Teachers Belatedly Protest Board's Demotion of School Supt. Cameron

Times Staff Writer

In a belated expression of disapproval, teachers and other employees of the South Bay Union High School District sent letters to the school board protesting the demotion last month of Supt. Hugh Cameron.

"We believe in fair treatment for all employees of the district--including the superintendent," said a letter signed by 65 teachers and other workers at Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach. It criticized the board for "showing a lack of courage" in demoting Cameron to personnel manager while "conceding that he has done no wrong."

Three of the five board members had at first given solid support to Cameron after a surprise move by Trustee Armando Acosta in March to fire him. However, on April 24, the board majority decided to replace Cameron, contending that his effectiveness after five years as chief administrator of the 4,800-student district had been ruined by Acosta's allegations.

Acosta, in what he called his "personal evaluation" of the superintendent's performance, criticized Cameron's leadership style and suggested that the superintendent may have improperly intervened in last year's negotiations to sell the closed Aviation High campus.

At Mira Costa High School, the district's other regular campus in Manhattan Beach, a letter signed by more than 75% of about 80 permanent faculty members said Cameron had been "verbally abused with unfounded accusations, vague generalizations and innuendo."

"We are apprehensive about the politicization of our school district, and outraged at the lack of due process which has cost an able public servant both his position and his reputation," the letter said. "We wonder what school administrator, what teacher will be next."

The Redondo Union letter said employees were inclined at first to "sit back and not get involved" because the "bitterness many of us felt toward the school district made it difficult to feel much compassion for any of the characters in the drama."

Teachers and other employees have said the district forced them and their families to bear the brunt of financial cutbacks in recent years--a situation that was relieved by income from the sale of Aviation High.

Board President Josh Fredricks said he "agreed completely" with the faculty's view of the "Cameron tragedy," which he said stemmed from "totally untrue, scurrilous and reprehensible charges against a great superintendent."

However, he said, the board majority was forced to choose between dumping Cameron and continuing the controversy at the risk of "disrupting the district's educational programs."

Fredricks acknowledged that Cameron's decision not to fight his dismissal, even though his contract as superintendent had more than three years to run, also had a part in the resolution of the dispute.

Acosta blamed the controversy on the board majority's refusal to set up a procedure for an annual "objective evaluation" of the superintendent's performance. In any case, he said this week, "I strongly believe that it is time to move on and put these disputes behind us."

Cameron, who is continuing as superintendent until his replacement is found, said the faculty letters "have come much too late for me, but I am extremely pleased that people cared enough about the district to express their concerns."

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