High school students, alumni protest removal of newspaper adviser

CALIFORNIA — Some West Covina High School students and alumniare protesting the decision to replace the long-time adviser of their newspaper,Newsbytes.

Students say they fear the decision is an effort to exercise greatercontrol over the newspaper, but Alex Ruvalcaba, starting his first year asprincipal at West Covina, insists that is not the case.

Ruvalcaba recently named Lisa Maggiore, a geometry teacher at HollencrestMiddle School, as the new adviser to Newsbytes, replacing Ted Moser, whohas advised the newspaper for 13 years.

Current and former Newsbytes staff members spoke at the June 22 WestCovina Unified School District Board of Education in support of Moser. They alsocreated flyers and a Facebook group and have asked community members to writeletters and e-mails to board members.

Newsbytes Editor-in-Chief Victor Valle said he questions the timingof the decision to remove Moser as adviser because it follows some tensionbetween the student newspaper and Superintendent Liliam Leis-Castillo overcomments she made about West Covina. Castillo said at a previous board meetingthat she had visited some of the high school’s classes, “andI’m not sure, if I was a student, I’d want to be in some of thoseclassrooms.”

Those comments were reported in the Feb. 19 issue of Newsbytes andwere also the subject of an editorial by the students, which Valle saidincreased friction between the newspaper staff and Castillo.

Ruvalcaba said Castillo was not involved in the decision to remove Moser asadviser.

“The decision to change advisers was no one else’s decision butmine,” he said. “Other than she appointed me as principal,that’s her only involvement.”

Ruvalcaba said Maggiore, who advises the middle school yearbook, asked forthe opportunity and he felt it was a good time for a change in the position.Maggiore already has some new ideas for the newspaper, Ruvalcaba said.

“I firmly believe that all stakeholders in a learning communityshould have the opportunity to take their turn at leadershipopportunities,” he said. “Mr. Moser had it for 13 years, and I thinkit’s only fair that someone else takes their turn.”

But Valle said it would be “hard to replicate” the success thatMoser has had as adviser.

“There’s a stability factor that goes along with anewspaper,” he said. “He makes it so that it’s easy to workand get things done. By removing things so abruptly, it kind of kills the flowof the entire paper.”

Shaina Woodcock, a 2007 graduate and former Newsbytes opinioneditor, said she thinks the editorial is linked to Moser losing his job.

“It’s suspicious to me that a couple months after thisincident, he no longer has his title,” she said.

The newspaper was placed under prior review about a year ago following thepublication of a controversial editorial. Valle said that he believes the schoolhas been trying to gain more control of the newspaper since then.

I highly believe that this is another form ofcensorship,” he said.

Ruvalcaba said he understands the students’ concern over change butthat the newspaper would continue to be student-run.

“I believe that the paper is always going to be the voice of thestudents and the voice of their perception of what’s happening oncampus,” he said. “It’s absolutely going to be as student-ledas it has been in the past. Nothing’s going to change.”

Valle said he is optimistic that their efforts will get Moser reinstated asadviser.

“I have a good feeling that we will,” he said. “If wecontinue what we’re doing, if we continue to get people to write lettersand support us.”

The students and alumni will speak at the next Board of Education meetingon July 14.

Moser and Castillo were not available for comment by press time.