybe too egotistical or maybe someone who assigned too much busy work. It really seems like his formula works though if you look at his AP score records and compare them to other AP teachers at Encinal–or even in all of Alameda. Heck, look into Oakland too. And if you look at how many students took the time to write in letters during the summer–most of whom are alumni and have their own totally separate lives going on (and you know alumni don’t really care so much about teacher drama), that really swayed me here. Not to say that reading some of the kids opposed to Rod staying wasn’t powerful as well. But after reading all the powerful things and the volume of students who love him in those letters–I’m realizing that every story (even the stories of the kids who wrote in complaining about Rod) has TWO SIDES, and I’m willing to give Rod the benefit of the doubt.

    Comment by GGH — August 11, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

  13. 12. it’s good to get as many accounts as possible and interesting you were witness to the speakers. I tried to tap the live feed last night but failed and may have been late for the speakers before close session anyway. Maybe they were in closed session, the site doesn’t seem as user friendly as going to City sit during meetings. You are absolutely right there are two sides and maybe we’ll hear more, maybe we won’t. One side does not negate the other. I just learned Mr. R apparently withdrew his complaint last night so there were no speakers. Not clear if he will pursue litigation. Interestingly, heard he had actually requested to go to ASTI previously but was denied. Your account above about African American kid who was alienated is of most interest because it is so specific. This “of color” thing gets a little fuzzy. It’s not anybody who is non-white who falls most deeply through the cracks and I’m specifically thinking about stats for Asian community when it comes to academics. More than that, I don’t think the pro or con numbers alone should be the most important factor, since a) Rod had a campaign to turn out support and b) those opposing did not not. I want to reiterate from comment 10 that this latter group is the least likely to be heard which is more or less the heart of the issue, not some personal vendetta against Rod. The accounts of kids being pre-judged are what stick out in contrast to your anecdote and I’d be real curious to know how these contradictory accounts square up fi they do, because on the student side that’s where the crux lies. But this action was ultimately taken because of his colleagues, icing on the cake so to speak.

    As for work load being too demanding, that’s not a legit gripe if you sign up for AP. And some kids will need to drop out. Make work assignments doing coloring might be a legit gripe. Demanding push ups over something not even course related seems a little bizaare, but still not actionable as an isolated incident. Ego alone is also not cause for this kind of action either, but a years long record of indulgences would be the other side of the coin. Being that he obviously has inspired a lot of kids on a number of levels it would seem a shame to lose that, but there are too many conflicting accounts. I was most bothered when the audience at Paden had to endure his resume of awards as if it were relevant to union contract. I know enough equally effective people in teaching profession who go along with no particular recognition. One at Oakland Tech in particular stands out as one of THE most dedicated and inspired and life changing educators on the face of the planet. I think folks assume somebody with Rod’s record is so brilliant that these accolades just percolate up automatically, but I wonder if the pursuit of recognition can’t become a career of it’s own. A person must be nominated of course but if your own colleagues are detractors, how does that come about? Perhaps dogged self promotion? And even that is not some sort of crime, but if it gets in the way of doing the job maybe it’s a problem. Who knows, maybe Jaime Escalante was universal reviled by his peers.

    Comment by MI — August 13, 2014 @ 9:13 am

  14. The problem with education today is the expectation is that EVERYONE can be a A student and if they’re not, it’s the teacher’s fault. The only way everyone can be an A student is to rig the system. We are simply not all capable–sometimes due to lack of intelligence, but more often because of other things that might be going on in the child’s life. Then there is the ESL issue that complicates things, especially in this part of the country. I get the impression that I might not like Mr. Rodriguez personally, but that really is besides the point. When I think back to my best teachers, most of them were pretty harsh. They were impatient with nonsense. They had strong opinions and were only too happy to debate them with you as if you were an adult. They were not my friends. They did not seek to entertain me. They were the engineers and the train left the station whether or not you were on board. This has always been a problem in public education: to meet the varying needs of the student body. What is the goal? Originally, it was primarily readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic with a little history and geography to break up the monotony. Today’s students obviously require more, but how much more and at what level of competency? Are we trying to do too much? Is the public school system the appropriate device to make up for the inadequacies of parenting? Lots of questions, not many clear answers. I will say that this whole teacher transfer thing smacks of politics. If Mr. Rodriguez attempted to “rig the system” by loading his classes with kids with a success edge and intimidating those who he felt would hurt the overall results of his classes, is he to blame, or is a system that links students’ grades to teachers’ performance the problem? Teachers often succeed with their students in ways we cannot measure: self-confidence, accountability, the realization that every life has value. A teacher who models kindness, generosity, the importance of individuality or any number of other traits important to a functioning society may not look awesome on paper, but his or her students will come away with more than an acceptance letter to the college of their choice. They will have lessons that support a better life not just a higher paying job.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — August 13, 2014 @ 10:29 am

  15. I knew Brian in the early ’90s. I knew that he had left law and was teaching history at Encinal. I did not know about his problems with the State Bar, but there really wasn’t any reason for me to know at the time.

