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TUSD administrators, trustees take heat for Cunningham changes
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Cunningham teachers being re-located


Rob Aikman                in-voluntarily

Tayna White                in-voluntarily

Yoland Rivera             in-voluntarily        

Christine Rowell         in-voluntarily

Phil Pasley                   in-voluntarily

Diane Woods              in-voluntarily

Kathleen Kennedy      voluntarily

Celia Montes               voluntarily


* Information provided by Cunningham Staff


A standing room only crowd kicked off Tuesday’s Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting, including over 125 Cunningham Elementary School teachers, parents and staff fighting for what they feel is right.

The group of people from Cunningham came to voice their concerns over the District’s decision to replace the school’s principal and eight teachers. The District implemented a plan for an overhaul of Cunningham’s staff in an effort to raise the school’s test scores. Cunningham has one of the lowest test scores in the District and has been placed on the state’s lowest-performing schools list for the past three years.

“The only reason why you chose those particular teachers at Cunningham for involuntary transfers is because they are the true leaders of the school and you don’t want any competition,” said Julie Shipman, Turlock Teachers Association president, during the public comment section of the TUSD Board meeting. “And we trust that when you make a mistake you will have the fortitude to admit it and do what you can to make it right.”

Shipman’s thoughts on the selection of the teachers being involuntarily relocated from Cunningham Elementary to other schools in the District were repeated from over 10 other speakers Tuesday night.

“I believe I am being involuntarily reassigned not because of the educational needs of the district, but for the simple answer is I am being punished,” said Rob Aikman, 5th grade teacher at Cunningham. “If the district does not value me as an educator at Cunningham School then I feel they do not value me at all.” 

Aikman is just one of the eight teachers who are being relocated to other schools within the District for the 2010/2011 school year.

The new Cunningham principal for the next school year will be Al Silveira, who is coming from Medeiros Elementary School. The principal currently at Cunningham Elementary, Tim Norton, will take the place of Turlock Junior High Assistant Principal Cameron Deen, who has announced his retirement.

The turnaround method that is being used at Cunningham is one of four methods implemented by the California State Department of Education at schools that are low performing within the Tier I and Tier II list of schools, which consists of the bottom five percent of schools in the state.

Schools listed on the two lists for low-performance are required by state law to implement one of the four intervention models. Cunningham is not on the Tier I or Tier II lists, but is on the Tier III list, which is not required by the state to implement any of the four models.

TUSD is voluntarily implementing the turnaround model, therefore, they are not forced to strictly follow the model but they can use it as a guideline for improvement, Ferriera said. The district is not forced to eliminate and rehire no more than 50 percent of the staff or hold two public hearings before implementing the model or have the Board of Trustees vote on one of the four models.

The reason why the District is choosing to implement the turnaround model now is because this is the fifth year that Cunningham has been a program improvement school with no foreseeable improvements in the future, said Lacrisha Ferreira, TUSD assistant superintendent for educational services.

“One of the things we realized is that we needed to do things differently,” said Frank Lima, TUSD Board of Trustees president. “We have to find ways to do things differently. How can we expect change when we are doing the same thing we have always done?”

Six teachers, including Aikman, are being involuntarily relocated and two teachers are voluntarily being relocated through the turnaround model. Aikman announced his resignation at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Other teachers who are being relocated are Tayna White, Yolanda Rivera, Christine Rowell, Phil Pasley and Diane Woods.

“It is really scary,” Rivera said. “Those who have been most vocal for change are the ones that are being relocated. I don’t know what grade I am teaching, I don’t know what school I am teaching at. I have lost sleep over this. It isn’t right.”

Kathleen Kennedy and Celia Montes are also being relocated but voluntarily. Those who are voluntarily being relocated are doing so because they said they are disappointed by the district’s decision to relocate teachers.

“I am outraged on how they were treating people on this campus and they have been so disrespectful,” Kennedy said.

On Monday night the TUSD held a parent meeting to address concerns that were brought up by Cunningham parents. Attendees at Monday’s meeting voiced anger with district administration due to lack of communication before the decision was made to implement a turnaround model at Cunningham Elementary and the selection of teachers to be relocated.

Third grade students Alena Lumanog and Galilea Diaz started a petition around school to keep their teachers. They have collected 105 signatures. There are an additional five to six other petitions circulating around the school also, they said.

“I want Mrs. White to stay,” Lumanog said. “She treats all of us in the class like her kids. I was crying because I don’t want her to leave. She has been here 13 years and I hope she stays here more.”

To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.