Battle brews between SAUSD School Board VP Iglesias and Teachers

Santa Ana Unified School District teachers are furious at School Board Vice President Cecilia Iglesias, for her recent postings on social media, scapegoating them. Her offensive posts on Facebook stated that teachers only work 5-hours a day, six months a year, are greedy and are in it solely for the money. Furthermore, she blames teachers for what she mischaracterizes as low achievement. Her disregard of the major factors that affect Santa Ana students, such as a 94-percent poverty rate and second-language learners clearly indicates her inability to grasp the complexities of teaching in a highly urbanized setting such as Santa Ana.

What is her motivation for scapegoating Santa Ana teacher? Ms. Iglesias has a political agenda: bringing the Parent Trigger Law (also known as Parent Empowerment Act)  to Santa Ana.

This law was passed by the California Legislature in January 2010 and allows a majority of parents of an underperforming school to change the site administrator and teachers. In most cases converting the public school into a charter. The danger with Parent Trigger is that it pits teachers, parents and administrators against each other and the children lose out. Ms. Iglesias is a close friend with Former State Senator Gloria Romero and currently works for State Senator Bob Huff, co-authors of the Parent Trigger law.

In order to gather support for her political agenda she needs to discredit teachers, schools and the district with the community. While the Santa Ana standardized test scores are the lowest in the county, students are achieving and improving at higher rates than similar student populations and the majority of parents see that their children are learning and succeeding in school. Hence, Ms. Iglesias has a problem. To further her Parent Trigger agenda and curry favor with her political benefactors, she needs to convince parents that their students are not achieving and schools are failing. She attempted to do so when she posted on Facebook portraying teachers as lazy, greedy and underperforming.

It is important to understand that 9 in 10 students in Elementary School in Santa Ana speak a language other than English at home and 8 in 10 students live in poverty. This is not an excuse for the educators but it is a factor. It is very different to teach a Kindergarten student to read and write when they speak English, have been read too since they were a baby and know their letters.

But that is not the reality in most Santa Ana schools. Districtwide, the vast majority of students begin Kindergarten speaking no English and have a limited Spanish vocabulary. But that does not discourage us. We teach vocabulary, sight words, we teach students to read and write in English. Furthermore, we have several schools that have Dual Immersion programs, where students build these skills in both English and Spanish. It’s true our students are not proficient in every assessment, but those assessments were established for native English speakers, not second language learners.

Furthermore, anyone who has learned or tried to learn a second language knows it’s not easy. So imagine learning a second language while learning to read and write. It is very challenging for the students. Santa Ana teachers gladly embrace the challenge as they are highly trained to do both and help students close the achievement gap. Our teachers are phenomenal!

Ms. Iglesias has started a campaign blaming educators for the 68 percent of students who did not score proficient in a third-grade assessment developed for the practitioner to guide instruction. She has chosen to misuse this single measure to portray the education in Santa Ana as a failure.

Let me provide an analogy on why this is so insulting. Using a single measure to determine the performance of students is the same as deciding if a dentist is good or bad based on the number of cavities his patients have. The dentist has no control over what kids eat, whether or not they brush their teeth twice a day, how often they have a checkup, etc. They can only use their knowledge, skills and experience when the child is with them.

Teachers are no different. We teach the kids that come through our doors, no matter what. Whether or not they speak English, whether or not they are homeless, whether or not their friend was shot the night before in a drive-by, whether or not they work to help their family, whether or not they babysit and help raise their younger siblings because mom is working, and the list goes on and on. Every day, Santa Ana teachers do their very best with the resources they have, providing high-level instruction before, during and after school.

Santa Ana teachers spend countless hours before and after school, on weekends grading, planning, conferencing with parents, counseling students, learning new teaching strategies, implementing new technology, tutoring, participating in school based committees just to mention some. Teachers’ workday is between 8 and 10 hours a day and on weekends. To illustrate this, lets consider an English teacher who has assigned an essay. If they dedicate a mere 5 minutes to grade each essay, multiply that by 180 students, that is 900 minutes or 15 hours to grade one assignment.

Teaching in Santa Ana is not a job; it is a calling. In spite of all the challenges, our teachers have made this their District of Choice. They choose to embrace the challenges head on in order to benefit the students, parents and the community.

There are other districts in Orange County with challenges but none as daunting as Santa Ana’s. There is a lot that needs be done, but as Cecilia Iglesias finishes her third year on the school board, she has yet to propose one single policy, program, or initiative to improve the education in Santa Ana. Her only contributions are to question, delay and criticize the hard-working employees of Santa Ana.

 

Susan Mercer, president of the Santa Ana Educators’ Association, the exclusive representative of 2,600 teachers and educational support staff in the Santa Ana Unified School District.

 

What: Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education

Who: SAEA members will speak at the meeting and rally.

When: Tuesday, October 13; 6 p.m.

Where: Board Room, 1601 E. Chestnut Ave., Santa Ana

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC Engagement Editor Julie Gallego at jgallego@voiceofoc.org.