Remember when Superintendent Edwin Diaz responded to GHS principal Wendy Gudalewicz's petulant decision to resign over honors classes (she didn't want 'em, said they were discriminatory)? His response reminded me of Major League Baseball executive Sandy Alderson's response to a strike threat by baseball umpires as "an offer to accept or a threat to ignore." That was back when Diaz still had some confidence as a decision-maker.
To recap, early in October of 2002, Gudalewicz quit in protest of a pilot honors program Diaz wanted to implement (at parents' request) at Gilroy High School. Wendy resisted loudly, calling it an “unfair tracking program” that would limit access to all students, specifically low-income, minority students. Diaz told her to implement the honors program anyway. Wendy quit in a huff. As I wrote in my R of G column : "Gudalewicz can honestly insert this line into her resume: inadvertently generated community awareness and support for a true honors-level curriculum in the Gilroy public schools. "
Although an honors program exists at GHS today in spite of Wendy, a true honors-level curriculum doesn't. Honors courses at GHS are mainly open to all. There is no "barrier to entry" (like, uh, good grades in prerequisite courses). In the GUSD, with the Stupski Foundation as installed as philosophical mentors, concerns for "equitable access" override common sense. Yep, that's Wendy's legacy -- an honors program open to everybody. If the irony of that doesn't strike you, then you're just not ever going to get what the academic reform movement is about.
In her tenure at GHS, Gudalewicz was known for being popular with students but being unpopular with experienced teachers who questioned her policies. In terms of discipline, intelligent decision-making, and staff morale, her tenure at GHS was a failure.
Well, guess what -- after a two-year hiatus, Wendy Gudalewicz is back in action! She has been appointed principal at Independence High School, in the East Side Union High School Distict. Apparently, East Side Union Superintendent Esperanza Zendejas, and others on the selection committee that chose Gudalewicz, were able to overlook Gudalewicz' performance at GHS and her angry stance against honors classes.
It remains to be seen if Gudalewicz will go about "reforming" the honors class program at Independence so that is doesn't discriminate against kids who aren't motivated or competent enough to learn at honors level but think they should be able to take an honors class anyway.
Indepence High has a huge student population: 4,000+ students. According to their school accountability report card, 35% are Hispanic, 33% are Asian. I wonder how those Asian parents, especially, would respond if they knew that Gudalewicz once criticized honors classes as being "an unfair tracking program."
Obviously, Gudalewicz is under-qualified for the position. That doesn't mean she shouldn't be given the chance, but there had to be more qualified candidates, and ones with less troubling stances regarding honors classes and a better reputation for disciplind and maintaining teaching staff morale.
So why was Gudalewicz hired at Independence High? Answer: It's not what you know, it's who you know. If you suspect, like I do, that there is an unofficial network of influential education professionals that impacts top-level administrative hiring decisions in California school districts, see the membership roster of the California Lation Superintendents Association. Also check out the mission of the Association of Mexican American Educators, who are fighting an equity battle that has already been won at the expense of an academics battle that is being lost.
And also remember that soft school boards who don't have the motivation or the intellectual capacity to question a superintendent's hiring recommendations will typically roll over and approve rather than reject. We saw that here in Gilroy when superintendent David Alvarez was hired despite his track record at Chino. The school board did not prperly investigate Alvarez. Still, Alvarez' severe troubles in Gilroy didn't prevent him from re-surfacing in Calexico. Oh yeah, and Alvarez is currently a member in good stead with the CLSA. No barrier to entry there, either.
Finally, it may be that Wendy's aggressive style appeals to Esperanza Zendejas, her new boss. See this article from the Indy Star, written after the Indianapolis School Board and Zendejas signed a "separation agreement" that paid her $158,115 and effectively removed her from any work obligations on December 19, 1997. $158K for three months on the job -- nice work if you can get it! We know all about that here in Gilroy -- Alvarez got basically the same deal for one month's work in 1998!
Ah, but that's all in the past... Good luck Wendy, and good luck Independence High honors students and parents!