Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Parents, Teachers Show Support for Lim After Dismissal


The Citizen
Newton's first law of motion states, said Pamela Lowe, a first grade teacher at Roosevelt Elementary, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. At times, Tuesday night, the laws of nature were turned upside down as parents and teachers criticized the sudden firing of San Leandro School Superintendent Christine Lim.

The San Leandro School Board voted to dismiss Lim in closed session last December and announced their decision Jan. 5 without details of the outcome. Board President Mike Katz announced Tuesday night, the board had voted to relieve Lim, 4-3, with Trustees Morgan Mack-Rose, Diana Prola, Hermy Almonte and Katz voting with the majority. Katz also announced the naming of Cindy Cathey as the interim superintendent.

A group of parents also told the board they intend to file a recall petition with the Alameda County clerk against the four trustees who voted for Lim's removal on the grounds of members violating the Brown Act and irresponsible use of public funds.

The firing of Lim had been rumored for months and became imminent as the makeup of the board was transformed through elections at the end of 2008. Mack-Rose, Almonte and Prola all campaigned on their willingness to deal more aggressively with Lim, whose style, many detractors say, rubbed many in the teachers union the wrong way.

A group of Lim's supporters distributed an email sent in August from a member of the San Leandro Teacher's Association (SLTA) calling on members to tell Mack-Rose and Almonte to "do what they were elected to do, and that was to bring Superintendent Lim's term in San Leandro to an end."

The email was often cited by parents and teachers and critics say points to the lack of transparency the board has exhibited by refusing to discuss the reasons behind Lim's firing, calling it a "personnel issue."

“Is this the reason you came to the board?” parent Hendy Huang asked Mack-Rose and Almonte, “You're suppose to listen to the voters, not the SLTA.” Diane Wang, a teacher in the district says the firing has made teachers cautious about the future with difficult budget decisions on the horizon this year.

“To suddenly fire the superintendent, who may of had an adversarial relationship with the union or even with some of us, has made many of us feel insecure,” said Wang, who later wondered whether some teachers would meet the same fate as Lim saying, "You just want us all to know our place and if you don't get those test scores up, you're next.”

Many were also concerned with the decision within the context of the poor economy, where the school district has been hit harder than most public agencies. “We must have a lot of money if you can send her off on a vacation and also pay to have someone else do the job," said parent Tina Dumas. It is estimated Lim is due to receive nearly half of her $215,000 yearly salary until June.

Many in the teachers union have pointed to what they say is a lack of respect for its members, but even representatives of the executive board have been tight-lipped on reiterating the list of Lim's transgressions. SLTA Boardmember Mark Hamilton said her treatment of the union is their main complaint against Lim, but offered no specifics.

Parent and San Leandro business owner Tim Holmes was one of the few who countered numerous speakers by telling the board Lim's dismissal rests solely on her performance, “During Lim's tenure as superintendent the school district went from cooperation and openness to one which lacks follow through, has limited criticism through secrecy and gives lip service to parental involvement,” said Holmes.

Lim sat at the dais stoically throughout the discussion, barely acknowledging those who thanked her for her work with a slight nod. She addressed the board with a lengthy list of her accomplishments during six years in San Leandro, highlighted by her attention to helping minority students and educators. "It may have not been fast enough. I may have not been good enough," Lim said, "but when I got here, our black and brown kids were not achieving."

The political ramifications regarding the board's decision, other than the specter of a recall campaign, is the  possibility the issue will linger for much of the year as members are challenged why certain cuts are made to the school district's budget in relation to the perceived expenditure Lim's firing adds to their dire fiscal situation. One member, Trustee Pauline Cutter, who voted against firing Lim, is running to replace Bill Stephens on the San Leandro City Council and former member Steven Cassidy is running for mayor.

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Lets move on and build a 1st class school system. I am sorry, but Lim did not perform above a mediocre level when you lookde at all aspects of her position - scores, facilities, leadership, community relations, etc. There was constant infighting, bad press, morale issues and poor public relations. The bottom line is our school district is mediocre and not considered desireable, which greatly effects our communities liveability, home values and our children's futures. I do not have children, but I realize good schools make the community a success or a failure and ours are just not cutting it.

Hello, the San Leandro voters have already spoken.

Rick Richards and Ray Davis embraced and supported Lim. During the election Almonte and Mack-Rose stated that they would not have extended Lim's contract. This may have been the first time ever in San Leandro that two school board members in the same election lost their re-election bids.

Arnold has a greater chance of getting $7 billion from D.C. than this recall effort qualifying for the ballot.

i'd like to make a correction...i actually made several references to newton's third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction), not the first law, as you have written.

newton's first law states: every object in a state of uniform motion tend to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

if i had based most of my talk on the first law of motion to the board of education on the night of 12 january in the case of the firing of superintendent chris lim, then i would have implied that the board's actions came from an external force. hmmm. i wonder...

N.B. You need an editor: may have, not "may of"; supposed to, not "suppose to".

As a SL teacher, I liked her a lot and she always supported me and my student. Perplexed to this "witch hunt".

SL is still paying for the huge mistake of firing Chris Lim. As a teacher we will feel this for years to come. So will our black and brown students!

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