West Covina High School drops plan to replace newspaper adviser

After student journalism student protests and a board vote of 3-2 to ask the principal to reconsider his position, the principal reinstated the adviser of the school newspaper, the Newsbytes. Students felt the move to oust the adviser came after Newsbytes published controversial comments by the district superintendent. -db

Student Press Law Center
September 9, 2010
By Chelsea Keenan

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA — The newspaper adviser at West Covina High School will keep his job after all.

Over the summer, principal Alex Ruvalcaba planned to replace Newsbytes adviser Ted Moser with Lisa Maggiore, which upset students and high school alumni. Last month, the school board asked Ruvalcaba to reconsider.

In what Ruvalcaba described as a strange set of circumstances, the dean of student services at WCHS took a new job at a different school, which left a staff opening. Ruvalcaba appointed Maggiore to the dean position and Moser went back to being Newsbytes adviser.

Ruvalcaba told the SPLC in June that Maggiore, who advised the middle school yearbook, asked for the position.

However, Maggiore said while she did request to transfer to the high school, she never asked for the adviser position and it was never used as an incentive for her to come.

Student editors questioned the timing of the decision, because it came after the paper published controversial comments by the district superintendent.

Concerned students created a Facebook group, handed out fliers and had community members write to the board of education. This culminated with the students protesting the staffing change at a school board meeting Aug. 10.

Victor Valle, Newsbytes editor in chief, said he and his fellow students entered the board meeting with an all-or-nothing mentality, ready to give their speeches about why Moser should keep his job.

After hearing the students’ remarks, the board voted 3-2 to ask Ruvalcaba to reconsider his staffing changes.

“I felt that all we worked for came together and made a difference,” Valle said. “The students run and produce the paper, but [Moser] is the heart and soul of it.”

Steve Cox, school board vice president, said the students were articulate and persuasive and were able to present their opinions clearly.

“The board members felt we needed to address the reasons and rationale for making that decision,” Cox said, adding Ruvalcaba’s reasoning didn’t seem to be sufficient enough. “We agreed he was an outstanding teacher.”

Board members Jessica Shewmaker and Camie Poulos voted against the proposal.

Although the school’s new dean vacancy made Ruvalcaba’s final decision easier, it was not the sole reason Maggiore was chosen.

“Mr. Ruvalacaba told me I was a candidate regardless of what was going on,” Maggiore said. “This was not a decision that was made because it was convenient.”

Moser said the initial shock after hearing he would be replaced soon turned into motivation. When he heard his students speak at the final school board meeting, Moser said he felt humbled.

“I was really impressed,” he said. “I get to see the good work they do everyday so I’m used to it. I was glad the school board members could see that too.”

Moser said he was happy with the outcome because this situation represents the way democracy is supposed to work — community members speak to their elected officials and the elected officials listen.

After learning he would return as newspaper, adviser Moser said he felt a sense of well-being.

“Things were getting back to the way they were supposed to be,” he said.

Ruvalcaba said he did not hold it against the students for going to the board of education.

“It’s their right to do that,” he said. “My goal is to provide positive role models. These students were invested in the program and the teacher, and that’s what we want.”

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