You may recall the story about Irma Cobian, the elementary school principal who was forced out after Parent Revolution collected signatures from parents, employing the “parent trigger” law that it (Parent Revolution) had sponsored in 2010.

The headline in the LA Times read:  “Popular Principal’s Dismissal Leaves a South L.A. School Divided.”

The story began thus:

“Third-grade teacher Kate Lewis said Irma Cobian is the best principal she’s had in nine years at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Watts.

“Joseph Shamel called Cobian a “godsend” who has used her mastery of special education to show him how to craft effective learning plans for his students.

“Los Angeles Unified Supt. John Deasy praised a plan developed by Cobian and her team to turn around the struggling campus — where most students test below grade level in reading and math — calling it a “well-organized program for accelerated student achievement.” He thanked Cobian for her commitment and hard work.”

But Parent Revolution decided she had to go. They collected enough parent signatures to force her out.

In a show of solidarity with the principal Irma Cobian, 21 members of her staff of 22 people asked to transfer to another school.

As most educators understand, one important ingredient of a successful school is a strong sense of teamwork. Cobian had created that. But that was not good enough for Parent Revolution.

I wrote about these events here.

The more I thought about Parent Revolution targeting this principal, the angrier I got.

Somehow it felt like bullying.


Parent Revolution is funded with millions from the Walton Family Foundation, the Broad Foundation, and the Gates Foundation. Irma Cobian is a hardworking school principal who is doing her best to help children and to support her teachers. It really bothered me that this powerful and wealthy organization decided that she had to go because the school’s test scores were too low. It made me angry.

I know I should never show anger, but this sure looked like an injustice to me. It looked like a super-rich organization decided to pick off a woman who was doing her best and had no super-rich organization to defend her.

So I wrote a column titled “Wondering About Ben Austin,” (Austin is the leader of Parent Revolution), in which I wondered how he could live with himself knowing he had harmed the reputation and career of a good person.

I don’t know Irma Cobain, but from what I read about her, it didn’t seem she deserved to be subjected to public humiliation.

Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute did not share my sense that Cobian had been victimized. He did not see the injustice that I saw. Instead, he said my criticism of Ben Austin was “abhorrent.” Suddenly it was Austin who was the victim, though he did not lose his job or his reputation.

I believe in due process. If Irma Cobian was a bad principal, Superintendent Deasy should have brought her up on charges. He didn’t. The fact that Cobain built a supportive staff says something good about her leadership skills.

I am sorry if I hurt Ben Austin’s feelings. I wish he would say that he was sorry for the pain and suffering that he inflicted on Irma Cobain, on her staff, and on the school community.

Every school leader and staff must wonder if they will be next in line to be targeted by Parent Revolution. Instilling fear and anxiety in educators is not a good way to improve schools.