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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | NORTH: BREA

School Board Urged to Rehire Teacher

June 24, 1998|MIMI KO CRUZ

Students and former colleagues of a Brea Olinda High School psychology teacher are hoping the school district will reverse a decision that has left Lesley B. Rodriguez jobless.

The veteran teacher, who had retired in 1991 and returned as a part-time teacher a year and a half ago, is not coming back in the fall because Brea Olinda Unified School District administrators recently decided against renewing her contract.

The decision angered Rodriguez's former pupils, their parents and fellow teachers, who have waged a campaign calling on trustees to rehire the popular instructor. They pleaded with the school board at a meeting Monday, saying Rodriguez is the kind of teacher who inspires and motivates.

"She is the most wonderful teacher I've ever had," 16-year-old Jaclyn Nellesen said, sobbing. "She didn't just teach book smarts, she taught world smarts and life smarts."

Holding back tears, student Candice Ashley added: "She taught me a lot about myself. . . . Everyone needs someone like her in their life. She makes you feel like you really belong in school and that you can succeed."

John Zoeckler, a longtime Brea Olinda science teacher, said Rodriguez has "superior teaching qualities" and there is no reason why she shouldn't be allowed to do what she loves.

"I think a reconsideration is in order," he said.

Board members and Supt. Peggy Lynch said they could not publicly discuss Rodriguez's case because it is a confidential personnel matter. "It can only be discussed in closed session," Trustee Kenneth A. Kegel said.

As of Tuesday, it was unknown whether a discussion is being planned.

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