Parents protest reassignment of Echo Park school teacher*

A group of parents at Betty Plascencia Elementary have been picketing outside the Echo Park school for about two weeks to protest what they consider the unfair treatment of a long-time teacher by the new principal.  Parents were scheduled to hold more protests this morning as a dispute resolution teams from the school district  meet with parents and staff to address the issue, according to a press release issued by Plasencia Parents United.  The group, whose cause was reported by Spanish-language TV station KRCA,  was spurred into action after teacher Kiffen Madden-Lunsford, who has been at the school for 13 years, lost his position as an instructional coach and is being reassigned as part of changes made by new principal Julie Gonzalez.  Parent Emily Rice said school officials said the changes are being made in an effort to focus more attention to the school’s large number of English learners. But Rice and others say that Madden-Lunsford has already been doing just that.


“We are trying to keep a beloved teacher in his position,” said Rice, who said that about 450 have signed a petition in support of Madden-Lunsford. “He’s truly important to the school.”

* Update: A parent with Plasencia Parents United said the district’s dispute resolution team  informed parents today that the principal’s decision will stand. Madden-Lunsford will be assigned to another position in the district, Gorton said.

A spokeswoman for L.A. Unified said the district will not comment on the dispute. “This is a personnel matter, and confidential.”

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  1. Well, its not clear in this story that this teacher is being targeted. It sounds like the story is saying that a new principal has reviewed the operations of the school and is making some changes to try to better focus on the school on where the needs are. That’s what a principal is supposed to do.

    Is this the ONLY teacher having a change of assignment? You haven’t made that clear. Was there some conflict between the teacher and the principal that precipitated this — you haven’t addressed that but left a certain implication. And is the reassignment at this same school or elsewhere — in other words, why the protest if he will still be their working with the kids?

    And I gather that this teacher is not getting any kind of demotion or pay cut, simply will be teaching this instead of that — so what’s the big deal, you haven’t made it clear. You have them saying he already was doing what he is being reassigned to do — OK, so then what’s the big problem?

    And what is an “instructional coach” as opposed to a teacher?

    • @ Mark. I am seeking answers to some of those questions from the school district. Stay tuned. An instructional coach helps with teacher training.

  2. The school may not be able to afford an instructional coach any more. Talk to the School Site Counsel, this is the on campus committee charged with deciding how categorical funds are used. Based on my 8 years of experience sitting on a SSC, that is what this sounds like to me.

  3. As a former instructional coach, I’m going to make the assumption that an instructional coach was not in the school’s budget. Each school site will be given less money for the 2011-2012 school year, and when forced to trim the fat, you’d rather trim from out-of-classroom positions than in-classroom positions. That’s why my position was eliminated and that’s why I’m at another school site teaching in a classroom again.

    I’m neither angry about it, nor bitter–it was what was best for the school, and the team of educators working for the students.

  4. If parents in a moderate-income area find time to picket, you can bet something important is going wrong. These people do not have maids at home to take care of the kids.

    I find it interesting that Latin parents are picketing on behalf of an Anglo, against a Latin administrator. Not everything is ethnic-racial politics, but when people cross ethnic barriers, you have to think there is real meat in this situation.

    Something tells me Madden-Lunsford must be very important to the students and parents, and for good reasons. It is not like Madden-Lunsford has to money to bribe anyone, or jobs to offer.

    This situation bears further investigation.

  5. I have witnessed firsthand the profound and meaningful impact of Madden-Lunsford’s influence on the children of Betty Plasencia Elementary — an investment of thirteen years into the education of children who receive few resources outside the school. I’m not surprised the parents are outraged; I am outraged as well. It’s a very suspicious move by a first-time principal entering a new school — and it doesn’t bode well for the children of Echo Park.

  6. Madden-Lunsford is being forced out by an authoritarian principal who seems bent on crushing the inclusive, welcoming family atmosphere at Betty Plasencia. If you’ve seen “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, you get the idea of what this Nurse Ratched is up to.

  7. The Instructional Coach position at Betty Plasencia is funded. This is not a case of budget cutting.

  8. I have a dear friend who is a teacher at Plasencia, and she states that, “Madden-Lunsford has stepped in her classroom not once this year, nor the classroom of the teacher in the adjacent room.” How’s that for instructional “coaching?”

