High School Protests Principal’s Transfer

Students and staff at North Hollywood High School are petitioning district officials to grant one more semester to Principal Catherine Lum, who is scheduled to be reassigned July 1.

Lum, completing her fourth year at the school, is being removed, Los Angeles Unified School District officials said, because of her failure to end what appears to be bitter conflict between the school’s regular, or resident, program and its magnet school for highly gifted students. In recent months, the parents of magnet students, who comprise about 10% of the school’s student population of 2,000, were upset at a proposal that North Hollywood might adopt a year-round schedule.

The petitions, begun separately by students, teachers and classified staff, were signed by 586 students and 94 staff members “in just one day,” said Jay Gehringer, a music instructor and a lead teacher for LEARN, a plan under which campuses become semiautonomous.

Susan Bonoff, college counselor at North Hollywood, said the timing of Lum’s transfer is poor because the school is in the midst of a major reconfiguration. North Hollywood is adding a ninth grade, which will mean an unusually high number of new students and teachers on campus in the fall. By the end of 1996, she said, the reconfiguration will be in place and the LEARN orientation will have been completed, permitting designated staff and parents to select a new principal in “a thoughtful manner.”


“Attempts at mediation haven’t been successful,” said Brad Sales, a spokesman for assistant superintendent Dan Isaacs, who made the decision to transfer Lum. Sales added that the decision was final.

“It reached a point where the change had to be made,” he said. “The superintendent thinks someone can be brought in to take care of the concerns of the petitioners.”

Lum, getting ready for the school’s graduation Thursday night, declined comment, saying only, “It’s very difficult for me, after 32 years in this district, to read the things reportedly said by my superiors.”

Consuelo Duenas, 17, the final member of the class of ’96 scheduled to receive her diploma at graduation, said she planned to present Lum with a bouquet purchased with funds donated by graduating seniors, virtually all of whom signed the petition.

“She’s always been on the students’ side,” Consuelo said.