Sacramento, Calif.- by Robert J Hansen
Last Monday, students held a walkout at Oakdale Elementary School in North Highlands which was met with police, according to Ramona Landeros’s social media page.
“Yesterday the students of TRUSD Oakdale school and their parents exercised their right to Free Speech and the Right to Assemble,” Landeros said. “Students were chanting in English, Spanish and Farsi. This was quite impressive.”
Police were see only monitoring the protest.
“We want Dr. Raja back,” students were chanting during the walkout.
Students’ signs made for the walkout were taken by some staff and thrown away according to Landeros.
The K through eighth-graders protested the removal of their principal, Dr. Kadhir Rajagopal who had created a mentor program the community says was transforming the school.
Teachers who supported Rajagopal questioned the administrators who decided to replace Rajagopal despite the improvements happening at the school.
One teacher was removed from his class in front of his students according to Landeros.
A 2011 California Teacher of the Year, Rajagopal established a mentorship program that had received a grant for hundreds of thousands of dollars from organizations like the Sierra Health Foundation.
It began in September 2021 and parents and teachers say it was making a big change.
“There hadn’t been a fight there in two months,” Rajagopal said. “That’s unheard of at this school.”
David Lewis, an eighth-grader at Oakdale, told ABC 10 “When he (Rajagopal) left, it was getting kinda rough. But when he was there, when he brought in the mentors, he made sure I was getting all my work done, that my grades were at a 4.0. Not no three, none of that. It was just a 4.0,” explained Lewis.
Rajagopal took over as principal in fall 2020 and last January he was replaced because some playground monitors weren’t wearing guest identification, a fairly minor issue he said.
“That’s not a reason principals get fired,” Rajagopal said. “There are a few who would rather not see this community’s children performing better.”
In December, Twin Rivers district leaders sent a letter to teachers telling them they were changing leadership, and Rajagopal would be joining the district office Special Projects Team and leaving Oakdale.
The community historically has had poor test performance levels and behavior problems that led to the expulsion of students, many of whom are of minority ethnicities according to Rajagopal.
“The administration just doesn’t want these kids to succeed to keep feeding the school to prison pipeline, because that’s what they’re doing,” Rajagopal said.
“If it was meant to intimidate them, it didn’t work. This infuriated them and they got up in unison and walked out! The seeds they tried to bury, have sprouted. The power of their voice will not be silenced,” Landeros said.