100 Students Demonstrate at High School to Support Bus Driver

  • A sit-in at Frazier Mountain High School was called for by students using Facebook. They were concerned about what they said was an injustice in regard to relieving Jesus—Chuy— Saldana of his bus driving assignment.Saldana has retired from the district twice, he says, but came back when asked to drive the bus. He says he works for the kids, not the money.

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    A sit-in at Frazier Mountain High School was called for by students using Facebook. They were concerned about what they said was an injustice in regard to relieving Jesus—Chuy— Saldana of his bus driving assignment.Saldana has retired from the district twice, he says, but came back when asked to drive the bus. He says he works for the kids, not the money.

  • About 100 students are said to have joined the protest.

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    About 100 students are said to have joined the protest.

  • Student representative Joey Teare (right) was prohibited by FMHS Principal Dan Penner from speaking with television news. He spoke with The Mountain Enterprise, saying students are concerned about the treatment of school district personnel, including the pink slip given to drama and English teacher Kat Fair. Others mentioned the pink slip given to Coach Jarudd Prosser.

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    Student representative Joey Teare (right) was prohibited by FMHS Principal Dan Penner from speaking with television news. He spoke with The Mountain Enterprise, saying students are concerned about the treatment of school district personnel, including the pink slip given to drama and English teacher Kat Fair. Others mentioned the pink slip given to Coach Jarudd Prosser.

  • Student representative Joey Teare confronted by FMHS Principal Dan Penner (in Falcons sweatshirt) and FMHS Counselor Mike Stroh. Penner told Teare that he could not speak to the news media. Teare spoke with The Mountain Enterprise and explained what had occurred.

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    Student representative Joey Teare confronted by FMHS Principal Dan Penner (in Falcons sweatshirt) and FMHS Counselor Mike Stroh. Penner told Teare that he could not speak to the news media. Teare spoke with The Mountain Enterprise and explained what had occurred.

UPDATE-FRAZIER PARK (Thursday, Jan. 27 at 7 p.m.)—The mom involved in the original incident has made a statement. you can see it here.

UPDATE-FRAZIER PARK (Thursday, Jan. 27 at 12:30 p.m.)— "There were still about 30 kids out of class at noon," reports parent Susan Graves. "I believe if we show the kids respect we will get it in return, It is a chain reaction. You can’t treat people as if no one matters.

"The superintendent told the employees how to handle the event. Everyone, from the lunchroom to bus drivers to administrators, are afraid that if they don’t agree they will be the next one on the chopping block. She would not allow the kids to speak to the media. She was on her cell phone in front of the school, near the library back doors, laughing. She did not talk with any of the kids until the ASB.

"If you show kids disrespect from the get-go, you will not get respect.

"I put on the sign-in sheet at the office when my daughter was signed back in, that she was absent "because of violation of freedom of speech."

"Some of the kids were told they would not be allowed back in class. I feel if this had been handled in the proper way the kids would have been back in class at 9:30 this morning. If the kids had been allowed to express themselves freely to the media they would have done that and been back in studying. My daughter is benched from soccer. Any of the kids that protested are benched and cannot play the game today.

"I’ve been a very involved parent. I used to do the fundraisers for the El Tejon Band (we raised $3,000 every year) and helped with Girl Scouts when my daughter was little. I am a concerned parent. I want to share the experience. Now my daughter is in ASB and I support what she does.

"When we went to the Craig Stowell hearing I was very disappointed. This superintendent does not want to to hear what others have to say. Watching her today, I am very concerned. "

MIchelle Champion, daughter of Chuy Saldana spoke in an interview with The Mountain Enterprise: "I see all these kids standing out here for what they believe in. They are here to express their opinion and make their voice heard, that is exciting. You don’t see that a lot in kids these days. My dad didn’t drive for money. He drove for the kids. He kept a lot of these kids in line. He showed them respect, and they showed him respect. The kids need that."

"I went to the superintendent and asked her for some information and she advised me that I needed an attorney if I wished to have information. It would be nice if the superintendent released a statement saying that there was no wrongdoing on my father’s part. The person who fired him [new MOT Fernando Nieto] called him and left a message yesterday morning asking my father if he would come back as a janitor."

Champion said that her father had retired several years ago. He was asked to come back to drive the bus. Now he wants to clear his name. Champion concluded: "My dad does not lie and he is a proud man. This has all really hurt him. He worked for the kids."

Opinion Line: "Very concerned parent" writes on the opinion line [click below at the bottom of this page]: "How can the school determine that Chuy was as fault for the mother running over the child’s foot? Chuy was on time with his route and the mother was the on who was late. The way I see it is, Chuy has a wrongful termination suit against the school district and another suit against the parent."

UPDATE-LEBEC (Thursday, Jan. 27, 10:40 a.m.)—Parent Susan Graves, mother of a student at the school, said, "The news was going to speak with me. I said ‘Why not speak with Joey Teare? He is the student representative [on the ETUSD school board].’ The TV reporter said he was scared to speak with students if the administration tells them the students can’t talk with him. The news right now is interviewing the superintendent."

"We have heard that teachers are locking the doors to their classroom, prohibiting protesting students from entering.
I would say there are over a hundred people here. People are standing around the flagpole talking—over 100 kids and about 4-5 parents.

"I am concerned that If employees don’t do what the superintendent says, their head will be the next on the chopping block. That’s why I am all for these kids exercising their freedom of speech."

Speaking through Graves’ phone, Melinda Dionne of Bakersfield Channel 23 said, "The principal walked right in front of the camera and said we could not talk with the kid [Joey Teare]. We have footage of the principal blocking the camera."

