Schedule complications arise after counselor resignation

Counselor Juan Mendoza-Romero resigned from UPA on Aug. 6—three days before the 2021-2022 school year began—for reasons unknown. 

Paraeducator Jessica Hernandez began working under the academic counseling department on Aug. 2.

Mendoza-Romero was a new counselor hired in September 2020 amidst distance learning to fill in the counselor spot after Sandra Trotch’s retirement. Last year, he was in charge of freshmen and sophomore schedules, but this year, he was going to manage the arrangement of sophomore and junior schedules instead. Throughout the summer, he and the other counselors worked on creating schedules for their respective grades. Attempts to reach Mendoza-Romero were unsuccessful.

Mendoza-Romero in a Zoom interview on March 15. (Photo by Abhishek Mynam.)

When Mendoza-Romero resigned, the workload for both counselors increased since they had to work on their original grades on top of helping out grade levels they took on after the resignation. 

“Initially, when I found out, I was shocked,” Buensuceso said. “I did not expect it to happen.”

Buensuceso stated that his resignation was sudden, as there was no indication it was coming. Both Westerhoff and Buensuceso stated that the commute for Mendoza-Romero was difficult since he lived several hours away from UPA, which may have been a reason he resigned. Both counselors were unaware that Mendoza-Romero was going to resign until Aug. 6 when he submitted his resignation letter. Director of Curriculum and Instruction Matt Daugherty sent an email to the community announcing the resignation on Aug. 7.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Matt Daugherty sent an email on Aug. 7 informing the community about Mendoza-Romero’s resignation. (Photo by Abhishek Mynam.)

“I assumed it was for some personal reason,” Westerhoff said, “but I did not know why he resigned. I didn’t want to ask him since it was not my place to ask.”

On July 30, one week before school started, students were sent an email with their schedules for the upcoming school year. According to Westerhoff, sophomores and juniors were frustrated to see they had received different classes than what they expected. 

The seventh grade, eighth grade and freshman counselor Jill Buensuceso helped to fix sophomore schedules, while senior counselor Dot Westerhoff fixed the junior schedules.

Students requested their schedules in February with their course preferences and any special requests. 

Sophomore Emmanuel Woldu was a student who received a different schedule than he expected. He received classes meant for freshmen such as Spanish 1, Integrated Math 1 and English 9, instead of sophomore classes such as Spanish 2, Integrated Math 2 and English 10. Woldu was frustrated that he had to spend his time changing his entire schedule. 

“I was mad,” Woldu said. “Why are they giving me last year’s classes that I already passed? Did I get held back one grade or something?” 

UPA students and families were displeased that Mendoza-Romero resigned on such short notice while schedule complications were arising. 

Woldu recalls his mother’s frustration that the school was giving him classes he passed the previous year.

“It was disappointing to see Mendoza leave since many people had questions to ask but we couldn’t,” sophomore Michael Nguyen said. 

Westerhoff said common changes made during the first few weeks of school included changing electives or switching from an AP class to a non-AP class. She also said that many students took summer classes and the credits were just transferred, so then the counselors were able to place the students in the correct class. Some students had to work with Westerhoff to construct an entirely new schedule. Westerhoff said that most of the changes were done right on the spot.