Arbitrator Upholds Firing of English Learner Education Supervisor

City Councilor Andy Vargas helps Ada Albino make her case for reinstating Dr. Graciela Trilla during a Haverhill School Committee meeting last summer. (Photograph by Alberto M. Surís, courtesy of Rumbo News.)

An arbitrator has upheld last September’s firing of Dr. Graciela Trilla, district supervisor of English Learner Education for Haverhill Public Schools.

In a grievance brought by school district’s Supervisory and Administrative Group union against the Haverhill School Committee, labor arbitrator Peter B. Doeringer ruled Trilla was “insubordinate and exhibited unbecoming conduct.” Doeringer, emeritus professor of Economics at Boston University, also ruled the school department erred by not giving Trilla annual evaluations required by the union contract. However, he said, the union did not file complaints about the missed evaluations. The ruling centered on an argument that took place during Trilla’s last meeting with school Superintendent James F. Scully.

“…the observations of the superintendent’s staff at the end of that meeting show that Superintendent Scully was surprised about what was going on, but was otherwise calm while it was Dr. Trilla who was more animated, upset, and who used an obscenity as she left the office,” the arbitrator wrote.

In an interview with WHAV last year, Trilla said she challenged the administration’s plans to move English Language Learners from Tilton to the Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School. While she agreed Tilton overcrowding required a solution, she proposed moving general education students to Silver Hill rather than ELL students. Following the meeting, Trilla was suspended with pay, but later fired.

Asked for his reaction to the ruling, Scully told WHAV the decision is a reminder about values.

“In schools, we are entrusted with the responsibility of teaching many values. One of the most important values that we should be emphasizing to our students is the value of respect. Sometimes, in various levels of public service and, of course, most recently, that value of respect seems to be diminishing,” he said.

Reached at home, Trilla declined to comment. Attorney Colin R. Confoey, representing the union, also could not be reached before news deadline.

While saying a claim that Scully retaliated against Trilla was “plausible” once she became union president, Doeringer ruled, there is “lack of any evidence to support this argument.” He conducted two hearings in March and ruled June 26. The decision became official and public at the end of July. Doeringer did not find fault with Trilla’s credentials.

“These documents collectively portray Dr. Trilla as a knowledgeable and hardworking supervisor who has important strengths as an advocate for ELE programs and ELLs; as a guardian of the district’s compliance with ELE laws and regulations; and as an administrator concerned with the quality of the ELE curriculum and instruction,” the arbitrator said. However, he added, “they also show that Dr. Trilla no longer exhibits the openness to suggestions for improvement and the willingness to listen, ask questions and adapt to unanticipated circumstances…”

Continuing his statement, Scully concluded, “I believe that this decision reminds those involved in public education that we have responsibilities and behaviors that must be maintained in the best interests of all involved in the educational pursuits towards so many.”

At a School Committee meeting last summer, several Latino parents called for Trilla’s reinstatement. One was Claudia Hoyos.

“The (Haverhill) community is looking for a new leadership in our public schools that includes the diversity of our population,” she said. “Bilingual teachers, secretaries and administrators. As a parent of our minority children, we need a leader who will keep us informed,” she said.

The group supporting Trilla was accompanied by Spanish-language media and Haverhill City Councilor Andy Vargas, who participated as a translator.

27 thoughts on “Arbitrator Upholds Firing of English Learner Education Supervisor

  1. Isn’t it interesting that there’s an actual photo of Andy Vargas assisting this woman who is clearly not even a citizen of this country? But there’s Andy, helping her to participate in a public forum she has no rights to be participating in. I’ve been pointing out for over a year now how Vargas assisted this woman who is a criminal trespasser in this country, and now we can see it for ourselves with this picture.

    Andy seems to like helping the criminal invaders in the city….just like when he warned them on his Facebook page that Federal Government immigration employees were in the city doing their job. Andy intentionally took steps to obstruct law enforcement efforts of Federal officials for the sake of helping criminals illegally in the city. With all of the harm the criminal trespassers are doing in this city people need to remember come November who Andy is looking out for.

  2. “The (Haverhill) community is looking for a new leadership in our public schools that includes the diversity of our population,” she said. “Bilingual teachers, secretaries and administrators. As a parent of our minority children, we need a leader who will keep us informed,” she said. –

    Maybe if the parents taught their kids English at an early age it wouldn’t be as much of a problem. Instead, these kinds of parents create the problem by shirking their responsibilities unto the public, supported by taxpayer dollars which are taken by theft and the point of an IRS gun. Then residents question how our school system can be so bad for so many. This is before we even discuss how Beacon Hill and Haverhill leadership continue to encourage invaders into this state and this city, and as many low skill people as possible, further burdening every aspect of our economy, education resources, and social safety nets.

    • Where did you get that parents are not teaching their children English from an early age?
      As a frequenter of our town’s parks and pond (and lives just outside the downtown) I NEVER, repeat NEVER, run into a child over 7 who does not speak English.
      Do you? Where? Interested to know. Is this what happens in the 01835? Come to the 01832 then.

      • Are you even aware of why Trilla was fired? Familiar with her public insubordination of making ridiculous demands for a special interest group which was contrary to school policy? Are you familiar with the race based demands that the Haverhill Hispanic Coalition was asking from Supt Scully?
        Your comments here today are extremely ignorant….meaning lacking knowledge of what you’re talking about.
        And to be clear….there’s a difference between ignorance and stupidity. When it comes to the issue of stupidity and your comments…that’s a whole other matter..

