Here is yet another "inappropriate" document.  The teachers who controlled the school
felt they could not tolerate this attitude.
The small group of governing teachers, which consisted of one lower-grade clique and
one upper-grade clique, didn't always agree among themselves about academic issues.  
But they always agreed about one thing: no one from outside the ruling group was
allowed to have any input into how the school was run.
What motivated some teachers at Castle Park Elementary to get
rid of Maura Larkins (and Heather Smith and Heather Coman and
Luci Fowers)?

There was more than one reason.
Maura Larkins was an enthusiastic supporter of the Comer program, a
model of decision-making in which everyone is theoretically allowed to
speak, but voting is discouraged.

The problem started when a majority of teachers voted to end the
"Kingdoms" cross-age support groups, but a small group of teachers
who controlled the principal and the site council countermanded the

Larkins worked very hard to initiate and maintain the Kingdoms
program, creating, with the help of one other person, 500 name tags for
the children for the first day.  The plan of the chairman of the "Peace
Committee," which was in charge of Kingdoms, was to read 500 names
out loud on the first morning of the program, while 500 students from
kindergarten through sixth grade sat or stood on the asphalt

Larkins was concerned that the Comer program was being used in a
way that subverted its purpose, allowing arbitrary decisions by the
"SPMT," or site council, without input from parents, teachers or
students.  Also, SPMT members had been appointed rather than elected,
a violation of California law.

Larkins liked Kingdoms, but disliked the abuse of the Comer program,
which had cost $20,000 for training.

Larkins Kingdoms program be discussed openly.  When Larkins tried to
open a discussion by creating the program evaluation sheet below, the
teachers who controlled the school became angry.
The Comer program
Reason #1
Teacher Kathy Bingham demanded that principal Gretchen Donndelinger
summon Maura Larkins to the office and defend herself.  The principal,
as usual, did exactly as she was directed, including rushing to the
teachers lounge and writing a notice on the white board telling teachers
NOT to respond to the document.

Several other independent-minded staff members were ejected from
Castle Park Elementary by the controlling group, including Heather
Smith, Heather Coman, and Luci Fowers.  The group chewed up and spit
out a long list of principals, as well.  The school has had eleven
principals in the past eleven years.
Reason #2
Bilingual Program
Teachers who wrote documents like
this one were not tolerated
Maura Larkin's
San Diego Education
Report Blog

Why This Website



Castle Park Elem

Law Enforcement



Stutz Artiano Shinoff &

Silence is Golden

Schools and Violence

Office Admin Hearings

Larkins OAH Hearing
Many Castle Park
Elementary teachers
were livid when the
idea of a bilingual
program was
introduced during the
1993-4 school year.  

1. Staff discussions were so
out of control that James
Barron Stark was hired to
teach the teachers how to
conduct a staff meeting
without yelling.  

Unfortunately, the angry
teachers just became passive
aggressive instead of openly
aggressive, at least for a few
years.  They took out their
anger on bilingual teachers and
bilingual kids.  

2. During the following six
years, these angry teachers
instigated the dismissals of
two bilingual teachers in a
school with only four
bilingual positions.  

3. Angry teachers also
refused to team with
bilingual teachers.

Luci Fowers was the sole
English-only teacher who was
willing to team.  

Kathy Bingham, Nikki Perez, Jo
Ellen Hamilton, Linda Watson
and Richard Denmon all
refused.  As a result, bilingual
students were spending 100%
of their academic instruction in
classes that were 100%
Hispanic.  When I mentioned the
Civil Rights Act to my grade
level colleagues and the
principal, Linda Watson
laughed, making clear that she
thought that I was being silly,
and the Civil Rights Act was of
no importance at Castle Park
Elementary.  Later someone
overheard the principal telling
Richard Denmon that he had to
team.  He told her clearly that
his grade level would not do it,
and she dropped the subject.

When Rae Correira came to the
school to try to initiate teaming,
she was transferred by Richard
Werlin from her position at the

Maura Larkins' students were
damaged when she was
removed in the middle of the
year and replaced by a
substitute who hadn't even
done her student teaching and
didn't speak Spanish.
Lowell Billings filled in as one of
the eleven principals who
worked at the school during the
past eleven years.  Billings was
so weak (or so uninterested)
that he went along with
whatever these teachers
wanted.    Despite this, Billings
accepted an award from the
California Association of
Bilingual Educators in 2007.  
Perhaps the award is best
explained by the fact that
Bertha Lopez, a board member
of CABE, is also a board
member of CVESD.  CVESD
board members apparently
appreciate the way Lowell
Billings has kept quiet about
their wrongdoing.

UPDATE: Bertha
Lopez was indicted
after becoming a
trustee Sweetwater
Union High School

In 2005 the district
realized that the ruling
teachers were out of
control, and
transferred some of
them out of the
school.  The teachers
were outraged that
they were given a
small taste of the
medicine they had
been gleefully
delivering to others for
years.  Playing the part
of victims, they
became known as the
"Castle Park Five."

See more on bilingual education
Comer program
Problems at schools with  
James Comer Program
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report
Robin Donlan deposition