What was the big deal about some principal getting transferred from one Anaheim school to another?


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The imperious corporatist Kris Murray, flanked by two Mexican-American Anaheim educators, friend and foe.

Yeah, what WAS that all about, back in May and June? (The kerfuffle is beginning to simmer down now.)   Dr. Roberto Baeza, popular and successful principal of Anaheim’s Benito Juarez Elementary School, was transferred to another Anaheim elementary school as is the custom with Anaheim principals after a certain number of years, and a group of upset parents decided to blame it all on the machinations of Latino activist and school board member Dr. Jose Moreno.  The Weekly‘s Gabriel San Román wrote a three-part series about it, and corporate shill Matt Cunningham jumped on it with both feet once he realized that Moreno was being portrayed as the villain!

Gabriel attended the meetings and gave sympathetic portrayals of the angry Baeza-loving parents, praising them as laudable, passionately-involved “stakeholders,” although to other witnesses they sometimes resembled a frothing lynch mob.  Gabriel did provide a bit of the other side of the story, but did not neglect the standard Weekly anti-Moreno snark.

But there are a few facts that Gabriel knew, that you’d think might have been of interest and relevance to the story, but he chose not to mention:  Possibly most notable was the fact that Baeza was appointed to Anaheim’s Community Services Board by Kris Murray, the Alpha Dog of the Council’s corporatist-fascist majority and the staunchest foe of Moreno’s attempts at reform.  Add to that the fact that Baeza is an ambitious budding politician craving a place on the High School Board, and his blaming – wrongly! – his transfer on the hated Moreno, you’d think that suggests a highly provocative angle.  But Gabriel thought not.

How It All Really Went Down.

As has been frequently mentioned, it’s standard procedure in Anaheim to rotate principals once they’ve been at a certain school for six years or so, and Baeza had just begun his sixth year at Benito Juarez.  In this particular case, a dominoes-series of transfers began when a spot opened up at Westmont, which has a large special ed program.  New superintendent Linda Wagner (NOT the board or Moreno) sat down and looked at her options, beginning with seeing which principals were ripe for rotation.  The principal of Roosevelt had a kid in special ed, so she seemed like a natural fit for Westmont;  the Roosevelt spot was filled with the principal who’d been at Palm Lane for several years, and then it made sense to move Baeza from Juarez to Palm Lane, replacing him with the fine Cecilia Román, who had been out of the principal loop for a few years due to a family emergency.

Nobody expected Baeza to take such umbrage over this standard rotation.  He announced to a group of parents that he did NOT wish to leave, and he blamed the move on some imagined Moreno grudge against him.  (Moreno had supported Al Jabbar over Baeza for High School Board replacement of Jordan Brandman, but still thought he and Baeza had a cordial professional relationship.) 

It was really pretty unprofessional for Baeza to kick up such a fuss over this move, to rile up his favorite parents and to turn them against Moreno.  Only slightly less unprofessional would have been to tell them he was reluctant to leave but would do as ordered.  He should have just said, it’s been great but it’s time to move on, and my replacement will no doubt be as good as me.  Anyway, if Baeza is such a fucking great principal, what’s wrong with Palm Lane enjoying his greatness for a few years? 

But instead he whipped them into a pitchfork-wielding mob, and I do worry a little about seeing this guy go farther in politics.  The Baezistas, in their flyers, rally, and board meeting appearance, went beyond expressing support for Baeza, viciously attacking not only Moreno but Superintendent Wagner, and, most unfairly of all, their new principal Cecilia Román.

MY conspiratorial mind tells me Kris Murray or ultimate puppetmaster Curt Pringle put Baeza up to this chingada, to discredit the man behind the districting lawsuit who could also be one of the most formidable council candidates against Murray and Eastman next year – while grooming another Mexican who will toe the corporate line, adding to Teamster / charter review member Ernesto Medrano and “sudden Mexicans” Steve Lodge and Sandra Day.

Moreno is less cynical;  even if Baeza’s actions were reprehensible and unprofessional, Jose’s impression is that he really simply did not feel like leaving that school, and it was others with their own agendas who created a political football out of the situation.  Which brings us to…

Jerbal & the Weekly vs. Moreno and Los Amigos

From my point of view, much of the most meaningful and promising attempts at reform in Anaheim are coming from Moreno and Los Amigos, and it makes sense that the corporatists’ paid shill Matt Cunningham would jump at a chance to discredit them (and exaggerate their radicalness.)

But then there’s Gabriel San Román and his Weekly boss Gustavo Arellano. They can both be fine journalists and I’m pretty sure they’re both lifetime Anaheim residents;  Gabriel’s a smart leftist and Gustavo’s a famously funny guy;  so it’s unfortunate that any time Moreno or his group Los Amigos comes up, their eyes turn bloodshot and they see through blinders, darkly.  There are a couple of grudges involved that go back over a decade (to before Moreno was even involved in the group); and most recently Gustavo wrongly blames Moreno for trying to kick him out of a speaking gig at Chapman University last year (I could give more details on that but this story is long enough.) 

For sure, criticism of Moreno, Los Amigos, and other reformers and rebels, could be true and fair and necessary, but it’s also unavoidably helpful to the corporatist-fascist regime running the town, which makes for an interesting balancing act.  Certainly the Weekly has to call things the way they see things, but when they do, we’ll be here telling the rest of the story.


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist in Orange County. Performs regularly with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem, and at regular concerts at the Huntington Beach Central Library.