Monday, February 22, 2010

HAMILTON HIGH STUDENTS RALLY AROUND A BELOVED OFFICE WORKER: They saved her job for a while. Now they are trying again.

By Amina Khan | LA Times

February 21, 2010 | Miss G has been officially booted from Hamilton High.

The beloved office worker, who inspired a 500-strong protest in the fall when she was first laid off, had been reinstated as a substitute. But last month Christina Gutierrez was quietly removed from her position at Hamilton High School's humanities magnet.

The news came as a blow to senior Jimmy Biblarz, who with friends Noemi "Mimi" Rodriguez, Maya Festinger and David Kamins had organized a school-wide sit-in, made a plea in front of the Los Angeles Unified school board and attracted the personal attention of Supt. Ramon C. Cortines.

The foursome presented a proposal to the board in November suggesting that Miss G swap jobs with another worker at Hamilton. Impressed by the students, district officials instead bent the rules and allowed Gutierrez to return on a temporary basis. Students and staff celebrated with balloons and a cake.

There were no promises, however, that she could stay past the round of cuts expected in early 2010, officials warned.

And when she got the letter saying her last day at Hamilton would be Jan. 29, Gutierrez kept it quiet.

"I said if it's meant to be, it's meant to be," Gutierrez said. "But I miss Hamilton, I really do. Those are all my kids. That's my home."

The students say the constant reshuffling of staff has clearly affected the school.

"You come in and see a new face every day; you just have no idea who to talk to," Jimmy said.

Magnet coordinator Francis Rose called the situation absurd. "It's like living in a Kafkaesque world," he said.

District officials said the situation was dictated by the financial crisis and union rules, and thus was out of their control.

"There needs to be some new thinking about who we move and how we move them," said Douglas Waybright, director of secondary schools for local District 3. "I bet you a dollar to a doughnut a lot of people would love to have her. Because if she has that kind of impact on students, who wouldn't want to have her?"

Gutierrez is now working on a temporary project at district headquarters downtown, managing a team sorting through attendance discrepancies for elementary schools.

"I'm not giving up; I'm sticking with LAUSD," Gutierrez said. "Even if I'm at the main headquarters, I'm still helping the kids in a weird way."

Her last day at Hamilton was a quiet affair.

"I bought her another cake and instead of saying goodbye I put au revoir, 'until we meet again,' " Rose said.

The students are not giving up. They've drafted a letter and hope to devise a solution, as they did in the fall.

"She doesn't belong in a stuffy office with no student interaction," Jimmy said. "We want her back at Hamilton, and if the solution doesn't involve a permanent position, that would work -- for now."

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