The Mountain Enterprise reporter confirmed, "They locked the doors to the classrooms because there are kids coming into the classroom and inviting other kids to come out. The office staff said the administration does not want students who are inside studying to be distracted by those who are not."

"We need to get the kids back in class after break," Principal Dan Penner said.

Susan Graves spoke with Superintendent Kleier as a concerned parent. On an open cell phone, The Mountain Enterprise was able to report the conversation. Graves told the superintendent, "I told Joey ‘you do not want to unwind everything; make your point and go back to class,’ but you did not let him speak. Joey Teare was not able to have freedom of speech. You did not let him have his voice."

Superintendent Kleier said, "I am not going to talk with you. Joey Teare is not allowed to speak with the media unless he goes off of campus.’"

Graves replied: "You are denying these kids their rights. If you let them have their say they can go back to class. My first impression of you was that you did not have an interest in hearing what the parents had to say. But I try not to hold grudges and move on. But now you don’t want to hear what the kids have to say."

The superintendent said that Graves was being argumentative and walked away.

"If you have nothing to hide, you should let them speak with the news media," Graves told The Mountain Enterprise, "she told me that I am argumentative. Did you hear that? She blew me off."

To Channel 23′s photographer, Graves made this comment: "The students are not being allowed to have freedom of speech. As a parent I am concerned. They came here to show support for the bus driver…but their superintendent denied them freedom of speech. And if she’s concerned about a lawsuit about Chuy, I think there are grounds for one at this point [about students' freedom of speech]. If someone is not here to mediate for the kids, they [the administrators] are going to bully them around. I think we have a dictatorship up here. She would not even answer me when I asked if she was going to let Joey speak with the media. She started to walk away."

"This event was for the kids to have a forum and for them to speak. The coach that they loved so much, Jarudd Prosser, they [Principal Dan Penner] gave a pink slip. They fired Kat Fair, the drama teacher. Now a bus driver they respect. It is all becoming a big can of worms. The disrespect in general, is my concern—disrespect for the kids and the parents. Blowing me off, walking away from me when I said I wanted some answers to my questions…"

At 9:58 a.m. there were still about a hundred students outside.
A second reporter for The Mountain Enterprise report that "an ASB officer, a young lady, was given the loudspeaker by teacher Tim Garcia. She said the superintendent would address the ASB members about something. I talked with Tim Garcia as he was on his way to that meeting. "

In the interview, ASB adviser and teacher Tim Garcia said, "students have learned well in their government classes that they have the right to do this, to make their voice heard, and today they have learned by experience that they do have rights."

At 10:05 a.m., The Mountain Enterprise reporter said, "It is turning into a little scene to my right. There are kids with the trunk to their car open and music playing. No one is making any speeches." The ASB representatives were inside the school, meeting with the superintendent.

UPDATE-LEBEC (Thursday, Jan. 27, 8:57 a.m.)—Joey Teare, Associated Student Body officer, was asked by Channel 23 reporters to speak with them. Teare reports that he was intercepted by Principal Dan Penner and told, "that they can only talk with ‘relatives.’" Teare did not press the issue. Penner went to speak with reporters himself. Reporters also talked with Superintendent Katie Kleier.

Student Teare said, "I would like to say that the students are fed up with the way the that the district is treating their employees. We saw them fire Ms. Kat Fair. I think the school district was afraid of a lawsuit and so fired Chuy. I would like to see them hire him back and for the administration to apologize."

"We are chanting, ‘Sit to Save Chuy.’ We were in the parking lot and have moved to the flagpole."

Jeff Burris, photographer for Channel 23 said he has not been able to talk with students yet. He is not a reporter, he is a photographer. He said he is "uncomfortable" talking with students because of Mr. Penner’s objection to him talking with them.

UPDATE-LEBEC (Thursday, Jan. 27, 8:37 a.m.)—Principal Penner said he is trying to keep things safe. Students are staying out of class. He has asked ASB officer Joey Teare to please ask students to stay out of the roadway and gather near the flag pole.

Susie Graves said that Channel 23 went to El Tejon School first and is now on the high school campus.

Joey Teare said "People say ‘we are not going to take it anymore,’ they fired Kat Fair [drama and English teacher who was devoted to maintaining a steady schedule of productions for the community for years and a school newspaper]. They hired someone else to teach her same classes and there has not been one production since. Then they fired Craig Stoll. Now they have fired Chuy for no good reason. We want things to change. This isn’t right." More will be reported shortly.

UPDATE-LEBEC (Thursday, Jan. 27, 8:11 a.m.)—The new superintendent for El Tejon Unified School District, Katie Kleier is at the campus, observing the protest, according to The Mountain Enterprise reporter at the scene. FMHS principal Dan Penner has just come into the area telling students they need to move out of the parking lot. More will be reported shortly.

UPDATE-LEBEC (Thursday, Jan. 27, 8 a.m.)—About 100 Frazier Mountain High School students are demonstrating outside of the school, near the flagpole and school bus unloading area. They have been there about half an hour. They say they are there as a result of the actions taken to dismiss the services of much-loved school bus driver Jesus "Chuy" Saldana who has driven many of the children to school since kindergarten. Students, parents, friends and family have taken up the protest, following an incident a week ago which quickly became a Facebook "event."

New Maintenance, Operations and Transportation Supervisor Fernando Nieto of Bakersfield has protested reports about the event and the public’s reactions, saying Chuy Saldana was a substitute driver and therefore cannot be "fired." Facts on the ground, say protestors, is that a person who has worked for students for going on 14 years is no longer greeting them and taking them to school, based on what they say is an injustice. Read below for background. More will be reported shortly.

This is part of the January 21, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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