YUCCA VALLEY — A letter from Kojo McCallum, president of the Morongo Teachers Association, to Superintendent Tom Baumgarten of the Morongo Unified School District spread across social media platforms last week detailing concerns from students and teachers regarding the administration at Yucca Valley High School and the state of the school as a whole.

“Teachers are concerned for their safety,” McCallum said in a phone interview with the Star Monday morning. “Teachers have the right to work in a safe environment.”

Teachers say they felt unsupported when they attempted to discipline students, he said, and students were cursing at and threatening teachers without any consequences.

“If someone at your job threatened to hurt you, pull a Glock on you, the last thing you’d want is your boss telling you you’re overreacting,” he said. “That’s what’s happening here.”

The letter also brought up concerns with the administration at Yucca Valley High School, saying that Principal Justin Monical was not active on campus and his assistant principal, Chris Fore, was dismissive of teachers’ concerns regarding disruptive students. It also said that LGBTQ students felt uncomfortable with Fore and noted that Fore had posted sensitive information on social media that made students uncomfortable.

Monical declined to comment on the accusations.

Fore has an active Twitter account, which is now private to anyone other than his friends, and on there he has shared several personal opinions about politics, including opposing a New York plan to provide free college for undocumented students. On this account, Fore engaged in an argument with former YVHS student Josiah Gouker, valedictorian of the class of 2018.

Gouker responded to the argument with an email to Fore that he shared publicly. He shared screenshots of some of Fore’s tweets and he explained why he believed they were inappropriate fore Fore to share publicly, considering that YVHS students were viewing these tweets.

“You are working with students from a plethora of varying backgrounds, some of which are only made more difficult to navigate the world when oppressive sentiments are echoed by someone in a place where they should feel completely safe,” Gouker told Fore.

McCallum’s letter brought up several other concerns, including male students threatening female students on campus, increased class sizes, students vaping in class, negative staff meetings, teachers teaching in areas they are not credentialed in and more.

MCallum said he drafted the letter after a meeting with a group of teachers. He originally planned to bring these concerns to Baumgarten in November but decided not to. However, at a recent meeting, he said he heard growing concerns from a number of teachers and decided to reach out to the superintendent for support.

“The letter isn’t representative of everyone in the school,” he said. “But if a third of your staff want to leave or quit or transfer to another site, then you know there’s a problem. At the very least that needs to be changed.”

The letter was sent to Baumgarten and the administration staff at YVHS. One of the recipients anonymously sent the letter to Z107.7, said McCallum. He clarified that he never meant for the letter to go to the public.

“I don’t do things that way,” he said. “I try to resolve things at the lowest level possible first.”

But now that the letter is out there, McCallum said he stands by it entirely.

“My goal for this is that things get better and teachers want to go to work every day,” he said.

Baumgarten said that since McCallum’s letter went out, he has received several letters in support of Monical. He scheduled a meeting with McCallum that will be open to YVHS teachers for them to share their concerns.

“I will be available to meet with any concerned staff,” he said in a phone interview on Monday. 

The meeting will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. March 11 at YVHS.

(9) comments

Josh

This is a reflection of Baumgartner's leadership or lack there of .

Throw the bum out .One disaster after another.

#time4change

TITUS

If a student threatens a teacher the teacher has every right to call 911. The teachers can bring up their grievances with their Union Reps. The teachers can hire an attorney and file a lawsuit. The parents can call the police if their children are being threatened at school and file a report. The parents can call the school board in Sacramento and file a report if teachers are not credentialed properly, or if the school staff is discriminating against students. If students are vaping, threatening then get evidence and present it immediately. If needs be call Child Protective Services if the kids are in danger. Get proof and get the paper trail rolling. The teachers and the kids safety depend on it.

Melvin

How about an honest discussion on how Diversity is harmful. Denmark just published a world renowned study proving its ill effects. California easing restrictions on suspensions due to its adverse effects on minority students is bearing fruit here. The 'Real' problem will never get solved until this discussion is had.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/evangerstmann/2020/01/06/will-a-new-law-banning-suspensions-for-willful-defiance-hurt-or-help-african-american-students/amp/#aoh=15834286303349&referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s

brianaadams45

As a student at Yucca Valley High School, i have never once felt safe or supported at this school. Most teachers are teaching for the money not for student’s education. Out of my 3 years at this school i have had about two teachers care for my mental health and well being. Students are constantly threatened by authority of teachers. Teachers abuse their power in any way possible, and make students feel undermined and unimportant. Last year I was enjoying my day with friends and got accused of being under the influence because they saw us laughing and messing around. And upon questioning the only students questioned were students of color in the incident. Unfortunately, this is not new behavior. Years ago my older sister was bullied and racially targeted. YVHS administration did nothing and my sister was transferred to 29 palms high school. As students, not only should we feel safe, we should feel respected and supported. Students feel as if we have to keep a guard up and feel as if we can’t be kids anymore.

Josh

You should have tried growing up in the seventies.

NOW that was tough!!

But we got over it.

Racism is nothing new up here. Its dying down but still a problem.

The same racist jerks treat poor caucasian kids bad also.

Racists are self loathing cowards.

Branson Hunter

John, the 70s was a piece of cake. Yeah, sure, you had to live through the disco stuff, the bell-bottoms fad, or the draft lottery which put you in a strange country in a strange War hoping you would survive.

Mark Simmons

Sorry, BH I agree with Josh. Growing up with a minor disability, attending school in the LA area in the 70s wasn’t any picnic for me either. I was teased relentlessly throughout elementary and junior high. Luckily, I had amazing parents who taught me how to be strong and defend myself. I didn’t like what was happening to me, but I dealt with it and got over it. I hate bullying! With that said, my dad always instilled upon me to be tough. I’m glad I was raised with this attitude. It made me the person I am today. Thanks mom. and dad. Bullies and racists are cowards!

don mckinney

The draft ended in the first of the seventies . Immigration is passive aggressive racism against working people , CITIZENS of all colors especially blacks who were slaves for 400 years , stripped of their names and identities , and now are disenfranchised from the working community . I have witnessed it first hand in the microcosm of the Coachella Valley . It is promoted by the new arrivals greed for low cost housing and low cost labor .

Melvin

As long as you have Diversity you are going to have racism. One man on here is complaining about being discriminated against because they want to protect immigrants, a school boy here feels he is picked on for his color. Every race feels an innate tendency to survive as a group, scientist have studied this time and time again and proven it, only fools deny its existence. With that being said as I pointed out earlier I think it's time parents, teachers, & school board members had a honest conversation on how laws implemented in Cali to protect, predominantly minority children from the school to prison pipeline is now hurting children, primarily of Asian & Caucasian descent from reaping the full benefits of education because kids that should have been expelled or suspended are not now and it's not conducive to a productive learning environment. Keep tip toeing around the issue though & keep pretending like the problem doesn't exist. We're seeing how that works out here.

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