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The Community’s Demand for Mark Kailiponi

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

Update Posted: 11/30/2021

The uproar over Mark Kailiponi’s resignation hasn’t diminished in the slightest. After the board meeting held on November 18, 2021 Kailiponi stayed on campus awaiting a replacement. When students and teachers returned from Thanksgiving Break, however, there was a new interim principal.

On Monday, November 29 at 2:52 AM, Superintendent Tracy McSparren emailed Mayfair staff stating that Assistant Principal Mr. Tim Espinosa will be interim principal effective immediately. The three sentence email from McSparren explained there would be more to come from Espinosa.

Due to the district awarding the position to Espinosa and in return failing to offer the other Assistant Principal Jasmine Lane the position, they are now the only 2 administrators on campus.

Teachers have not stopped showing support for Kailiponi. Every day, teachers still participate in a walk-around of Mayfair during their non-contract time to stand in solidarity with Mr. K. Meanwhile, the hashtag “#DoBetterBUSD” has been trending among parents and students. The next district board meeting will be held on December 9, 2021 at 7:30 PM where supporters hope to have the same, if not a better outcome from their last meeting of over 600 attendees. More information to come.

Original Posted: 11/19/2021

The recent resignation of Mayfair’s Principal, Mark Kailiponi has widely disrupted the entire student, parent, and teacher community. In efforts to keep Kailiponi at Mayfair, one of the largest and most unified assemblies in Mayfair history was made. Thousands of supporters, over 1,700 social media posts, and the channel 7 news are all passionate about understanding why Kailiponi is resigning after being such an active member of BUSD.

Mr. Mark Kailiponi has been in the Bellflower Unified School District for 14 years. He started his journey at Mayfair in 2006 as an assistant principal until 2013 and later transitioned to Somerset High School as the principal. Since then, he has come back to Mayfair in the middle of distance learning as acting principal but has now announced his resignation abruptly.

Mr. Mark Kailiponi has been in the Bellflower Unified School District for 14 years. He started his journey at Mayfair in 2006 as an assistant principal until 2013, and later transitioned to Somerset High School as the principal. Since then, he has come back to Mayfair in the middle of distance learning in 2020 as acting principal but has now announced his resignation abruptly.

Mayfair’s community knows the truth, however; Kailiponi is being pushed out by the district. In his recent efforts to benefit the school further, Kailiponi accepted a donation from a foundation created by Mayfair alumnus and former NBA player, Joshua Childress, called the Childress foundation. The donation consisted of new equipment for Mayfair's weight room. Although the Childress Foundation donated it directly to the Mayfair Sports Boosters Club, the district is punishing Kailiponi for not sharing the donation with the district. When Kailiponi checked with the BUSD board, the superintendent, Tracy McSparren, released a statement demanding the money be sent to the district and they will decide where or how to distribute it. Not long after, Kailiponi put in his resignation as principal for “family reasons”.

Given how old the equipment in the weight room was before the donation, all of Mayfair’s sports teams and athletic directors were excited to receive new equipment. In an interview with ABC7 eyewitness News, Josh Childress stated, “We had the same weight equipment in the weight room that was there when I was a student there 20 years ago, and it was old when I was there”. With the condition of the equipment reportedly over 20 years old, not to mention it took a donation to raise awareness, parents are wondering why the district didn't upgrade it themselves a lot sooner.

Weight Room Before (Photo courtesy of @SoonsFootball on Twitter)

The Weight Room Now (Photo courtesy of @SoonsFootball on Twitter)

With everyone looking into how BUSD has spent their funds to understand why this donation is enough to push out Kailiponi, teachers, students, and parents started advocating for him to stay. For every morning of the past week, parents have gathered at Mayfair and walked to the Bellflower Unified School District in protest. They have also held daily protests at the end of the school days in front of Mayfair where parents, students, and teachers gathered in chants such as, “Mr. K Must Stay” and “No One Else Can Take His Place”. A Candidate for California Governor and parent to a senior at Mayfair, Carolyn Roberts firmly mentioned, “Mr. K actually gave a damn” and said the district could have handled this differently, “They don't deserve him but you [students] do”.

Carolyn Roberts Protesting After School (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

Students have been exercising their voices to keep Kailiponi as well. On November 18, students organized a walk-out in protest of Mr. K leaving.

