They want their school principal reinstated, and they want it now.
That was the message that teachers, parents and students from Buena Vista Horace Mann delivered to the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education on Tuesday evening, as the K-8 community school approaches its second week without its principal, Claudia Delarios Morán, who was placed on administrative leave this month for undisclosed reasons.
At least 80 people, many holding signs, gathered on the sidewalk outside the school district’s office at 555 Franklin St. to show their support, with drivers honking in encouragement every few minutes. It was the second time that the community organized to rally since last week at 24th Street BART Plaza, where District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen called Delarios Morán “one of the strongest, most loving, and most generous leaders” she has met in her lifetime.
Before speakers made passionate pleas to the school board during public comment, Superintendent Vincent Matthews addressed the standing-room-only crowd — and spillover area in the lobby — to dispel rumors. While he cited an “obligation to uphold confidentiality,” he confirmed that Delarios Morán’s leave has “nothing to do with facilities, political protest, or the Stay Over Program.”
The school community prides itself on its restorative justice practices for its students, and now, they have called on the school district to apply that same concept as they investigate and review allegations.
“Let’s not forget all the work that she’s done with her heart for all of our children,” said Maria Nuñez, a parent to a Buena Vista Horace Mann first-grader and president of the School Site Council.
Nuñez asked the school board to weigh all that Delarios Morán has accomplished against any of her alleged errors. “¿Qué tiene más poder?” she said in Spanish. “What is heavier and more important?”
Lourdes Alarcon recalled a moment where she immediately received Delarios Morán’s assistance in getting her child the proper special education instruction, supports and services, after failed attempts with other administrators in the past.
“She bent over backwards for my family,” said Benita, who described a similar situation. “She is family to my family.” Rather than discipline her child who lashed out at school due to transitional issues, Delarios Morán instead sought out the resources that the student needed.
“She is the glue that keeps us all together and without her, we’re faced with disorder and confusion, which is no way a school should be,” said Maria, an eighth-grade student at Buena Vista Horace Mann. “She’s a seeker for social justice, which is at the very heart and soul of our school.”
Other students, like sixth grader Itzel Perez, shared that Delarios Morán saluted her every day “with a bright spirit,” while Xavier, an eighth-grader, said she taught him an important lesson: “That there should be no boundaries to human endeavor.”
Jacqui Portillo, manager of the Stay Over Program, the emergency homeless shelter embedded within the dual immersion school, cited the principal “as the person who advocated for many families in the school district to have a place to stay the night.”
Introduced by Portillo, Baltimore, a young student, said she is “one of the many children” at the shelter.
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“I really wish Claudia was back because she is a very kind and nice person,” she said, her voice trembling with emotion. “She’s the reason we’re open and she’s here for me and my family.”
Maria Vega thanked the Buena Vista Horace Mann principal for the speedy process she went through so that she and her five children were able to access the shelter. “If it wasn’t for her, […] where would we have been that night?”
Not everyone, however, was able to express their support for the principal, as the school board had to move on to the next agenda items.
Laura Valdéz, executive director of Dolores Street Community Services, the nonprofit provider for the Stay Over Program, shared the statement she had intended to deliver during public comment.
“Claudia has continued the legacy to lead BVHM as a school built on understanding and collaboration between parents, students, teachers and community,” she said. “We strongly feel that the unfair administrative leave of Claudia is of grave impact on our teaching staff, all the students at our school, and the number of community partner organizations that provide an array of services and programming at the school.”
Previously, Buena Vista Horace Mann teachers Jael Castro and Linda Oppelt-Perez shared with Mission Local that while the news of Delarios Moran’s leave was jarring and stressful to teaching staff, they will continue the “lucha,” and fight for their principal, who prioritizes her relationships with the community.
“And that’s why she has overwhelming support,” said Castro.
Just as the evening began, the Buena Vista Horace Mann community continued chanting in support of their principal as they walked out of the boardroom to the outside of the school district building: they want their principal back, and they want it now.