Magcalas & Friends: Covertly Using School Resources For Anti-Charter School Activity

AUSHD Trustee Al Jabbar directs AnaheimBROS club members during 2016 district-sponsored walk aimed at dampening support for charter schools.

A September 16, 2016 OC Register articled headlined “Celebrating Anaheim Public Schools gave glowing coverage to a Anaheim Union High School District (AUSHD) event called “Walk To Celebrate Our Schools” – a door-to-door public relations exercise to burnish the district’s image in the eyes of residents manned by “more than 500 hundred students, teachers, staff and parents.” It was staged from Anaheim High School.

“This is civic engagement at its finest,” AUHSD Superintendent Michael Matsuda told the OC Register reporter – who didn’t understand the deeper meaning of the phrase “civic engagement” in the context of the progressive political culture that pervades the AUHSD.

What the OC Register didn’t know was the “Walk To Celebrate Our Schools” had a specific political purpose. It was a public relations effort intended to head off any incipient pro-charter school sentiment among district parents due to efforts by Palm Lane Elementary School families to convert their underperforming school into an independent charter school. It was the brainchild of Anaheim High School teacher and woke political activist J. Paolo Magcalas – who was running for the Anaheim Elementary School District Board of Education at the time.

Magcalas confessed the true purpose of the “Walk To Celebrate Our Schools” in a white paper he wrote for UCLA’s Center X – which aims to “transform” public schools into engines of social justice activism.  In the white paper, entitled “Ethnic Studies and Youth Participatory Civic Action Research in Anaheim, California,” Magcalas describes how the walk was an outgrowth of the Critical Pedagogy ideology he was imparting to students in his Ethnic Studies class.

First, Magcalas – then an American History teacher at Loara High School – describes what impelled him to started the district’s first Ethnic Studies course. While pursuing a graduate degree at Chapman University, he experienced an ideological awakening in which he realized to his horror that he “taught a Eurocentric perspective of United States history to hundreds of students.”

“I am sad to admit that I was the oppressed oppressor,” writes Magcalas, casting opposition to Ethnic Studies curriculum as stemming from “ignorance, racism and fear.”

Magcalas states that he “vowed to bring ethnic studies to my high school one day. I knew that this curriculum would benefit and empower the hundreds of oppressed students in my high school.”

“But I was not ready,” Magcalas admits. “I had to unlearn the oppressive pedagogical methods that I had been trained to practice in my own classroom.”

It’s like reading a forced confession from a Soviet show trial or Cultural Revolution struggle session.

In any case, Magcalas goes on to detail how launched his Ethnic Studies class at Loara High School with the express purpose of spurring his students to engage in progressive political action. A direct result was the “Walk To Celebrate Our School.”

While Magcalas was instructing his impressionable charges in the tenets of Critical Pedagogy, working class immigrant families at nearby Palm Lane Elementary School were battling the Anaheim Elementary School District. These families were availing themselves of the mechanisms on the state Parent Trigger Law to convert failing Palm Lane into an independent public charter school, and the district was doing everything in its power to stop them.

Palm Lane was a feeder school for Loara High School, where Magcalas taught. He strongly opposed charter schools. He saw what these families were attempting to do as a threat and took action. Magcalas writes:

“After learning that our feeder elementary and middle school was on the verge of a corporate charter takeover, one group decided to work with the local community and raise awareness on the positive things that our neighborhood schools were doing. This event was called A Walk to Celebrate Our Schools. Students walked door-to-door with school staff, parents, local politicians, community leaders and activists.”

In other words, the point of using district resources and students for this event was to head off more parent-led efforts to convert underperforming schools into charter schools. Magcalas and Matsuda – and political allies like AUHSD Trustee Al Jabbar and AESD Trustree Ryan Ruelas (and his AnaheimBROS student political club) – used using taxpayer resources for their own personal political purpose while concealing the true purpose of the event from the public.

And not for the first time. Here is Magcalas with his students in 2015, using class time to organize them to lobby the Anaheim City Council to adopt the “People’s Map” – the districting map favored by his mentor, Jose F. Moreno:

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