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Taking names: Student petitions to save North Park teachers' jobs

Posted: March 24, 2009 2:10 a.m.
Updated: March 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.

North Park Elementary School fifth-grader Choice Plasencia holds a letter which is being sent to President Barack Obama asking him to help California and the numerous teachers who have received pinks slips.


Choice Plasencia resolved to take action when she found out her fifth-grade teacher at North Park Elementary School had received a layoff notice.

"I'm not just going to sit there and cry," the 10-year-old said Monday.

So when "Pink Friday" rolled around on March 13 - the day educators throughout the state received "pink slips" as districts prepared for budget cuts - Plasencia began collecting signatures from fellow North Park students to save the job of her teacher, Kristen Johnson, and to show the importance of teachers.

She started with 30 fifth-graders but soon expanded to other grades and collected 100 signatures from students to show their support for the three North Park teachers who would receive pink slips.

Plasencia hopes her dozens of signatures resonate with students, administrators and politicians who face multimillion-dollar budget cuts to meet the state's steep shortfall.

"I hope they realize that they need to love their teachers as much as I do," she said.

The experience taught her that anyone can make a difference, she said.

North Park Principal Jon Baker recognizes the connection Johnson makes with her students.

"She's a very good teacher and I know that the students care about her," he said. "I think if you look up the California standards for the teaching profession, she does a great job in following those standards and she's a very caring person."

But Plasencia won't stop at gathering signatures from her classmates.

She's writing letters to President Barack Obama, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth wand Santa Clarita Mayor Frank Ferry to ask for support and funding to save teachers from final layoff notices that must be ready by May 15.

In her letter to Obama, Plasencia writes, "I am asking you Mr. President to save my teacher. I just can't let her go. Please give the state of California the money to save all of them. As you have taught me when you were running for office, have hope, have faith to make a change."

Plascenia's petition and letter-writing campaign impressed her mother, Alece.

"I just think it's so amazing. She's so young, yet so focused on things that matter in the world," she said.

Alece and her husband work for a Los Angeles Unified School District high school as guidance counselors. Her husband received a pink slip.

While she isn't too worried about a possible layoff, Alece is concerned for temporary and probationary teachers who could be laid off and leave the education field for other work.

She would like to see a stronger emphasis on student learning.

"I wish they would realize the importance of education," Alece said.


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