Replacing the principal and some teachers at Cunningham Elementary is part of an effort the Turlock Unified School District (TUSD) is making to improve testing scores.
New Cunningham Elementary Principal Al Silveira will be coming to from Medeiros Elementary and will be replacing Tim Norton who will be taking the place of retiring Turlock Junior High Assistant Principal Cameron Deen.
After new Cunningham Principal Al Silveira interviewed teachers an effort to decide who will stay at the school or be moved to another, eight teachers are being reassigned within the district but there will be no terminations associated with the changes.
Cunningham Elementary is one of the lowest-achieving schools in the district, along with Osborn and Wakefield Elementary Schools.
Currently, Cunningham Elementary is on the Tier III list of lowest-achieving schools but if low scores continue the school may put on the State’s Tier I or Tier II list which could trigger State mandated changes of replacing the principal and only being able to rehire 50 percent of the staff.
The changes taking place at Cunningham are currently being done voluntarily as a proactive move and modeled after the State’s turn-around model. By not being State mandated, TUSD does not have to fire the principal or replace at least 50 percent of the teachers.
These decisions were not an act of the TUSD Board of Trustees and didn’t happen over night.
There have been meetings between the TUSD administration, principals, and staff in regards to the changes at Cunningham.
Teachers, parents, and even students are still claiming shock and poor communication by the District as the changes are taking place.
On Monday night, TUSD held a meeting for the parents of Cunningham students to explain the changes and their plan to improve test scores.
Reports from people who attended give a picture of a chaotic, poorly ran meeting that left many feeling disrespected, offended, and given conflicting statements by TUSD administration.
Many of those same people showed up at the TUSD Board Meeting on May 18, 2010 to express their feelings to the TUSD Board of Trustees. Board Member Tami Muniz did attend the Cunningham parent meeting the night before.
Teachers spoke to the TUSD Board stating they thought it was unfair that teachers are being blamed in the media for low test scores and that they are being punished for speaking up for change at Cunningham under the old principal.
Speakers criticized the District for their poor communication, unprofessionalism, unfairness, and disrespect while handling the Cunningham issue, along with other issues such as negotiations.
TUSD officials have not given a definitive answer as to why some teachers are being involuntarily moved versus others while also stating that the District may not speak to personnel issues but that the planned changes at Cunningham are based on a turn-around model to improve low test scores.
So why is Rob Aikman, a 5th grade GATE teacher, being involuntarily moved because of Cunningham’s low test scores?
Turlock Teacjers Association President Julie Shipman told the Board and administration during the meeting that “The only reason you chose those particular teachers at Cunningham for involuntary transfers was because they are the true leaders of the school and you don’t want any competition.”
Rob Aikman made arrangements to speak last during the public comment section and was approved to use 7 minutes instead of 3 to make his statements.
Aikman pointed out his students’ academic achievements, parent involvement, school involvement, and community involvement.
“I believed I’m being involuntarily reassigned, not because of the educational needs of the district, but for the simple answer is I am being punished,” said Aikman. “And what am I being punished for… At times I open my mouth and address concerns that I have with both the way our district and Cunningham school approaches the educational needs of our stakeholders, students.”
Aikman stated that despite his accomplishments and achievements, he felt like he had no control over in the success of his professional career with TUSD.
“But through a long night of weighing my options, I finally came up with one that gives me back some professional control and takes it out of the hands of fate,” said Aikman.
Rob Aikman announced his resignation.
Additional chairs were brought into the Turlock High School Performing Arts Building to accommodate the crowd of around 150 people while some stood along back walls and outside. So many people spoke that TUSD President Frank Lima closed the public hearing before everyone could speak as it ran after the meeting’s allocated 30 minutes for public comments. Every speaker addressing the Board on the Cunningham issue criticized the District. Everyone received standing ovations but Aikman’s lasted around 2 minutes.