        • Jack, not sure which thread you are following here.
          I have read the article and read the newspaper to answer your questions.

          But your questions are a non-sequitur. I responded to Duncan’s comment.
          You should be responding to mine (and or Duncan’s).
          That’s how these things work.
          Not sure if you are ignorant or stupid in how threaded discussions work.

          That said, your questions are all worthwhile, but do not follow my comments or Duncan’s which is an argument that parents don’t teach English, schools cost money, he doesn’t like taxes, illegal immigrants, the supposed expense for illegal immigrants.

        • Dannyboy, where?
          Sway field? Been there.
          Plug Pond? Been there.
          Tilton? Been there.
          Where exactly do you want me to go?
          Door to door.
          Dollars to donuts, I know of what I speak better than the boys here who do not get out of their “bubble.”

          • Danny boy new arrivals.
            I have taught at the high school.
            My questions to you:
            What percentage of students are in those classes?
            Can those students speak English? (Often times they can)

            Bubble still here. Yours?

  3. I don’t know a whole lot about Mr. Vargas except that he is always in the right place at the right time to get lots of publicity. The question is is he a certified translator? Only those certified should represent someone in a hearing such as this one. Certified translators are tested to become available in a situation and are always non biased. Looks like this is a ploy to help him with free publicity with his upcoming State Reps campaign. Certainly he should voice his opinion and I hope that in fact he is certified

    • 1. There were no translators available (never are)
      2. These are citizens – the lady at the podium is actually Puerto Rican – US territory (colony?)
      3. To suggest Vargas was there for political reasons is ludicrous – the photo was taken last year (non election year) and frankly Latinos don’t vote in Haverhill so he only stands to lose votes from the right wing and less culturally aware electorate in Haverhill, especially with this article.

      I watched this school committee meeting happen & it took courage for this guy to get up there and stick his neck out for people who don’t even vote in local elections.

      The more important point in this story is that families of diverse backgrounds and ELLs from all countries (Greek, Latino, and more) lack a champion in the public schools system.

      • I agree that Acorn Andy didn’t do what he did for political reasons. He did it because his natural, self-pronounced constituency is Spanish speaking non-citizens living in the city of Haverhill. Since he’s been a city councilor, he’s proven it over and over. What better proof do you need than Andy intentionally interfering with Federal Government law enforcement officials in order to protect criminal trespassers seeking safe haven in Haverhill?

        Becka, if all those diverse families you refer to took responsibility for themselves and learned to speak English, and assimilate to the culture they’ve put themselves into, like generations of diverse families did before them, they wouldn’t be having the problems they have. A true champion of these people would be advising them to work hard to assimilate to the system, not looking to change the system to fit their needs. What you’re describing is a misguided ethnic advocate. Why do you think the loud mouth Trilla got fired?

      • Becka, why would there “ever” be a need for translators at a public meeting? People who are born and raised in this country obviously know how to speak English. It is also a mandated requirement of people who immigrate to this country through the legal naturalization process that they be able to speak English. So a non-English speaking woman from PR (if one is to believe that) is a citizen of Haverhill?

        • Jack, your grasp of immigration is spotty at best, more likely straight out racist.
          There are many ways for non-English speakers to be American citizens.
          Such as, IDK, being born in Puerto Rico.
          Or immigrating through family ties.
          Or visas.
          It is even possible that someone using a translator can speak English, but is more comfortable in their native language.
          I hope you are commenting from somewhere outside the US and not an American citizen because you are making Americans look ignorant and racist which some are, but many (most?) are not. So, if you are or claim to be an American please stop posting read a book or two or three about immigration. Start with Dirk Hoerder’s _Cultures in Contact_. Now, I don’t want to see you posting on here until you do. Do it for America even if you are not an American. Thanks from an American.

          • Jeremy, you know going down the “Puerto Rico” road is silly, don’t you?
            It seems you’re very uninformed to the requirements of becoming a “legal” US citizens as outlined by the DHS. Becoming a legal means that immigrants are still required to learn to speak English, even if they’re familiar ties got them here.
            Coming here on a Visa doesn’t not make you a citizen! Do you even know what a Visa is? A Visa is just permission to visit the country for a specified amount of time. You know, like the guy in Boston who was recently deported after he bragged publicly he had overstayed his Visa when he came here from Ireland 14 years ago.

            Your pulling the ‘race’ card is so typical of liberals wanting to distract from the specifics of an issue. It’s the last bastion for liberals swimming against the tide of logic. Keep it up…I’m sure you’re making someone proud.

          • Let’s be clear I am not using a race card. I am saying you are a racist.
            The race card is only that when it is falsely accused. But that I think we can agree is not the case here.
            No, a visa does not make you a citizen it is a route to citizenship in many cases (to clarify).
            English requirement can be dropped at 50 in some cases for lawful permanent residents, 55 in others for same, and 65 in others. You don’t think the women in the picture could be 50?
            No Puerto Rico is not silly. Having taught in Haverhill about 20 years ago and having students from Puerto Rico I don’t actually even understand how this could be silly. But perhaps you are someone that thinks things are silly that no one else does.
            Again, start with reading the book.

      • Becka, one last question….

        If Latino’s don’t vote in Haverhill why did the mayor print “Yo Vote” stickers to hand out to non-English speaking voters as they left polling sites across the city?

        The number of non-English speaking criminal trespassers illegally voting in the city has to be pretty significant for the mayor to reward them all with their own “I Voted” sticker, don’t you think?