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

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  • An 123

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  • Rintrah

    I can’t help but wonder why so many politicians attack teachers unions. The fact that they are 80% women may be a factor. The TrumpRepublicans would have you believe that these women/teachers/mothers are against educating children. I don’t know many mothers or teachers with this unusual perspective.
    -The anti-teacher responses do not address any of the substantive points in
    Mercer’s argument about the student population of Santa Ana Unified.
    -LFOldtimer has a racist Trump talking point, ” …your union has promoted bringing more immigrants into America who don’t
    have the basic english skills to compete in the classroom” I am not aware of a teachers union endorsing this. Please cite your source, OldTimer.
    -I may be wrong, please correct me, but I hear Ceci works for the party of Trump. She is a staffer for Huff, an anti-education Repub endorsed by Redlands Tea Party Patriots. This was stated in their Jan 28 2015 issue, available on line.
    -Ceci is a Trump puppet, she is being used by anti education forces to promote an agenda that is essentially racist. Any review of previous comments by the anti-teacher posts authors will show that they are consistently anti-immigrant and anti education. They are pro-Ceci only because she is anti-teacher.
    -Ceci is being used by the racist Trump/Republican power structure to create division between well-meaning parents and teachers.
    -Attacking a woman dominated profession because it is a common target is cowardly and…low.

    • LFOldTimer

      Has SAEA ever opposed ESL which has created lots of teacher jobs and added boo-coo bucks to the school budgets? Not that I’m aware of. And now this OP-Ed is blaming ESL for poor academic achievement? Hilarious.

    • LFOldTimer

      Rintah, FYI. Go to the California Teacher’s Association website and click on Issues & Action. Then click on Ongoing Issues. Then click on Immigration Reform. Then read the paragraphs under: Where We Stand: Immigration. Here are the first two paragraphs:
      “CTA believes in an immigration process that includes due process, political asylum, and timely legalization without regard to national origin. Immigration policies should guarantee human rights and protect the integrity of the family unit without discrimination. CTA further believes, regardless of immigration status, emergency medical care should not be denied to any person.
      Regardless of the immigration status of students or their parents, every student has the right to a free public education free from harassment. Schools are a safe haven and that no police officer or any federal, state or local agency shall enter the school building and or school grounds for the purpose of interrogating, questioning, arresting or taking into custody a student and/or parent unless upon lawful request.”
      Then look under Equal Educational Access on the same page. Note the very first paragraph:
      “CTA believes every student attending a public school in California is entitled to equal access to all educational opportunities. This access shall not be denied because of gender discrimination, ethnicity, language, special needs, socio-economic or immigration status. The goal of public education is to provide students with the skills necessary to become responsible and healthy members of society. Any monetary disincentives that penalize students create barriers to future success and should not exist.”
      Now I have no problem with CTA’s opinions. However, when I read an Op-Ed that complains that academic achievement and teacher performance is hindered and impeded, in part, by a language barrier – I can’t reconcile the two conflicting viewpoints. One says we welcome everyone into our schools with open arms regardless of immigration status or the language they speak. The other complains that the language barriers are impeding the educational process and that is the reason for the abysmal academic performance rankings. So perhaps, in all your wisdom, you could help me understand. It’s very confusing for us ‘lay people’. Thanks in advance for your guidance.

      • Rintrah

        Thanks for your research, but please note that teaching all students is not something that teachers have a choice about. It is not the result of a policy by a union, it is the law. We teach. That’s what we do. We are not federal immigration agents or police officers. Our union’s policies are not the law. Your feeling of impotence may be relieved by voting for Donald Trump.

        • LFOldTimer

          Nobody said that you were immigration agents and no one expects that of you. But don’t you see the dichtomy of thought here? Ms. Mercer blames the slow pace of learning in part on the language barriers in the schools. Yet the CTA teacher’s union fully endorses non-english speakers to enroll and get a free education. It would seem that teachers would oppose such an open endorsement since it, according to the op-ed, it hinders the education process, negatively impacts achievement
          and makes the teachers look bad. So have the teachers and the author fought CTA on this matter? If not, why not? Do they approve of factors that hinder successful progress of education in the classroom? And I am glad that I made you aware. Maybe, just maybe, Trump is right afterall! Have a nice evening.