    @DC Mrs. Gonzalez is NOT a first-time principal. This is her first year at Plasencia, but she has previous experience as a principal in LAUSD.

    @Benjamin Wow! There are so many errors in your comment. How do you know they don’t have maids? How do you know she is Latina, her last name? Is it possible she married a Latino??? Are you saying that bribes are how you receive an Instructional Coach position? Let’s ask cate.

    @Mark You are 100% correct. There is more to this story than meets the eye given the information in this article. Their website claims they have 1140 students enrolled, but the article claims only 450 have signed the petition. That is not an overwhelming majority.

    Here’s an idea, let’s let the person that LAUSD has chosen to lead the school…lead the school. The education and experience of a proven leader should trump the misinformed ideals of the few who are only thinking of personal friendships.

  9. WBL-

    Well, for that matter, Madden-Lunsford could be Latino, despite his name and Anglo looks. Maybe I am Latino. We all know that Latinos cover lot of bases.

    And yes, maybe the parents picketing arrive to the site by limo, and have maids.

    But basically, the facts remain the same: You have people in a moderate-income predominantly Latino neighborhood taking time to picket on behalf of Anglo, against a principal with a Latin surname.

    Something tells me the principal is doing something wrong.

    I was not saying bribes were involved–in fact, I said the opposite. The picketers are not picketing for some sort of financial compensation–they must be concerned about the quality of education their kids will receive.

  10. Benjamin,

    Quote-It is not like Madden-Lunsford has to money to bribe anyone, or jobs to offer. -Unquote

    You implied that he doesn’t have money to offer and therefore did not receive the position…meaning, that the person that did get the position, had money to offer and gave a bribe. How is that the opposite? It is in fact, what you said. If he had no money AND received the position…that would have been the opposite.

    I took your comment to be aimed at the administration, while you might have intended it to be aimed at the parents. That was a little unclear to me. I hope you can see how one might misinterpret your comment.

    The fact, as I see it, is that he was ineffective in his position and the administration decided that a change was needed to benefit the entire community of students at Plasencia. If the API scores increase next year, will that factor into your feelings on this subject?

    I do not know Mr.Madden-Lunsford but do know that my friend and several of her co-workers were very unhappy with his performance this year.

    And this isn’t a Latino-Anglo or Anglo-Latino issue. It is a working vs. non-working issue.

    Schools make changes all the time; some work and some don’t. Until we see the results of this decision, we should not judge.


  11. Many of you should not comment on things that you are not fully informed of and might not concern you. A coaching decision was to be made. The principal did her job in choosing the person she felt most capable of the position. The positions went from two instructional coaches this year to one coach next year. Eight regular, full time, experienced teachers were displaced from the school. Madden-Lunsford was not the only one to be leaving. As for the parents that were protesting, the majority were white and from the magnet school. Parents were told lies, to sign the petition. Many later regreted their decision when presented with the truth that he was not being “fired” just not retained as the instructional coach. If the independant panel reached the same decision as the principal, are they too doing something wrong?

  12. A dispute resolution can only be triggered by a teacher who claims that there was an error in staff assignments and that he or she was wrongfully assigned. The way schools run is so complex and political that it is impossible to know and understand what really happened at Plascencia without knowing all the inside particulars. It’s too easy to jump to conclusions when you only know part of the story.

    Cheryl Ortega (teacher)

  13. I know a number of people at Plasencia and they have confirmed to me that Mr. Madden-Lunsford has not only taught an intervention class daily but has also performed many duties that are not in his job description. That he is always there to assist and help anyone who accepts help.

    The school population is around 945. Yes they do have an excellent magnet program on the campus that is a school of excellence and is ran by a Director who sees Mr. Madden-Lundsford as a contributor to the excellence of the magnet school. and finally the API of the residential school does show that the second language learners have not met the goals of the state or district, but that isn’t his fault. The school is made up of many professionals who you can blame this on.

  14. Principal Gonzales was not well liked in District 4.

  15. I happen to work for the district and in District Four and I and have had the pleasure of working with and for Mrs. Gonzalez. She is extremely passionate about education and the advancement of the community she serves. Albeit I may not agee with all of my boss’s decisions, that does not make my boss a bad educator, nor does it make Mrs. Gonzalez. Sometimes good people have to make UNPOPULAR decisions in the BEST interest of the whole.

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