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Home / Ruelas

Beleaguered Madison Elementary Principal Juan Ruelas May Leave at Year’s End

Madison’s Principal, Juan Ruelas, has been under fire from teachers and parents for 18 months. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News


PUSD Superintendent Refuses Comment Citing ‘It’s a Personnel Matter’

By Terry Miller

Pasadena Independent has learned from multiple sources that PUSD’s contentious Madison Elementary school principal, Juan Ruelas, will be leaving the school and possibly the district, effective the end of the current school year. Meanwhile, officials at PUSD are mum and the silence is deafening.

The latest in a series on incidents that have garnered media attention was a Jan. 13 incident reported by 30-year, PUSD veteran teacher, Patricia Guzman, which occurred in the Madison cafeteria. Guzman alleged in a disruptive conduct report to PUSD officials on Jan. 18 that Principal Juan Ruelas threatened her well-being and safety. The Pasadena Police Department initiated an investigation after the report was filed.

Documents obtained by Pasadena Independent indicate that a Government Code/Claim for Assault and an Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress was filed against Ruelas and PUSD for the incident on Jan. 13.

PUSD School Board members refused to comment on the matter Tuesday afternoon citing that this is a “personel matter” and asked Pasadena Independent to contact the superintendent, Brian McDonald, who will not speak to the press.

Guzman has repeatedly claimed that Ruelas’ conduct was “part of a pattern of harassment and retaliation, including false charges of child abuse, insubordination and defamation.”

The complaint reads in part:

“Claimant Patricia Guzman (“Ms. Guzman”) is a first grade teacher at Madison Elementary School (“Madison”). Guzman has been an employee for the Pasadena Unified School District (“PUSD”) for 30 years. During her tenure with PUSD, Guzman has consistently received superior performance reviews. Guzman is also the representative for the United Teachers of Pasadena (“UTP”).

Juan Ruelas (“Mr. Ruelas”) is the Principal of Madison.

On January 13, 2017, at approximately 11:55 a.m., while Ms. Guzman was assisting students with lunch in the cafeteria, Mr. Ruelas approached her aggressively, putting his face within four inches of her face, and lowered his voice so students wouldn’t hear. Mr. Ruelas asked her if she was going to respond to an email he had sent to her the day before. Ms. Guzman answered that she was going to do it as soon as she had the time. Mr. Ruelas then asked Ms. Guzman if she had an argument with Mrs. Chantel, the cafeteria manager. Ms. Guzman answered that she did not and that everything was fine between herself and Mrs. Chantel. Mr. Ruelas said that he had heard that Ms. Guzman had a confrontation with Mrs. Chantel. Ms. Guzman repeated that everything was fine between her and Mrs. Chantel. Mr. Ruelas repeated that someone had said something to him about it.

At this point, Ms. Guzman took a step back from Mr. Ruelas because she was fearful and intimidated by him. In response to her stepping back, Mr. Ruelas again moved aggressively towards Ms. Guzman, came within four inches of her ear, and said to her in a threatening manner that if she had a problem with Mrs. Chantel that she was going to have a problem with him too. Ms. Guzman responded that if there was a problem with Mrs. Chantel and her, they were both professional enough to resolve it between themselves.”


Ruelas, left with PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

The Pasadena Unified School District’s defense of the embattled Ruelas also took a major hit Jan. 10, when a Superior Court Judge ordered it to produce 24 complete documents concerning Ruelas, which PUSD had allegedly been trying to keep secret.

Ms. Guzman asserts in her claim that after she was exonerated of child abuse, Ruelas’ conduct was “extreme and outrageous and done with the intention of causing, or reckless disregard of the probability of causing emotional distress.”

After the investigation of Ms. Guzman was complete, Pablo Alvarado, the Executive Director of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON),and the Citizens Committee for Equality and Justice at Madison (CCEJAM), the organization of teachers, parents and community members who have organized for the purpose of getting Mr. Ruelas removed as Madison’s principal, filed a lawsuit against PUSD seeking several sets of documents, including a complete copy of Ms. Guzman’s investigation report.

On Jan. 10, the Court ordered PUSD to produce dozens of documents; and to stop favoring Mr. Ruelas and produce a complete copy of Ms. Guzman’s investigation report (including the portion which exonerated her of child abuse). Ms. Guzman alleges that Mr. Ruelas’ conduct toward her in the cafeteria on Jan. 13 was in retaliation for the judgment entered against PUSD, the media attention that it received, and for other the protected activity engaged in by Ms. Guzman. Ms. Guzman has been placed on a stress-related, medical leave by her doctor and has filed a complaint with the Pasadena Police Department concerning the incident.

The Public Records Act lawsuit, brought by Alvarado and CCEJAM, sought complete copies of 30 documents they requested concerning which PUSD produced incomplete records. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ordered PUSD to produce complete documents for 24 of the 30 documents that Alvarado and CCEJAM sought.

According to Mr. Alvarado, “Ms. Guzman has had the courage for two years to stand up to Mr. Ruelas and voice her objections to his bullying tactics. It appears to me that he is pressuring her to transfer to another school. These are serious charges and I hope that the District conducts a thorough investigation.”

Repeated attempts to contact numerous staff and administrators at PUSD were unsuccessful at time of press.

For more information on the background of this story, you can read more about it here.


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