Saturday, February 19, 2005

California's Colton High School Crybabies: UPDATE

Last Sunday, we took a look at a situation that had developed at a high school in Colton, California. This is what we said:

In Colton, California, hundreds of high school students got up from their seats and walked out of class last Thursday and gathered in the school's quad, where they chanted slogans calling for the firing of their school's principal. The well-coordinated protest began at 8:30 AM.

After administrators failed to persuade students to return to their lessons, classes were cancelled and the pupils sent home for the day. As Friday was a holiday, it is hoped that classes may resume on Monday.

Michael Townsend, a spokesman for the Colton Unified School District, indicated that he believed that only a few of the students were serious about their grievances. (He then indicated that the majority of the students were just "going along" with the protest as an excuse to get out of class.)

Well, like so many other newsworthy items in the World of Education, there was considerably more to this story than met the eye. It seems like it was the policies of the principal, Harry "Doc" Ervin that incurred not only the displeasure of his students, but also of his staff as well.

You see, "Doc" has a history. One of our readers, Expat Nomad used to work on the staff of Rialto High School in Rialto, California. "Doc" Ervin was his principal. In a
post about Ervin, Expat says:
Doc came from Rialto High School where he was an assistant principal and he was moved up to principal at my high school. He came in and made huge changes without consulting any of us who actually lived there. Yup, he didn't even live in my town, he just commuted from Rialto every day (which is a substantial drive). Needless to say, our staff wasn't too thrilled with these changes and there were a few times that Doc did some truly outrageous things that required intervening by the teachers' union.
As a classroom teacher myself, it has been my experience that there are a number of (mostly young) administrators who, in their zeal to impose change, often forget that one of the basic tenants of educational leadership is that change is best done incrementally. In a comment on our original post, Expat says:

He then went in to Colton and started implementing the EXACT same policies that he did for us. Even the wording is the same (gotta love it when you can cut & paste). He has already managed to alienate his entire staff at Colton HS and a large population of the students.

How large? Was it just a few hundred? No, it was all BUT a few hundred. Teachers also wanted to walk with the students but were in fear of losing their job. Why were the students all worked up over dress code? It is more than that. It is also the closing of student bathrooms around campus during specific times. It is also the misappropriation of school funds towards a track facility instead of a new cafeteria.

It is also having 3 of 4 administrators and an AD being removed from their positions because they didn't agree with him (the 4th administrator was following Doc from my school, hence why he stayed). It wasn't just the dress code, although that is what got the majority of the attention.

Then on Monday, Expat told us that the staff sided with the students:
Well, it now appears that the faculty at Colton High have spoke out against this principal. 26 of the teachers called in sick on Monday to protest Doc Ervin with more expected Tuesday.Read more about it by clicking here.
As a classroom teacher myself, I can affirm that it takes a great deal of provocation to unite both students and staff either for or against any person or idea. When things get this bad, it becomes clear that there is a problem at the leadership level. Today, Expat gave us more news:
And the final (?) chapter has been written on this issue. The principal was removed from the school; it is uncertain if he was fired or just sent to the DO to finish out his contract. I'll see what info I can dig up on it.

The San Bernardino Sun has an article on this here.

I agree that he needed to go although I don't agree with the method that attention was gained to get his removal. I just wonder what message the kids are going to get from their actions...
We agree with Expat's assessment.

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