Student Organized Walk-Out (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

Mark Kailiponi Addressing Students at the Walk-Out (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

With signs reading, “Change district leadership to build better futures” and “Mr. K must stay”, hundreds of students demanded change. Kailiponi had asked students to stay in class, but when many refused, he gathered everyone and made a speech. At that time, he spoke to the students directly stating, “The most important thing [is that] you learn, which is the main purpose of you being here at high school in the classroom, and out on the athletic field, and in your extracurriculars” and urged students to attend their classes after lunch. He also expressed, “This has been one of the hardest things I have gone through personally.” and, “I also believe students have a right to express themselves in a peaceful way that you are expressing your feelings about our school and I approve that.” and he ended his speech with, “I feel the love in my heart that the students have for me. It is one of the reasons why I am going to work as hard as I can, as long as I can for Mayfair.”

Students have attested to Mr. K’s merit. In an interview with Mayfair’s senior student body president Emma Taing, she believes Mr. K is trustworthy, “He called me on the phone personally during distance learning and worked with me and other students to plan something on campus” sharing that she has felt more connected to him than any other principal. Mayfair’s ASB president, Ashlyn Riddle, especially appreciates how Mr. K listened to students, stating, “He altered the dress code to make it more fit for our school and he accepted the weight room because all of our equipment was really old. He is just really open to change and he puts everyone before himself.”

Mayfair’s Senior Student Body President Emma Taing (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

With the entire community backing Kailiponi, the teachers have not remained silent. For the past week, teachers have walked around the Mayfair Campus and through the office during non-contract time before school wearing black in support of Kailiponi. Many of them are wearing shirts with the phrase “Who’s next?”.

Teachers Walking Around the School During Non-Contract Time (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

Teacher Daniel Fong Leading Chants to Fellow Teachers during Non-Contract Time (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

Most recently, Mayfairs gym was packed on November 18 with students, teachers and parents alike for the BUSD board meeting. There, teachers sat in unity wearing those same shirts.

Teachers Uniting at District Board Meeting (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

At the board meeting, outrage occurred early on after a violation of the California Transparency Law, referred to as the Brown Act, when Superintendent Tracy McSparren declined to comment or address the attendees. The law requires public comment on every agenda item, to which she refused. In reaction, the crowd of students and parents started chanting but teachers quickly urged them to stop after the board threatened to adjourn the meeting and hold it privately. 9 minutes into the meeting, McSparren called a recess and continued around 15 minutes later. In the meantime, speaker and former board member Hannah Flanagan encouraged parents and teachers to “vote them out in November” to which the crowd agreed. The ABC7 Eyewitness News began to interview students.

ABC7 Eyewitness News Interviewing Senior Daniel Sepulveda (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

Because the board meeting was set before the resignation of Kailiponi, they spent hours discussing agenda items while supporters waited until the end, when they were allowed 3 minutes each to discuss something not on the agenda and took that time to raise concerns for Kailiponi. When it reached that time, Superintendent McSparren declared that anyone who had signed up to speak would get their promised 3 minutes, but the board would only listen for 21 minutes.

Comments from students described how involved Kailiponi is on campus while parents put their opinions into light on how much he has helped their children. Josh Childress also spoke, saying, “There is so much more I want to do here, [and] there is so much more that the community wants to do here. Please reinstate this man.” Another alumnus and former student athlete, Mike Nwabuzorng, from the graduating class of 2014, attested to attending middle school at Mayfair when Kailiponi was principal, “He wants to help students in any way he can, it is a shame that him trying to do what is best for the students at Mayfair is being penalized. Mr. K is a great principal and an even better person and should be reinstated immediately.” Debbie Cuadros took to the stand, “I remember sitting where you are, sitting beside some of you, feeling powerless. After All, it takes three, right? If ever there was a time to unite as a board for the betterment of the community and students, it's now.”

Josh Childress Addressing the Board (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

Debbie Cuadros Addressing the Board (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

Since there was only a short amount of time granted to the community to speak on non-agenda items, a teacher and former athletic director at Mayfair, Debra VanderBann shared with me the speech she would have made, saying, “Mark Kailiponi is the kind of teacher this district needs. It is possible to keep him at Mayfair middle and high school. Taking him out as principal is a sign that something is dreadfully wrong.” A speech from senior Kristianna Trinidad was also not made, but she would have mentioned, “Mr. K has shown us what initiative looks like—reforming the weight room where other administrative action has failed.” Many others who signed up to speak were also not allowed the time and were given a card reading, “BUSD Board Comments Compilation, Make your voice heard. Please place your comments here:”. Anyone who wishes to voice anything to the district is allowed and encouraged to partake in this, whether they attend the board meetings or not.

Teacher Robin Baolgh Handing out Cards (Photo by Tiana Poirier)

Mayfair now stands with several questions. Will Mr. K be reinstated? Will the district listen to their community? Or will the voices of these people ultimately be ignored.

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