Parents and educators show up for suspended Oakdale principal, supporter received threatening text message

Robert J Hansen

Twin Rivers School District won't tell community why they removed Dr. Raja and another teacher from Grant High School

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Zaki Syed delivering a spoken word at the Twin Rivers Unified School District meeting supporting Dr. Raja on May 10, 2022.(Courtesy of Zaki Syed)

Sacramento, Calif.- by Robert J Hansen

Parents and educators spoke in support of suspended Oakdale principal, Dr. Kadhir “Raja” Rajagopal, and Sid Akbar, a former Grant High School teacher at last Tuesday’s Twin Rivers Unified School District (TRUSD) board meeting in Sacramento.

The meeting can be seen here. The chat for the video has been disabled by TRUSD.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, there was a demonstration planned supporting Dr. Raja but was canceled after an organizer received a threatening text message.

Samuel Kinsey, a former student of Dr. Raja was using social media to inform students and parents of the demonstration when he got a text that said, “If you go to the protest tomorrow we will hit up yo family up,” the message said. “U better not support the predator. We know you got a wife and kid. You better not show up tomorrow.”

Kinsey said that he thinks it was from someone with the TRUSD.

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(Courtesy of Samuel Kinsey)

“I don’t know who exactly but it’s pretty obvious who would send that,” Kinsey said.

Dr. Raja was California State Teacher of the year in 2011, has authored two books and has been the keynote speaker at national conferences discussing solutions for urban schools.

His second book is on the Handz on Mentor program that will be available for schools around the country

He was transferred from Principal of Oakdale over to Special Projects at the district office last December and was suspended without pay as well as Akbar last week.

Dr. Raja is set for termination if there is no hearing after 30 days but his attorney has already appealed.

Oakdale teacher, Jason Klapprott, told the Board he has no answers for students when they ask why their principal is gone.

“The pandemic has been minor compared to what I have been facing teaching this year,” Klapprott said. “Personal decisions have been made that have been questioned by students and staff.

Even though he has a hard cap of 34 students, Klapprott said he has had 42 students in his class for the last three months because of another teacher, Mike Perez, being suspended for protesting during the first of several student-led walkouts at Oakdale in February.

“It feels like a rug was pulled out from underneath me,” Klapprott said.

Parents and students have been outraged by removing Dr. Raja whose Handz on Mentor program has made a major positive impact on student engagement, performance outcomes, and reducing fights.

The community and a former TRUSD member boldly warned the Board that they were planning to recall the entire TRUSD Board for patterns of institutional racism displayed in the removal of Dr. Raja, Sid Akbar and Mike Perez, and the harm done against students of color.

Former Sacramento City Unified Board of Trustee Karen Young told the board that she knew that she was there to serve the communities that she represented.

“I learned and I hope to reinforce to you the importance of openness, honesty, and transparency by presenting an issue, discussing it, and voting on it in public,” Young said.

Young said with personnel issues there may sometimes be exceptions but the board has not been upfront to the community about Dr. Raja.

“Not being forthwith is absolutely the worst possible choice on the termination of Dr. Raja and Mr. Akbar,” Young said.

Dr. Raja says this is about equity in education, especially for kids of color, and improving the health and wellness of our urban communities through evidence-based strategies for unlocking the potential and promoting the wellness of students in urban schools such as the Handz on Mentor (HOM) program at Oakdale.

According to Dr. Raja, TRUSD Executive Director Cynthia Andrews and TRUSD Associate Superintendent Dr. Lori Grace told Dr. Raja, that he could not implement the mentor program because Dr. Raja is the first-year Principal in a tough school during a pandemic.

Dr. Raja says this message is contrary to what he was told when he was placed at Oakdale’s Principal.

In January 2021, Dr. Raja applied for a $600,000 African American Wellness Grant to support the HOM at Oakdale, and in February Oakdale was awarded a $600,000 grant by the Sierra Health Foundation to support the program and HOM mentors.

Chet Hewitt, CEO of the Sierra Health Foundation could not be reached for comment.

Zaki Syed delivered a spoken word to the Twin Rivers Board humbly requesting it to reconsider and reinstate Dr. Raja and Sid Akbar.

“I know there are two sides to every story, but I also know that we can all come together for the good of the children and the community,” Syed said. “I personally know that Dr. Raja and Sid have provided food for children out of their pocket, helped provide them transportation to go to school, and gone above and beyond what is expected of any teacher.”

Here is a portion of the spoken word and the rest can be seen here.

“Seven days a week, De. Raja fights for these schools. He’s losing sleep when he’s up all night for these schools … don’t you know Dr. Raja would give his life for these schools? He’s just trying to stop the school-to-prison pipeline. Every child is a gift that we can’t afford to lose.”

Dr. Raja is scheduled to present his HOM program to State Superintendent Tony Thurmond next week at the California Teachers of the Year Gala.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA
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