          • Rintrah

            Gosh, LF, I haven’t fought to have teachers endorse racial profiling before educating students. I guess it’s my immigrant roots. You made me aware that Trump’s points can really arouse the tea party’s sleeping serpent! Enjoy your evening!

          • LFOldTimer

            It’s got nothing to do with racial profiling, Rintrah. It matters not if the student speaks icelandic, spanish, german, swahili, russian, japanese or mandarin. It’s a language issue. You turn it into a racial issue only to fuel the flames of divisiveness. All the nations that excel academically teach only in one primary language. Oh, the children can learn other languages and often do. Much more successfully than American children. But the curriculums are taught in one primary language. You should study how other cultures work and note what makes their school systems successful or failures. Many Americans remain blinded, intentionally so, out of poltiical correctness. Like I said, maybe, just maybe, Trump has hit the nail on the head. Why do you think the California public school system is a failure? (ie. 47th out of 50 is a faiure by definition). You tell me? By lack of funds? ha. K-12 already gets about half of the entire state’s budget. And still remain in the bottom 90th percentile in academic achievement. So perhaps you or Ms. Mercer could address that?

  • Carol

    If you don’t teach your comments come from a place of hatred and a lack of any kind of specialized knowledge in the profession. Listen to those who do teach …. not to those who have never walked in our shoes. Be careful not to throw that stone for it may come back to hurt you and your profession…. If you have one.

  • LFOldTimer

    A reasonable person cannot blame Ms. Iglesias for speaking up, as she has certain responsibilities to fix problem schools in her district. Academically underperforming schools are a big problem forcing the State to come down on the administrators like a ton of brick. Since teachers are responsible for teaching the children it seems logical that they would be first on the chopping block. It all flows downhill. It works that way everywhere in the working world – not just in the schools, btw. I read Susan Mercer’s op-ed. It comes across as a pity party without any viable solutions. That’s not productive. Give us some solutions that might help fix the problems, Susan. Not just your complaints. You complain that many children are second language learners who don’t have the skills to maintain acceptable academic progress. But then your union has promoted bringing more immigrants into America who don’t have the basic english skills to compete in the classroom. You can’t have it both ways. What are your solutions, pray tell? Please enlighten us.

  • Marilyn

    Thanks for the Idea Mrs Mercer. I’d invest waiting for a new school to get their results (about 3 years) more than Santa Ana (so far 27 years and counting). Look, your effective teachers are afraid to talk about their peers, admin, unión and you.

  • Gaston Castellanos

    Sen. Huff’s involvement is particularly troubling. Studies always show that one of the best predictors for academic success is a healthy, rested and well nourished child arriving on time and ready to learn. Yet, Sen. Huff votes against minimum wage increases thereby keeping much needed resources out of the household whose kids he claims to want to help. He voted against drivers licenses for these same parents. In fact, if it were up to Huff and fellow Prop. 187 supporters, many of these children wouldn’t be in school at all. A helping hand from Sen. Huff’s office in this regard should be viewed with well deserved cynicism.

  • David Zenger

    It’s probably true that some of your teachers are “phenomenal” just as it’s probably true that many are not. And some are probably pretty rotten.

    Can the public demand any accountability from you and your union at all?

    • RyanCantor

      “Teachers’ workday is between 8 and 10 hours a day and on weekends.”

      Someone is playing fast and loose with the word “workday”.

      Not looking to pick sides or excuse anyone’s Facebook rants, but come on. Where’s the credibility?

    • Jacki Livingston

      I have a dear friend who teaches at SAUSD. She is a gem, the kind of teacher that every kid wishes that they had. I know that she spends hundreds of dollars a year providing things for her students, because the district and parents cannot afford it. There is good and bad in every profession, but we undervalue teachers. We pay millions to athletes who toss a ball around, but begrudge teachers a fair wage. If you want to criticize them, why don’t you go spend a week with thirty kids, and see if you can hack it? The fact is, most teachers have to clean up and overcome the mess of bad or abusive parents, as well as a public that thinks their job is so easy. To teach is a calling, and we need to give them the respect and pay they deserve.

      • David Zenger

        I didn’t criticize anybody.

