Dr. Harris Luu, principal of Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School, talks to parents about his resignation at a public meeting last Wednesday. / Photo by Kris Fortin
Dozens of parents and students are outraged over the resignation of Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School principal, questioning the motives behind the decision.

Dr. Harris Luu, the school’s principal for nearly 10 years, announced his resignation early this month, citing personal reasons. The news saddened many, but also sparked rumors and allegations that Luu is being forced out by an uncooperative faculty and unsympathetic school officials.

Disgruntled parents and students expressed their concerns and questions at a public meeting held last Wednesday at the school. Luu was also in attendance but was unwilling to expand on his decision.

“Look, parents and students, I appreciate your emotion, but I’m not in a position to say that I’m going to change my mind. I made a decision,” Luu stated at the meeting. “The reason I’m not saying much is because I’m having a difficult time with this.”

But parents and students were dissatisfied with the information exposed at the meeting and Luu’s reluctance to sufficiently explain the reasons for his resignation.

Last Friday morning, over 100 parents, students and volunteers marched to the Green Dot Public Schools headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles in protest of Luu’s resignation.

“The district is pressuring him to resign,” said school volunteer and parent, Raul Hernandez, who organized the protest along with several other parents. “I don’t know why they want him to resign. He is a successful principal who cares about the students.”

Green Dot officials opened their doors and offered an opportunity for a forum, explaining the resignation was solely the principal’s decision.

At the root of the problem, according to Hernandez, are a group of teachers who are unhappy with Luu’s policies and who do not want to put in the extra effort needed to comply with his programs.

He said that Luu had developed several after-school programs designed to improve students’ chances of enrolling into college that were unpopular with many of the school’s faculty.

“He started these programs for the kids, but the teachers did not want to stay later than they had to,” said Hernandez.

Parents and students also claim a petition by those who wished to remove Luu had been circling the school. But school officials say they’ve never seen or heard of such petition and assure that was not a factor in any decision.

According to Green Dot Communications Manager Gabriel Sanchez, Luu had planned to resign at the end of this academic year and had been very open about his decision with the community.

“He went to most, if not all, classrooms to personally inform the students he was resigning and he staged meetings, such as the one on Wednesday, with parents in the past,” said Sanchez.

Since the principal’s announcement, several students have been emotional, some in tears, calling Luu “the foundation to this whole school.”

“He’s like a leader to this school, to his community. Honestly, he’s the one that inspired me when I felt like giving up in school,” said freshman Silvia Mendoza. “If he leaves I’ll do anything to get out of this school because it won’t be the same without him.”

Parents believe there is more behind Luu’s resignation that is not being said and continue to demand answers. Some have said they will remove their kids from the school if principal Luu leaves.

“You hear about the problems other schools in L.A. are having and here we have a great school and principal, and we’re losing him,” said Hernandez.

Although a series of public meetings have been held at the school and discussion on the issue continues to be welcomed by Green Dot, Luu has stated no intention to reverse his decision.

“It’s heartwarming to see parents and students show so much love for Dr. Luu,” said Sanchez. “It’s a tremendous tribute to his hard work.” But it’s time to move forward and fill the position Luu will leave behind at the end of the academic year, Sanchez adds.

Luu was one of the school’s founding teachers when it opened in 2003, and in 2005, he was named assistant principal. He became the school’s principal in 2008.

The ODLH Ánimo Charter School has had various locations including the Salesian Boy’s Club until 2008 when it relocated to its present site on the 1100 block of South Lorena Street.

The school was named a California Distinguished School in 2009 and ranked 53rd among America’s best 100 high Schools by the U.S. News and World Report in Dec. 2008.

Another public meeting is scheduled today at 5:00 pm at Oscar De La Hoya Ánimo Charter High School.
 
Jessica Perez and Kris Fortin contributed to this story.
 

Gus Ugalde

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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