Rift Follows Principal Trujillo’s Arrest

Vander Ritchie and Gwen Ramsey

Salida High School principal Talmage Trujillo sits at his desk, drumming his fingers on the table, fiddling with the string on his teabag.

“After coming back from my leave, I wasn’t sure how I would be received, that trust had been eroded to the point where it would be difficult to do my job,” said Trujillo. “But I just felt very welcomed when I came back, there was overwhelming support. I feel like people want me here and want me to do my job. And that makes me happy because even though I’m new, I really like it here.”

Trujillo is back from ad- ministrative leave following his September 27 arrest. On September 23, Salida High School was placed under emergency lockdown follow- ing a call to the police which claimed a Horizons Exploratory Academy student had a gun and was threatening to kill himself and “blow things

up.” Police affidavit claims that Trujillo traveled with the student to the Crest Academy, and didn’t communicate with police. These actions resulted in Trujillo being charged with several misdemeanor charges. It is important to note that the Salida Schools District’s Board, “sees discrepancies be- tween District reviewed ac- counts and the released police affidavit.” read a statement re- leased following a closed executive session.

Within the school, some feel a rift has developed be- tween students and between community members.

“I definitely think the event caused a rift in the school between people that ‘support the police’ and people that ‘side with Trujillo’,” said sophomore Stella Veazey.

That divide has existed for years, only exacerbated by a tumultuous political climate.

“I’ve been teaching for a long time, 27 years, and in my

career, I wouldn’t say I’ve seen it with divisiveness in general as much. […] It seems like it’s just completely exploded,” said art teacher Janine Frazee. “It just seems like there’s a lot of hate and a lot of anger. It’s concerning.”

“I was determined to take that head-on and I addressed it over the intercom, and I just said, ‘Hey, this isn’t an anti-police campaign and it shouldn’t be,” said Trujillo. “When we put our desire to win over our desire to learn and grow, we fail.”

“Either you’re for the police, therefore I’m against Trujillo, or you’re for Trujillo, and therefore you must be against the police. That’s a false dichotomy,” said Superintendent David Blackburn.

The rift desperately needs to be healed. “It’s really important that both sides are heard, and if opinions are going to be formed around situations, they can’t just be from one particular side,” said Frazee. “People need to be learning how to understand each other and come to the table with the ability to talk about things and listen.”

How we heal that rift is a different and complicated question. However, most seem to agree that we need to put students first. “This classroom is a safe place,” said Frazee. “Never in this room has there ever been any divisiveness between students, they accept each other, everybody listens to each other. It doesn’t matter how you dress, how you act or what you like, or what you don’t like. Everybody gets along.”

“I think the common thread, on all sides, is the concern for the safety of students, and that’s the common ground I’d like to stand on with people,” said Trujillo. “To heal this, and to move

forward and improve, every- one is going to need to bring [authenticity] to the table. We’re going to need to be able to acknowledge our own needs, our own areas of potential growth, our strengths and creativity in a real, deeply honest way. If we can do that, […] we can improve,” said Trujillo. “People are just trying to do their best.”

“I deeply believe in the abilities and the skills and the talents of every staff member and student here,” said Trujillo. “I believe in the goodness that is articulated in the agencies we work with. I am hopeful that we’ll be able to use this as a learning experience on all sides, and that it has the starting point for a deeper level of collaboration.”