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School Board Votes to Fire Its Superintendent

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

School board members have voted 3 to 2 to fire veteran Supt. Richard B. Caldwell when his contract expires next June. The board took the action Tuesday night after a three-hour closed session.

Critics said Caldwell’s traditional approach has prevented Paramount schools from moving ahead with badly needed changes, such as setting up year-round classes.

“People who have been in the same position for years and years do the same things again and again,” said board member Janet Miller, who voted to dismiss the superintendent.

Caldwell has been superintendent of the Paramount Unified School District for 13 years. He joined the district in 1953 as an industrial arts teacher at Paramount High School.

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Joseph M. Montoya and board President Vivian Hansen joined Miller in voting to let Caldwell go. Board members Kenneth Teeples and Shirley Elliott voted to extend Caldwell’s contract.

About 60 community members packed the small board chamber in support of Caldwell, and waited nearly three hours as the board met behind closed doors. “This is a ruse. (The board) thinks the crowd will go home,” said adult education teacher Leone Jackson. “I’m not leaving.”

Board members then entered the board room, voted in less than a minute to dismiss Caldwell, and departed again to resume the closed session. They would not emerge again until after midnight, when most of Caldwell’s supporters had given up their vigil.

After the vote, many of Caldwell’s supporters stayed to wish him well and praise his accomplishments.

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“This is rotten,” parent Minnie Carvajal said. “Whatever’s going on is political. To pull him out will be hurting our kids.”

Caldwell declined to speculate on why he was fired. “I’m not privy to their discussion,” he said “Anyone who’s in a position to say yes or no is going to be criticized. Even Jesus didn’t please everybody.”

His contract officially ends June 30, 1992. “Right now I’ve got a full year of school to think about,” he said.

Caldwell said his biggest accomplishment as superintendent has been improving instructional programs, in spite of continuing financial problems in the 12,800-student district. Paramount Unified, which spends $2,900 per student, is one of the poorest districts in the state, he said.

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After the vote, Caldwell thanked his supporters. “It makes your heart swell with gratitude to see that people appreciate what you’ve done and what you’re trying to do,” he said.

Cafeteria worker Lucille Chavez was one who wished him well. “I think he’s done a pretty good job,” she said.


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