        And i believe I’ll reserve for myself the right to demand accountability from public employee unions, just like i do for the agencies that bargain with them.

        BTW, thank your dear friend for all of us.

        • Jacki Livingston

          I have no problem with demanding accountability. But your tone in your statement came off as a bit dismissive and flippant. Teaching is probably one of the toughest jobs, and because, for years, it was considered “women’s work”, it has been undervalued, and underpaid, like so many of the “helping professions”. I could never do that job, honestly, especially with all of the issues they face. There are a lot of parents who are checked out, so it falls on teachers to really help kids. I was blessed with some fine teachers, in my life, and it behooves all of us to give them more respect. Like nurses, social workers and others, they are not given any of the pay or respect that they should be. If we valued them as we should, would they need a union? Most likely…not. And as a former union member, I know what a bad union is…mine was the WORST. I just think that even if you don’t like the union, it should not reflect on the men and women who are tasked with preparing children for the future.

          And thank you. She absolutely deserves it.

  • Gary

    Bravo, Bravo, Bravo. Susan you have expressed in a few paragraphs what we teachers have been trying to say for a very long time. I spent 35 years in a District similar to Santa Ana watching test scores decrease but student achievement (from start of the year to end of the year) increase. The public needs to come to the schools, experience the drive, desire, work ethic and commitment that teachers put forth each and every day. Education’s heyday was not yesterday, last week, last year or even 30 years ago…it is now. Teachers do a tremendous amount with a child who comes to school with little or no learning skills. If a teachers measurement of success were the % of educational increase a student makes while they were in a teachers classroom…Our teachers and students would not even compare (to what some call the hey day of education) they would be astronomically better now.

    • LFOldTimer

      “Education’s heyday was not yesterday, last week, last year or even 30 years ago…it is now.”
      Huh? K-12 in California is academically ranked 47th in the nation – and there has been a steady decline for the last 30 years. They told us that we could solve the problem by making sure the children had full stomachs prior to class. So we turned the schools into cafeterias. Test scores continued to plummet. Your statements make no sense to me. Based on what I’ve read about the California K-12 academic performance over the past 3 decades your claims seem disconnected from reality. But whatever.

      • Rintrah

        Could you cite your sources? Posting unsupported claims is not contributing to the discussion.

        • LFOldTimer

          This comment format does not allow links. But google is your friend. Anyone who has been following the news over the years knows that Calfornia’s K-12 academic rankings nationwide are pathetic. RIght about at the bottom of the heap. Google it. Last I read California was 47th out of 50. I remember decades ago when California actually had a respectable K-12 ranking. That hasn’t been the case for at least 20 years. It’s been a gradual slide to the bottom. And way back when we were told that many children weren’t fed properly at home prior to school and that was the reason for their poor academic performance. So millions of taxdollars were used to turn the schools into restaurants so all the children had access to food on site. The test scores continued to tank. Research it for yourself. If you find any credible information that refutes my recollection – then let us know.

  • CarolineSF

    Aside from the other comments, be aware that the Parent Trigger is pretty much of a flamboyant failure.
    When it was made law in 2010, its organizers predicted that many schools would have been charterized by it, and it would spread across the nation. Actually, one single school has been charterized via a Parent Trigger (Desert Trails, Adelanto, CA), and reports are wildly conflicting about that school’s success.
    There have been big flamboyant pushes to pass Parent Trigger laws in other states, and some have, but there are zero (0) reports of actual Parent Trigger action anywhere outside California, and very few in California.
    The big fly in the ointment is that charter operators really, really don’t want to take over existing challenged schools.
    “Philanthropists” are still funding the operations that promote the Parent Trigger, but clearly they’ll be demanding to see some evidence of results soon, so that’ll be drying up.

    • Marilyn

      We have El sol in Santa Ana — at one time it was 70% immigrant families in a troubled neighborhood. Parents took owbership, it to a little while but they ranked one of the higest in Santa Ana. What were the reasons why schools don’t test well in Santa ana?
      Also, I think Mercer is provoking parents by mentioning the political status—does she actually think parents haven’t been brewing al these years? Does she actually think without Cecy parents/residents won’t continue? Who is bullying now?