SACRAMENTO COMMUNITY MOBILIZES AFTER OAKDALE PRINCIPAL DR. RAJA REMOVED WITHOUT EXPLANATION
SACRAMENTO - 21 JUNE 2022
As Twin Rivers Unified School District prepares for their weekly board meeting, Oakdale K-8 School students are going door to door, asking fellow classmates and community members to protest for the immediate reinstatement of their principal, Dr. Kadhir Rajagopal, better known as “Dr. Raja”.
The school and the wider Sacramento community continue to ask “Why?” after a December 17, 2021 decision to remove Dr. Raja from his position of Principal at Oakdale Elementary School. The decision came without warning or explanation, despite a marked improvement in school morale, attendance, test results, safety and a brand new mentorship program led by the principal that changed a historically underperforming school for the better.
“This has really ignited a community to demand social justice,” Ramona Landeros, founder of the Benito Juarez Organization, said. She leads the local grassroots organization in calling for Dr. Raja’s immediate reinstatement. “It is crucial that we get justice for so many children and for Dr. Raja. He deserves it. He has done nothing wrong but love the children and inspire them to reach new heights, to want to be something. We’re committed to staying the course.”
Landeros and hundreds of other community members plan to attend the June 21 Twin Rivers Unified School District board meeting to make their voices heard. Oakdale students, parents, teachers and community members are committed to speaking out behalf of their principal and their community.
They are demanding answers and the immediate reinstatement of the principal they say ended school bullying, violence and promoted an environment of achievement.
In response to questions, the school district cited a private “personnel issue” and has yet to make a decision regarding reinstatement, despite vocal calls by the community over the past 5 months.
Dr. Raja was the 2011 California State Teacher of the Year and is the founder author of Handz on Mentors, an innovative program that matches each student with a culturally appropriate, one-on-one mentor to support them, providing accountability both in the classroom and out.
“The idea is this: we’re not going to let students fail. We’re providing love to each and every one of our students through the Handz On Mentors program. We’re creating an environment where every child feels loved and cared for,” said the now-removed principal, Dr. Raja. Thanks to his programming, Oakdale received a $600,000 grant from Sierra Health Foundation for three years, promising Handz on Mentoring for 100 black students and workshops on literacy, trauma and wellness for 100 black parents.
According to teachers and students at Oakdale, the community has not seen any of the benefits since their principal was removed in December. Without the leadership of Dr. Raja, implementation of the Handz on Mentorship program has suffered, leaving students lacking support and parents without the workshops they were promised.
Previously, Dr. Raja served as vice principal at Grant High School. He was also featured in social justice documentaries, Solving the Inequality by Jameel Pugh and the 2018 film, The Pushouts by Dr. Victor Rios, which documented the school to prison pipeline.
“We have a solution,” said Dr. Raja. “That solution is called love. It’s the solution to prisons; to gun violence; to the prosttitution; to the fights on our campus.”
Oakdale students took the lead at June 13 board meeting to call for their principal back:
“Before Dr. Raja, there were a lot of fights. There was a lot of arguing,” Neveah Armstrong, 8th grader at Oakdale, said as she held back tears. “When he left, there were more fights, more arguments, more gun threats.
Please stop postponing your answers. We need him.”
By Isabel Soloaga