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Students protest dismissal of popular CUHS history teacher

March 16, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

Students at El Centro's Central Union High School protested this morning over the recent dismissal of history teacher Simon Marquez.

About 100 students rallied in the hour before school started.

"We want to speak for him and let the school know how we feel," said Jennifer Mendivel, 17, a junior and a student of Marquez.

Jennifer instructed the students gathered about the protest rules: "no cussing, no signs with bad words, no talking about the administration. Keep it clean."

Holding signs that read, "Not Mr. Marquez," and chanting, "Marquez must stay," the students walked the length of the campus under the watchful eye of administrators and county probation officers.

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On Thursday Marquez and three other Central teachers were given notices by the school board that their contracts would not be renewed for the next school year.

"It was based on observation and evaluations made by the administration," said Dick Fragale, district superintendent.

The other teachers will continue to teach for the remainder of the school year, but Marquez will not.

When asked if Marquez had done anything inappropriate after receiving his notice, Fragale would not comment.

Students said Marquez was escorted off the campus during his seventh-period prep-time Thursday. The administration had no comment regarding the situation.

"It's a personnel issue," said Fragale.

Students theorized that Marquez was fired because he was young, popular and had a unique style of teaching.

Almost all the students gathered said Marquez was a favorite because he related to the students.

"He was more than a friend. He taught us to go the right way," said Rafael Ojeda, 18, a senior who had Marquez for a history class last year.

"He's been through a lot. He taught us that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything you want," Rafael added.

Ivett Mardueno agreed.

"He's helped me a lot," the 17-year-old senior said.

"He supports all of us. He's always there for us," Ivett said.

Not all students gathered agreed with the protest.

Bea Booher, 18, a senior who videotaped the event for herself, supports Marquez but disagreed with the protest.

"It's not the best way to rally for Mr. Marquez," she said. "Everything bad reflects on him."

The students demonstrated until the start of the school day. Then a group of students marched to the district offices near the corner of Ross and Fourth streets.

Jennifer thought it went well.

"We didn't expect as many people to come," she said. "I hope it made a difference. I think it made an impact on the administration because they're all watching us. I hope it makes them think twice about what they're doing to us."

Marquez will be replaced by a substitute teacher for the remainder of the year.

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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