The Berkeley Unified School District named Berkeley High School Independent Studies Coordinator Evelyn Bradley as the new principal for Cragmont Elementary School earlier this month.
Bradley, who was one of the 55 teachers to receive a layoff notice from Berkeley Unified in the face of proposed education budget cuts, will take over from Cragmont Principal Don Vu in July.
A group of parents and teachers from the Independent Study program had pressed the Berkeley Board of Education at school board meetings to rescind Bradley’s layoff notice and described her as an “asset to the district.”
The district also announced that Patt Sadler, principal of Rosa Parks Elementary School, will replace David Gold, principal of Longfellow Middle School, next month. Gold is leaving because of health reasons, district officials said.
The district is currently looking for a replacement for Sadler’s position at Rosa Parks.
According to some members of the Cragmont PTA, Vu sent parents a formal statement in May telling them he was resigning since he was “not a good fit for the school.” Calls to Vu at Cragmont were not returned Monday.
Berkeley Unified spokesperson Mark Coplan said Vu’s contract had not been renewed after his first year at Cragmont and that he was leaving to pursue other options.
Coplan said some parents had expressed concern that Vu did not have the experience necessary to handle issues at Cragmont.
District Superintendent Bill Huyett told the Planet Monday that Vu was leaving on his own accord, and parents’ concerns had not played a role in it.
“He took the initiative to get another job, and we are sad to see him go,” Huyett said, adding that Vu was going to join his former employer, the Berryessa Union School District.
According to some parents and members of the Cragmont PTA, a group of parents at the school had pushed hard for Vu’s replacement and tried to undermine him during his time there.
U’Dwi Ashford, co-president of the Cragmont Elementary PTA, said Vu had informed members of the PTA executive board at a meeting on May 22 about his decision.
“He explained that a parent had approached him and said that he didn’t look as happy as he used to look,” Ashford said. “He said that had provoked him to think, and he felt something had affected him at school and it was best for him and his family if he moved.”
Ashford filed a formal complaint of racial harassment with the school district in December and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in March, after a Cragmont teacher castigated her son—a 10-year-old African American boy—in front of his class and accused him of being homophobic after the boy repeatedly used the word “fruity.”
The teacher told him that using the word “fruity” was the same as her going to a black community and saying the word “nigger.”
Ashford said she did not hold a grudge against Vu about the incident.
“Regardless of what happened between him (Vu) and me, I think he wasn’t given a chance,” said Ashford, who will come to the end of her term as PTA co-president on July 1.
“There were other issues involved, which had to do with him leaving. Some parents just didn’t feel the same connection that they had felt with the earlier principal,” she said. “They have a tendency not to let a principal do what he wants to do. They wanted him to leave. I wish him well.”
In March, the school’s administration also dealt with an incident involving Cragmont after-school teacher DeAndre Swygert, when several Berkeley police officers jumped on a public bus full of elementary students and held a gun on Swygert, mis-identified as a robbery suspect, while he was taking students to a basketball game.
Cragmont parent Anthony Chavez, also in the school’s PTA, said Vu faced many challenges during his time at the school, including the governor’s proposed education budget cuts.
“He did a sterling job with the budget cuts,” Chavez said. “The cuts were really going to affect some of the more important programs at the school. He managed the budget process in a good way and worked closely with the budget council. It was obvious he had chemistry problems—him with other people, other people with him. He took over from a principal who was at Cragmont for 10 years, so obviously it was stressful.”
Chavez, who helped Ashford to file the complaint, said he was by and large supportive of Vu, although they were at odds over the classroom incident.
“Don did what he could as a principal,” he said. “He worked through the system, which is very deficient. Berkeley Unified lacks a racial incidents policy.”
School districts in California are required to have policies in areas that address nondiscrimination and equal access, but the California Education Code does not mandate a “racial incidents policy,” said Lin Van of the State Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity.