Guadalupe Valdovinos was born and raised in the community of Watts. An outstanding education worker and community member, Guadalupe has served as a Teacher’s Assistant at Flournoy Elementary School in Watts, CA for six years. In addition to her work at Flournoy, Guadalupe finds time in her busy schedule as a full-time student at Cal State Dominguez Hills to volunteer in the neighborhood. She serves as a program coordinator at Nick’s Kids where she works with teens to support their academic and athletic goals through soccer. She tutors children there three times a week and has personally mentored several students who are on track to college.
“I enjoy mentoring students from my community. There are a lot of housing development projects, gangs, violence, and difficult circumstances in Watts. Sometimes, the children lash out because of their environment. When I’m able to relate, help them, and see them get the care they may be missing – it’s incredible.”
That’s why when she received her dismissal letter on February 20, 2019, she was dumbfounded.
“I was given an ultimatum by my principal – keep going to school or keep my job,” said Guadalupe. Her first move? Contacting the Membership Resource Center at Local 99. “I’d reached out to our local several times before for minor things like payroll concerns. But, never for something like this. At first, I thought it was impossible. It was us against the District, LAUSD, and my principal. You just assume they’re right.”
LAUSD made bold claims that Guadalupe was falsifying timecards, arriving late, and leaving campus without permission. They stated Guadalupe did not have the right to a pre-disciplinary meeting or to be seriously consulted about these claims. But, no matter how hard LAUSD tried we knew our contract protects Teacher’s Assistants and establishes their right to Due Process. LAUSD never offered Guadalupe the opportunity to receive counseling, guidance, or a conference memo to call to attention these charges levied against her. In fact, the District presented one set of charges on her dismissal but then at our hearing with the personnel commission modified the charges – an unlawful practice.
We knew justice was on our side. We presented the facts and waited for the commission’s decision. Thus, on December 4, 2019 we received the final decision and recommendation from the personnel commission which stated, “The Hearing Officer recommends that Appellant be restored her 6-hour Teacher Assistant position and made whole for all wages and benefits lost, and that Appellant’s seniority be adjusted to reflect no loss of time or any loss of seniority during the process.”
In other words, Guadalupe will retain her seniority and receive back wages for the ten months she was unjustly forced out of her position.
“I honestly did not have faith we would win. But when I received the decision in my favor, I was relieved. It was a very emotional. I thought it would be a long time before I received a decision,” said Guadalupe. She is currently a senior at CSUDH and looks forwards to substituting at the District while she obtains her teaching credential. She is also considering going into school counseling to help more students reach their potential through one-on-one connections. Guadalupe Valdovinos will return to work in 2020 where she shines – in a classroom helping students thrive. That’s the power of our union.