Longtime adviser replaced at high school newspaper

CALIFORNIA — After finally winning the fight to keepSan Marin High School’s journalism program, adviser Ronnie Campagna was informedthat she would not be the one teaching the class this fall.Campagna, whotaught the journalism class for 18 years, was told just days before the start ofthis school year that a new English teacher with no journalism experience wouldbe taking over the elective at the Novato, Calif., school. The journalismprogram nearly fell victim to budget cuts earlier this year until summerfund-raising efforts saved the class. “It’s a disaster forstudents,” said Joe Morgan, president of the Novato Federation ofTeachers, which represents the Novato Unified School District’sinstructors. Campagna has not received a bad evaluation or done anything tocause the decision, he said.Campagna declined to comment, referring allquestions to the Novato Federation of Teachers.Neither Campagna nor theteacher’s union received an explanation from the principal, Morgan said. Morgansaid he felt the principal’s decision might be personal.PrincipalLoeta Andersen, who made the decision, referred calls to Superintendent JanLaTorre-Derby, who could not be reached for comment. In the past,Campagna has supported student journalists covering controversial subjects,including drugs, sex and school policy, for the campus newspaper, the PonyExpress. Earlier this year, school officials proposed discontinuingthe journalism program and other electives, claiming the decision wasnecessitated by the district’s $3 million budget deficit. However, schoolofficials ultimately decided to reinstate all of the electives with theexception of journalism and one other. After parents raised $24,000 to fund theclass and the Pony Express, Andersen reinstated the program as a seventhperiod class, which conflicted with Campagna’s first through fifth periodpart-time teaching schedule.The Novato Federation of Teachers suggesteddifferent times throughout the day or at night the class could be taught, Morgansaid. But, he said, Andersen has refused to discuss any of the options orexplain why the class is being held during seventh period.The NovatoFederation of Teachers is investigating what actions can be taken to fight thedecision, Morgan said.In the meantime, students at San Marin are tryingto adjust to the new journalism program.Amber Shields, a senior, is inher third year of writing for the Pony Express. She said many studentsdropped the class because of its seventh period time slot or to protestAndersen’s decision. “I love our paper,” Shieldssaid. “I’m just glad we have an opportunity to even have theclass.” But, she said she feels the newspaper is now under closerscrutiny by the administration. “I definitely feel likewe’re treading on eggshells,” Shields said. Senior RachelOppenheimer was the features editor for the Pony Express last year, butshe said she decided not to participate this year because the seventh periodtime slot conflicted with her schedule. “I felt like wedidn’t have the support of the administration,” Oppenheimer said. She said that when students asked Andersen about the change in teachers, she didnot offer an explanation.Oppenheimer said she and other senior classmembers are considering starting an undergroundnewspaper.“Students need to be able to inform otherstudents,” she said.