East San Jose parents rally for principal’s return
Parents, students and teachers rallied ahead of the Alum Rock Union School District board meeting on March 9, 2023 to show support for Principal Maria Guadalupe Gutierrez, who's been on administrative leave since November. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    East San Jose parents are calling for Alum Rock Union School District officials to reinstate a principal who was put on leave amid a sexual assault scandal involving a teacher.

    More than 50 parents, teachers and students rallied in freezing rain Thursday evening, calling on the district to bring back Maria Guadalupe Gutierrez, principal of Adelante Dual Language Academy. Supporters packed the district’s board meeting, as parents and staff demanded their principal’s return and transparency regarding the abuse scandal.

    “We have a revolving door of administrators,” Adelante parent Raul Perez told San José Spotlight. “We have parents that are disillusioned.”

    Adelante Academy Principal Maria Guadalupe Gutierrez with students on Breast Cancer Awareness Day in 2022. Photo courtesy of Gutierrez.

    News of a teacher’s arrest on charges of sexual assault against minors stunned community members last November. Parents called for better communication from the district and discussed the situation with officials in late January. Since then, additional tense community meetings have led to a board member’s resignation and a speedy appointment process to find his replacement.

    Donald Velez, Gutierrez’s attorney, said the district placed her on paid administrative leave on Nov. 9 with unclear reasoning. This was shortly after a San Jose Police Department investigation began on the teacher and before his arrest on Nov. 21. Numerous attempts have been made to reach the school district’s lawyers with little success, he added.

    Alum Rock Union School District Superintendent Hilaria Bauer and Board President Minh Pham declined to comment.

    Gutierrez said she remains in limbo and doesn’t know when she’ll be able to go back to her job—or be fired. Gutierrez suspects politics play a role in her situation, as she said she was briefly put on leave last September for disciplining a district board member’s child. She plans to keep fighting for her job.

    “Under my leadership, Adelante has been one of the best performing schools in the district and is a beacon of hope for an underserved community,” Gutierrez told San José Spotlight. “Given my record and the amount of support from parents and teachers, if it weren’t for the corruption that Alum Rock routinely faces, I should be in my position helping to educate the children of East San Jose.”

    Perez said he and other parents were blindsided by news of Gutierrez’s sudden departure. He said his son, a third-grader, is affected by all the chaos.

    “My son, he’s really too young to understand, but he knows. He’s like, ‘What’s happening?’” Perez said.

    Teacher Elizabeth Guzman said the lack of leadership is also affecting educators. She said Adelante’s administrative duties are being shared by several people. According to the school’s website, there are currently four substitute principals in charge of specific days of the week.

    “Rotating principals at Adelante is not working for anyone: not for the students, not for the teachers, not for the staff and not for the parents,” Guzman said at the meeting.

    Adelante parent Stacey Benedict said the lack of stability means student activities and programs are no longer as plentiful. Benedict has three children at the school.

    “The staff really need a leader,” Benedict told San José Spotlight. “We need someone that’s going to show up for the families and the teachers.”

    Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

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