STOCKTON — The ouster of Benjamin Nakamura as principal of Amos Alonzo Stagg High School has generated an avalanche of emails and letters demanding that he be reinstated by the Stockton Unified School District board.
In preparation for a legal challenge to the SUSD board action, Nakamura says that he has secured a prominent civil rights attorney. A GoFundMe campaign (https://gofund.me/aad7b542) has been launched by supporters to help with legal expenses. The goal is $15,000.
“Though he entered a new school during one of the most stressful times in educational history, Mr. Nakamura developed a tight bond with the Stagg family, including the staff, community members, and most importantly the students,” the GoFundMe site states. “Since the first day on the job, Mr. Nakamura has empowered his students to believe that they have a ‘value that people don’t understand’ and are powerful enough to fight back against the forces of injustice that have plagued their community for far too long.”
Nakamura became the focus of a controversy when the school district announced on March 9 it would be laying off 104 people, including 11 principals, due to low enrollment and budget cuts. In early May, Nakamura re-interviewed for his position and was ranked as the top candidate. However, two days before he was to speak at his school’s graduation ceremonies, the board voted 4-3 against his reinstatement. He was subsequently replaced by an assistant principal.
Nakamura’s impassioned speech to the Stagg High graduating seniors on May 27 has garnered national and international media attention.
He told the graduates to study hard and do their best, and also touched on his personal experience of losing his mother to a heroin overdose, violence in neighborhoods, race and helping the next generation.
SUSD spokesperson Melinda Meza said that Nakamura was escorted off campus after his speech. “We got numerous calls from parents complaining saying that the principal was using the graduation as a platform to share his own grievances.”