South LA Teacher is “Too Afro-Centric”

I, and others here at blogging.la, have often commented on the sad state of affairs at LAUSD. While some readers have blamed the teachers for not caring enough, not being engaging, or not working hard enough (?!), the story of Karen Salazar might persuade these individuals that, indeed, the problem is not with the underpaid teachers at LAUSD schools, but rather with the bureaucracy which is keeping them from developing successful students.

Karen Salazar is an English teacher at Jordan High in Watts. By the accounts of her students, seen here in this YouTube videoand this YouTube video, Ms. Salazar is an inspirational educator, going above and beyond the curriculum. This, apparently is the problem.

In an email I received from a colleague familiar with “Students 4 Salazar”, he states that:

Salazar has been visited and “observed” by the administration over 15 times in the past year. During one of the visits, an administrator criticized her for having students read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, a LAUSD approved text. When she objected to this criticism, she was told that her teachings where too “Afro-centric.” She was then told that the school would not renew her teaching contract for the upcoming school year.

Students are staging a protest Thursday, June 5 outside Jordan High at 3:15 pm.

Jordan High School

2265 E 103rd St

Los Angeles, CA 90002

(323) 568-4100

More details after the jump.

Salazar is a Salvadorian, who is using what is known in educational circles as “culturally responsive pedagogy.” The principal, Stephen Strachan, is accused by “Students 4 Salazar” of taking a negative view of her emphasis on the “Black Experience.”

Amazingly, this contradicts common logic: with increases in violence between Hispanics and Blacks in South LA, what schools need is more educators tackling racial and cultural issues in the classroom. Even more refreshing is seeing students spearhead the movement to save Salazar. They are getting some support from the Association of Raza Educators. The public at large is being encouraged to contact the following players and give them an earful.

Stephen Strachan, principal

(323) 568-4100

Richard Vladovic, LAUSD board member representing Jordan HS

(323) 242-1300

[email protected]

8 Replies to “South LA Teacher is “Too Afro-Centric””

  1. Wow. A teacher with an educational agenda that they’re passionate about and LAUSD is firing her? No surprise, really.

    What LAUSD wants is not to give students exposure to a diverse group of opinionated and passionate mentors over their decade-plus in forced captivity, but a series of competent zombies who can do dual duty as prison guards and teach nothing but a set of largely irrelevant state standards and test preparation courses.

  2. I have no idea why, but an old cartoon strip popped into mind. It was the “Wizard of Id”. The peasants are protesting. The King is watching from his tower and the wizard runs in and announces “the peasants are revolting”. The king replies “yes, they are”.

    Why do I have a feeling that is the approach LAUSD officials will take with the students?

    Sad that teachers who want to teach can’t do their job.

  3. ok. i’ll bite.

    why do you think this isn’t the full story?

    i assure you, dear reader, if you have more details, do not hoard them, but rather be generous in your truth-telling.

    especially if you are a district insider.

  4. i take it she wasn’t permanent? what about her union rights? did she have negative stulls? unless she’s a probational teacher, it’s pretty darn difficult to be rid of a teacher, good or bad. you know this, ms. banneker, you work for the district too. so i’ll concur with kint. there are details missing. technical ones. ones that may involve a utla representative and due process.

  5. the technical details are precisely the ones a district insider would have.

    if shes probationary (likely) then yes, they can get rid of her on a whim, a lark, or a change in wind.

    if she’s permanent, then there is due process and all that. since i did not receive word from her reps or the school’s reps, but only received word from students lobbying in her behalf, i’m sure that i lack the whole story.

    speaking from second-hand experience, i do know that stulls on probationary teachers can be … shall we say…. inadequate. last year we had a teacher who was accused in his stull of being “uncollaborative with his peers”. while this could not have been farther from the truth, admins stuck by their story. since he was probationary, he basically got shafted and there was nothing out utla reps could do about it.

    i also know that any attempts to contact the school with inquiries would result in a “no comment”. the principal would say it’s a district issue, the district would say it’s confidential, and the teacher would fare better by not saying anything publicly. one of the problems with LAUSD is their lack of transparency.

    stulls and evals are secretive, mysterious, and unpredictable. i had a GREAT stull this year: probationary, yes… but i was only visited ONCE by my admin. i could have been tying kids to chairs and gagging them and the admins would have never known. when admins like that visit a single teacher 15 times, they’re not looking to help them develop as a teacher: they’re nitpicking. i’d wager a paycheck (haha) that her admins are not much different.

  6. you are most likely very right on that. my first stull revolved around four fabricated dates, so i do understand that 15 visitations sounds very suspicious. it’s an unfortunate situation, both for the teacher and the students. what’s even more unfortunate is that jordan has a hard enough time trying to staff their school with people who like kids.

  7. I went to college with Karen. I haven’t talked to her about this, so I don’t have any details to add. However, I would like to voice voice support (though I wouldn’t know what to say if I called the principal’s office). I know of other friends who work at Jordan and have had issues with the administration there too.

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