Times recaps chaos at Westminster School District

The Times today published an excellent recap of the ongoing disaster at the Westminster School District. While the article skirts around the labor problems that may lie at the center of this storm, note that the Westminster Teachers Association (WTA) president, Janet Brubaker, readily admits her animosity towards Sergio Contreras, one of the board members who continues to support Kimoanh Nguyen-Lam for the open superintendent position.

At this point, I think that Nguyen-Lam may have sealed her fate with her public comments and actions. However, the board is dysfunctional and I suspect that there will be major turnover at the next election. It is apparent that this crisis has brought Asian and Latino voters together, and together they will take over the board if they can come up with enough quality candidates. I also suspect that the WTA will pay for their role in this disaster. Their slate of candidates id doomed.

The Times article is too long to summarize, so I am presenting it here in full:

Westminster School District Lives in a Furor
Westminster’s dispute over the hiring of a superintendent is only its latest problem.

From the Los Angeles Times
By Seema Mehta and Mai TranTimes Staff Writers

June 18, 2006

In Westminster, an Orange County melting pot that started as a Presbyterian temperance colony more than a century ago, school board meetings have grown so nasty that some members receive police escorts to their cars afterward.

Five high-level administrators in the Westminster School District have quit, contract negotiations with the teachers union are at a stalemate and, two years ago, the district nearly lost millions in funding when it balked at adopting an antidiscrimination policy that protects transgender students and staff.

The latest uproar came last month, when the board hired a respected Vietnamese American educator as the district’s new superintendent and then, a week later, rescinded the offer without explanation.

Leaders in Westminster’s prominent Vietnamese community were furious, and parents now worry that the constant dysfunction and chaos in the district will inevitably trickle down to the classroom.

“We have a very lovely little school district. It shouldn’t be like this at all. It wasn’t until recently, very recently,” said school board member Jo-Ann Purcell. “It will be a long time before this district gets back on its feet.

“The Westminster School District, which has an $80-million budget, serves 10,000 students in kindergarten through the eighth grade in Westminster and some portions of Huntington Beach, Garden Grove and Midway City.

Reflecting those communities, the student population is diverse: Asians make up a third of the enrollment, Latinos nearly 39%, and whites about 20%.

For a district in which nearly half of the students are English-learners, and many are from low-income families, the schools have tested relatively well in English and math proficiency, state education figures show.

Parents and teachers fear that may change if school administrators and teachers continue to leave because of the turmoil. The district’s last superintendent, Sheri Loewenstein, announced her resignation in November after 16 months on the job.

“It’s getting to the point that it’s really affecting the morale of the district,” said PTA president Mariela Bridgewaters, who has five children, ages 8 to 18, and whose husband, Karl, plans to run for the school board in November.

“Eventually, it’s going to affect the kids.”

A half-century ago, the Westminster area was a middle class, largely white suburb of Los Angeles surrounded by orange groves and bean fields.

In the decades since, those crops disappeared to make way for neighborhoods and a steady influx of residents

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