By Melissa Pamer, Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group
1/22/09 -- An embattled Carson elementary school principal who last year was the subject of emotional teacher and staff protests was removed from her post this week.
District officials said they temporarily reassigned Anna Barraza from Dolores Street Elementary School to a Los Angeles Unified administrative office as of Wednesday.
Local District 8 Superintendent Linda Del Cueto provided few details on what she called a "personnel matter."
"I'm working with due process, but I'm also going to do what's best for the school," she said.
Asked if Barraza would return to campus - where teachers on Wednesday said they were "rejoicing" - Del Cueto would not comment.
Barraza, who was in her second year at the campus, had been the center of an attention-generating firestorm that drew in unions for both administrators and teachers, as well as district officials up to Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
At two previous schools, Barraza was removed from her post after instructors protested, claiming she was domineering, cold and not collaborative.
Those complaints were echoed in weekly protests by Dolores Street teachers that began in May - culminating in a sleepover protest that attracted television news crews in July. The attention prompted debate on the aggressive tactics of United Teachers Los Angeles and on the so-called "dance of the lemons," in which unpopular principals are moved from campus to campus.
On Wednesday, Barraza and the president of her union, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, stressed that the reassignment is temporary.
"We are confident she'll be returned to duty," said Mike O'Sullivan, the president of AALA.
The administrators union has fiercely defended Barraza against what O'Sullivan called "grandstanding" by UTLA.
"This was massive overreaction," O'Sullivan said of the district's action this week.
Barraza said she was told her reassignment was part of a district investigation into an incident on campus Friday in which teachers spontaneously moved their classes onto the playground.
The principal's supervisor, Director Valerie Moses, arrived at the school after receiving calls from parents who saw children amassed on the asphalt, Barraza said.
"It wasn't out of control," Barraza said. "I'm not really sure what there is left to investigate."
Barraza said she had not been informed by teachers about any plans for outdoor instruction, but she allowed the activities to continue when she observed adequate supervision and teaching.
"I found out later it was a protest" against her, Barraza said. "I thought it was very irresponsible for teachers to put students in the middle of the whole thing."
Teachers on Wednesday denied that the incident was a protest, saying outdoor teaching was related to Martin Luther King Jr. Day and was for some instructors a lesson about civil disobedience.
Earlier last week, teachers had found out that the school's well-liked office manager would be transferred away from campus. They reacted with fury, and Moses met with them Jan. 15.
"Most teachers were crying. The fact that we were losing this person was the last straw," said fourth-grade teacher Keri Porter. "Everyone was pouring out their hearts, saying they were on anxiety medication."
Del Cueto said she couldn't comment on the office manager's status, again because it is a "personnel matter."
Teachers didn't hear anything else from the district until they were notified of Barraza's reassignment in a memo that was distributed late Tuesday after most instructors had left campus. On Wednesday, the district gave a memo to students to take home to parents.
An interim principal, veteran LAUSD administrator Rita Davis, has been assigned to the campus.
"It felt like a breath of fresh air without Anna Barraza on campus," said teacher Gloria Cook.
Several teachers expressed relief but said they planned to downplay their reactions until it was certain that Barraza would not return.
"No one knows why they made this decision," Porter said.