"Castle Park Five" Teacher Nikki Perez
San Diego Union Tribune
By Chris Moran
August 21, 2004
CHULA VISTA – Teachers and parents at Castle Park Elementary School are
protesting the superintendent's decision to transfer five veteran teachers out of
About 75 teachers, parents and students held a rally at the school Thursday
night to criticize the decision and organize a call and letter campaign directed at
school board members and administrators.
First-grade teacher Nikki Perez; third-grade teacher Stephenie Petitt;
sixth-grade teacher Victoria Singleton; and special-education teacher
Robin Donlan said they received notices that they are being transferred
from Castle Park and expect to be given their new assignments soon.
They said fifth-grade teacher Peggie Myers, who is out of the country
and has not yet received a notice, will also be transferred.
The teachers said they did not know why they had been transferred and had not
been given a specific reason, even in one-on-one meetings with the
Chula Vista Elementary School District Superintendent Lowell Billings confirmed
that he had ordered the transfer of several teachers from the school. He said
that laws protecting employees' privacy prevent him from giving details about the
Castle Park teachers said that with Donlan's transfer and the retirement of three
other special-education teachers this summer, Castle Park has no credentialed
Donlan and Myers are past winners of the school's Teacher of the Year
[Note: Donlan and Myers were NOT chosen by the staff as a whole, but
by a small committee. The selections of the committee, like most of the
decisions at the school, were based on teacher politics.]
[Donlan was sued for $7 million in 2007 because fraudulently-optained
stock options from Wireless Facilities ended up in one of her accounts.]
Although the teachers directed much of their frustration at Principal
Olympio Matos, Billings said it was he, not Matos, who made the
decision. Matos' secretary directed a reporter to the superintendent's
office for comment.
"What did we do? That's all we want to know," Perez
Perez said she had intended to teach at Castle Park
for many years and asked the gathering, "Where is
Mr. Matos going to be five years from now?"
Castle Park has had eight principals and interim principals in the past
decade, including two who are now South County superintendents:
Billings and San Ysidro's Tim Allen.
About 80 percent of the 577 students at the kindergarten through sixth-grade
school last year were Latino. Approximately two-thirds were from low-income
families and more than 40 percent did not speak English fluently.
The following was the first article in the San Diego Union Tribune about
the "Castle Park Five."
The SDUT, however, refused to allow its reporters to write about the
$100,000s of taxpayer dollars that the district had paid to defend
transferred teachers Robin Donlan, Peggie Myers, and others.
A large number of letters, articles and/or editorials were printed after
this one, but they were not written by a reporter. They were written
anonymously by editor Don Sevrens or an unknown member of the
public chosen by him.
"Castle Park has had
eight principals and
interim principals in the
[Note: The answer to Perez's second question is that Matos is the
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum at Lemon Grove School
Voice of San Diego
Lee wrote on April 10,
2008 2:29 PM:
"I taught for 35 years
and knew several
'Teachers of the Year',
and, although many
were good teachers,
many were also
chosen because of
their popularity or
their ability to promote
themselves. The very
best teachers I knew
were never the most
popular, just the most
Castle Park Elementary teacher Nikki Perez and her teacher friends, with
the help of parents such as Kim Simmons, and the support of the Chula
Vista Educators teachers union, succeeded in getting principal Oly Matos
to leave Castle Park in 2005.
Nikki Perez went back to Castle Park Elementary, and she and her friends
succeeded in getting rid of another principal, Carlos Ulloa, who recently
The Big Issue? Teachers didn't want to stay with their classes
when they visited the Computer Lab!
The teachers main gripe about both men was that they wanted to take
away the teachers' break of 45-minute a week when their classes were
sent to the computer lab. Teacher Ann Folting, a very highly paid and
highly credentialed teacher, was given full salary to pull disks in an out of
computers all day, and to oversee the classes that came in and out every
45 minutes. An aide could have done the same job. The principals
wanted to use Ms. Folting's skills to teach children.
Why doesn't superintendent Lowell Billings do something to help this
Because fixing the school would require coming to terms with
wrongdoing that occurred in the past, wrongdoing that the board is
determined to keep covered up.
An honest man would fix the school anyway.
Lowell Billings was not hired to be honest. He was hired to do whatever
the board wanted. And so he kept the truth hidden when he testified
under oath to Lionel Richman, who gave this opinion about the transfer of
the "Castle Park Five."
The only thing that will fix this school would be to deal directly and openly
with the psychological and legal problems of its teachers. And Lowell
Billings can't do that because he has overseen the expenditure of
$100,000s of tax dollars on lawyers paid to cover up the wrongdoing.
[Note: The answer to Ms. Perez's first question is, starting with
misdemeanors and working up to felonies, in order to protect
your power at the school. After that, you really went out of
control. Any regrets, Nikki?"]
Update: Nikki Perez didn't last long at Castle Park Elementary after the
teachers union forced the district to return her to the school. She was first
transferred out the school in 2004 as one of the "Castle Park Five." She
returned in 2006 and had very similar problems to those that caused her first
transfer. The district transferred her out of the school again in 2008.
"The situation hasn't
improved. Castle Park
has had eleven principals
and interim principals in
the past eleven years."
-Maura Larkins 2008
"Castle Park has had nine
principals and interim
principals in just over a
Only one* of the
teachers listed below
appeared at Larkins'
Why didn't these
Most likely the district didn't
want them to testify
because those teachers
who had been deposed
themselves and Richard
But why didn't Maura
Larkins' own attorney
Elizabeth Schulman have
them testify? Shulman
refused to point out to the
Commission that the
and each other.
Instead, she and Mark
Bresee agreed to have
letters written by these
teachers accepted into
evidence as if the writers
had been sworn in.
Legal Question #1:
Are these teachers
therefore guilty of perjury?
Legal Question #2:
Did the lawyers violate the
Did Richard Werlin
discuss all decisions with
Libby Gil and Lowell
Billings, as he claims, or
did he simply do as he
pleased, without any
oversight? Gil and
Billings refused to show
up for their depositions.
*Nikki Perez, who
pretended that she didn't
know Shelley Rudd. She
contradicted her sworn
testimony when she was
deposed in the related
Superior Court case.
|San Diego Education Report
Should teachers be
expected to tell the
truth on the witness