    From what I knew of him 20 years ago,I suspect that the Brian’s supporters and detractors are both telling the truth. People have multiple sides to themselves. I could see Brian being an interesting, engaging teacher that some students really like. I could also see him being very harsh. It may very well be difficult for other teachers and some students to work with him. It really doesn’t surprise me that he has generated such strong opinions about him.

    Comment by John — August 15, 2014 @ 5:48 pm

  16. 15. I’m sure there are lots of ex-cons who could teach valuable lessons to students, life lessons and other lessons, and I wouldn’t object to my kids being exposed to that. I actually think that is quite positive. Pedophilia is the one crime I think we all agree is prohibitive in the teaching profession and that’s not an issue here, just fodder for people like Campbell Brown on her mission to bash tenure, but that is a digression. (Yes, Campbell recently pulled the old “you can’t even fire teachers who are pedophiles” bullshit).

    I don’t know details of Brian’s trouble with the bar and though I’m curious I can’t say it really matters. Somebody else raised it months ago as ammo for bashing teachers in general and I actually found that divisive and stupid. But it’s my understanding that Brian has had a sign in his room which read “Brian Rodriguez Esquire” which according to a president of a local bar association isn’t really cool thing for a disbarred person to do. One of the letters in support indicated the former student didn’t know how BR came to teaching from law. I have trouble with the misrepresentation as part of a bigger pattern, a sin of omission. IMO being disbarred does not disqualify somebody as a worthy teacher, and as you point out, for many who liked him and learned from him, that is the case.

    Comment by MI — August 18, 2014 @ 7:53 pm

  17. Mr. Rodriquez is arrogant. Anyone who has really paid attention to him knows he treats some students disrespectfully and others he praises.

    Yes! his experience as a lawyer matters-he promised to uphold the law.

    He was suspended twice from the bar then disbarred altogether. The State bar said he was “grossly negligent” had “moral turpitude”, “misappropriated client funds”, illegally threatened to file criminal charges against other lawyers and “mislead a superior court judge”.

    As I stated in the other “Rock and a hard place” blog, in his own words stated before the State bar he has an “EGO” problem.

    Those who do not recognize his issues are not interested in noticing.

    Comment by charleshurt — August 24, 2014 @ 11:20 pm

  18. This is absolutely ridiculous. For those of you that don’t understand what disbarment is–it means you are a disbarred lawyer. I am a lawyer and from what I remember from my ethics class, my professor was famous for saying, “once your a lawyer, you are ALWAYS a lawyer in the eyes of the law and always held to the standards of legal ethics. Once you take that oath, if you then become a florist, you are a retired lawyer, if you get disbarred, you are a disbarred lawyer, and if you die–guess what, you are a dead lawyer.” I highly doubt that it is illegal or frowned upon to have a placard in your classroom or your office of your law license (or whatever it was) even if you were disbarred. What WOULD be unethical is to portray that you are still practicing law or to lie if directly asked if you were disbarred. I don’t think that’s what happened here. ALSO, a disbarred lawyer, is NOT A CONVICT or a felon. So Mr. Rodriguez is NOT, I REPEAT NOT A CRIMINAL OR A CONVICT just because he was disbarred. Being disbarred is a completely separate process and punishment that follows the ABA’s legal ethics code and does not follow the criminal code. For him to be a criminal, he would have had to have been prosecuted under criminal charges in criminal court. The bar does not have anything to do with that although the bar can also choose to disbar someone as a separate punishment from the criminal process for criminal actions. Sorry, but reading all this confusion between being disbarred and being a criminal or an ex-convict is so ridiculous to me and really irritates me every time. To write that someone is a criminal or an ex-con when they are not is absolutely defamation of character and very damaging to someone’s reputation. Regardless of whether anyone likes him. Just plain wrong.

    Comment by GGH — September 3, 2014 @ 3:33 pm

  19. it doesn’t take a lawyer to understand the simple fact that once you are disbarred you are not a lawyer because you can’t practice law. Regardless of whether it is a punishable infraction of some code, to hang a placard which reads “so and so esquire” after the fact is dubious, disingenuous and maybe a little arrogant. I don’t think anybody has said or tried to imply anything more. Referring to ex-cons was to make a point about what may or may not disqualify a person as having valuable life lessons that might be conveyed to students, not an implication that this disbarred lawyer was guilty of a felony. It was purposefully used as an extreme example of who we might agree is clearly not desirable teacher material on the one hand, yet may still have some value as a teacher if they were HONEST about who they were. That is not defamation, so you can chill out.

    Comment by MI — September 3, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

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