Saturday, August 22, 2009

2003-2005 Who's In and Who's Out

Dr. Patricia Jaurequi said, "I have had my eye on the prize of being a superintendent for 15 years."according to an interview recorded by the Tri City Voice on December 20th 2005. She officially came to the district on October 25th, 2004 after the previous superintendent, Ruth Mckenna, was 'forced' out of her last year. The union had a vote of no confidence. Ms. Mckenna had a contentious term due to her plans to close and raze the continuation high school, to implement reconfiguration and redistricting, and to convert James Logan High School into an college preparatory school. While the interviewing process was proceeding, assistant superintendent Susan Speakman was the Interim Superintendent expressing absolutely no interest in becoming superintendent.

Dr. Patricia Jaurequi

Dr. Jaurequi had experience with many district office positions such as curriculum and instruction, finance, facilities, business, personnel, staff development and professional learning. Unfortunately, she inherited a district with declining enrollment and No Child Left Behind, therefore, she had to deal with declining budgets which meant increasing class sizes, laying off teachers, closing schools, and finding ways to get those scores up by the year 2014, so every single student "performs on grade level" in every single subject.

Community good will had been stretched to the limit due to Jaurequi's predecessor. In 2005 the first strike in the school district's history was looming due to health care concerns and the burden put on teachers and staff to work on the Strategic Plan. The union adopted a work-to-rule policy on March 17 under which teachers would work only the hours for which they are paid. This prompted some educators to stop assigning homework which also riled up the community. At the last minute the strike was averted.

At Alvarado we also had some changes. Karen Saucedo, at the first staff meeting of 2004 told us she was leaving to become the Director of Special Education at the district office. It was a surprise, but her assistant principal, Carmen Jorgenson was going to be the principal. Cheri Benafield, our former reading specialist, was selected to be the assistant principal. Carmen had been the assistant principal the previous two years, so we tried to take it in stride. In 2003 Carmen was awarded Adminstrator of the Year. Plus we knew Karen had had a really tough year in 2003-2004, so we hoped for the best for her. Karen had faced the death of her best friend, her mother-in-law, and a deadly disease, cancer, for one of our beloved long time teachers, Al Rivera.

The staff was extremely saddened by Al's illness. He had been at Alvarado for 29 years. He was a stickler for detail. He was the only teacher who could and would read the prep schedule before school started and figure out the mistakes. A valuable skill for a school with four prep classes, music, PE, Science, and Media/Library. Al was a fan of the PBS's Reading Rainbow. His students watched the shows, and he made tapes. He left about 100 tapes which were placed in the challenge center. After he passed away, the challenge center was renamed the Al Rivera Challenge Center. Al made me laugh by giving me cartoons about librarians. He also knew I loved Cheez-its. Every once in a while at lunch time he would give me a small bag of Cheez-its. His wife, Bobbi, who also was a teacher, substituted for him for almost the entire year. On the last day of school, his son and daughter brought a U-Haul to clean out his room. Nancy Mumm, the school secretary, made an announcement on the PA system that if anyone had some time to spare, Al and Bobbi could use some help moving his stuff out. That's when we realized he was not coming back. Most of us trooped down to his room to help. Bobbi asked us if we wanted anything of Al's. I took Al's hockey stick. I kept it in my room until I retired, then I took it home. When I look at it, I am reminded of the heart and soul of a teacher.

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