Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Mentality of Mentors

Reporter Jose Antonio Vargas made a big splash recently when he outted himself as an illegal alien in a New York Times piece.  (Source Link:

But as he was coming out of the shadows, he met some folks headed the other way on the trail, running for cover.  I’m talking about his old friends in the public schools, Pat Hyland, Rich Fischer, Mary Moore and Jill Denny.

First a little info on the players.  Pat Hyland was the principal at Mountain View High School.  Here is a demographic summary of the school, according to their website: “MVHS serves a diverse student body of over 1750 students from the cities of Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Our student body is 54% White, 22% Asian, 16% Hispanic, 6% other, 2% African-American.”

Rich Fischer was the superintendent of the school district, known as “MVLA UHSD.”
They describe themselves thus:  “Our district serves a student population of 3,683 students of which 55% are Caucasian and 45% are students of color.”

Other bit players in the Vargas drama are Jill Denny, his choir teacher at Mountain View High and Mary Moore, a secretary at the superintendent’s office.

Now, let’s think about teacher involvement in the life of a confessed illegal alien student.  It would be a continuum from loathing the student and turning him in to Immigration…to making special arrangements for hiding him from exposure.  There would be a neutral ground where teachers and administrators would simply ignore his immigration status and treat him like all the other students.

Enter an Associated Press article circulating the country today exploring the relationship between illegal aliens and school officials, using the Vargas case as a  springboard.

So, here’s what they had to say about their contacts with Vargas:
Rich Fischer and Pat Hyland were school administrators in affluent Mountain View, Calif., home of Google and other tech companies, in 2000 as a young Filipino student named Jose Antonio Vargas was nearing graduation. He excelled in school but wasn't going to college because of his residency status and the high cost.

"We're educators. We don't work for the I.N.S.," Fischer, now retired as school superintendent, told The Associated Press, adding that teachers across the country face the same issues more and more.

"Actually, I think if you put a number to it, I think it would look epidemic and tragic."

Fischer and Hyland considered adopting Vargas, and eventually found him a scholarship to San Francisco State University. Vargas was a college standout, eventually landing an internship and then a full-time job at The Washington Post, getting the internship after Fischer, Hyland and others helped him get a driver's license.

"I'm not really sure if I could have made it without them," Vargas… told the AP.

Hyland, who was the principal at Mountain View High School when Vargas was there, said the help she provided was "sort of humanitarian, in my mind."

She has helped other illegal immigrants find a way to college. Many stop short, though, out of fear, she said.

"It's a conundrum. ... What are we doing to help this child survive and help this child reach his or her potential?" she said. "Educators are stuck in that position. We are sort of an underground support network for a lot of kids who come to us."

And here are some of the efforts these educators made in Jose’s behalf.  The blue text is the actual verbiage from the Vargas story, written by Jose himself:

Jill Denny, the choir director and Vargas: …told me she was considering a Japan trip for our singing group. I told her I couldn’t afford it, but she said we’d figure out a way. I hesitated, and then decided to tell her the truth. “It’s not really the money,” I remember saying. “I don’t have the right passport.” When she assured me we’d get the proper documents, I finally told her. “I can’t get the right passport,” I said. “I’m not supposed to be here.”  She understood. So the choir toured Hawaii instead.

Pat Hyland, HS principal: …they connected me to a new scholarship fund for high-potential students who were usually the first in their families to attend college. Most important, the fund was not concerned with immigration status. I was among the first recipients, with the scholarship covering tuition, lodging, books and other expenses for my studies at San Francisco State University.

Rich Fischer, Superintendent of schools: See Pat Hyland above.

Rich Fischer: “Put this problem on a shelf,” he told me. “Compartmentalize it. Keep going.”

Rich Fischer: … sent letters to me at that address. [in order to establish false residency in Oregon, a ruse to get Vargas a drivers license.]

Pat Hyland: … sent letters to me at that address. [in order to establish false residency in Oregon, a ruse to get Vargas a drivers license.]

Mary Moore: … sent letters to me at that address. [in order to establish false residency in Oregon, a ruse to get Vargas a drivers license.]

The AP article clearly ignores the level of involvement these people had in aiding and abetting Vargas.  Their efforts can only be classified as Affirmative Action on steroids.  The faculty and administrators named clearly knew he was an illegal alien and went about making special arrangements for him; arrangements that would hinder the progress of other students.

And they had received good legal counsel that there was no way Vargas could get legal without returning to the Philippines.

The folks at Mountain View were in way over their heads.  But they felt OK violating the law because the NEA and the AFT are far from neutral on the issue of illegal aliens.  Both unions are in favor of amnesty.  Both support the DREAM Act.  Both decry worksite raids.

Social causes are obviously more important to educators than academic performance.  One wonders how much time and effort were devoted to this one student that could have been shared with the other 3,682 students in the district.  One wonders how lives might have been enriched had the choir gone to Japan as originally planned.  One wonders how much time Superintendent Fischer and Secretary Moore wasted playing illegal alien advocate instead of running the district.

But Vargas was Filipino, gay and an illegal alien.  Vargas was a cause.

And for the record, most illegal aliens are well known to school officials.  Unlike Vargas, most of them don’t have Social Security numbers.

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