Anthony Mize was the eighth-grade teacher of Elizabeth Vergara, the lead plaintiff in the case that seeks to eliminate teacher tenure, “Vergara v. California.”

Funded by a Silicon Valley zillionaire named David Welch and a group he created callef Students Matter, Elizabeth Vergara and other students claimed that they were denied equal protection of the law because they were taught by inferior teachers, protected in their job by tenure. However, her teacher Anthony Mize did not have tenure when he taught Elizabeth nor does he have tenure now. He is writing a book about his experience as the teacher who allegedly harmed Elizabeth Vergara. This is an excerpt from his book, which he generously shares here.



Mize writes:



Battle Cry

Does a soldier hear the explosion that’s about to change him? What about the ordinary man? Does he hear the bomb go off, knowing it was detonated, yet blind to its totality when it’s already upon him?


“It’s your Dad.”


She handed the phone to me passing along the heaviness. Merging years of teaching and learning, deliberate footsteps of my life had funneled to this very moment. His voice on the other end was pulling me into The Great Fight.


I was not drafted, but chosen.


A marked man, dropped onto the front lines of a Battle that will contribute to the War on public education that has been raging for centuries in this country.


Embracing reality, the journey ahead, hunkered behind the wall of defiant disbelief that comes with first hearing the news, then the realization of what could become.


Picturing the Battle in my mind, what it would look like, feel like, sound like. Wishing to believe it could not kill me, knowing it capable of taming the spirit.


Defacing my enthusiasm for life, it would yield a numbed scalpel towards the jagged amputation and dismemberment of my soul. Echoing a muted distance between me, and love. It would attempt to asphyxiate my living breath.


On Tuesday June 10, 1692 Bridget Bishop was the first person hung from a tree during the Salem Witch Trials after being found guilty of being a witch. One of those that falsely accused Bishop was a child named Elizabeth.


322 years to the day, Tuesday, June 10, 2013 Judge Rolf Treu ruled in favor of the nine student plaintiffs, and their legal team funded by a billionaire businessman, who accused 16 of their former teachers of being grossly ineffective educators, in the case of Vergara vs. The State of California.


With a few exceptions, the 16 accused teachers remained anonymous to the public. Known only in official court documents, tagged and labeled in the proceedings by a single letter.


I am teacher “D” and Elizabeth Vergara’s eighth grade English teacher, this is my story.

Back to School


In this neighborhood sometimes you can sense it coming, feeling it in the temperature of the air, other times it blindsides you.


His Mother, an alumni of the school briefly shared her experience as a student there years ago with me, some of her struggles. Knowing the reality of life her son faces as he exits the school and begins the walk home in the surrounding community.


He had an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), his biological Father passed away in Mexico during that school year; and he welcomed a new baby sibling into the family, all while making academic gains in my classroom. Amidst all of this, socially he was thriving, his academic gains were a result of increased self-confidence, and new found friend base. Having a voice that was validated in the classroom, and a shift in maturation were evident in his overall growth as a student learner, even during this challenging time.


His disability impeded, but did not debilitate, difficulty paying attention was one consistent barrier that teased his academic promise. Moving the discussion towards this topic, I began by praising him on his increase in reading fluency, highlighting specific academic gains of the year, and his strengths in the classroom with his Mother.


“Your son has trouble paying attention in cla…”


Screeching tires interrupted, a car’s engine gassed faster than the wheels could spin, three bullets cut the evening air. Almost believing the already known, my eyes darted towards the mother negotiating with hers, searching for confirmation.


“Yes” They replied.


Four to six more shots called out fate’s name, bookended by another set of screeching of tires.


Inner workings of my mind exchanged wondering, “Should I duck?” The large caged glass windows that walled the back of my classroom, and row of neighboring classrooms played on the reel in my headspace. Envisioning a stray bullet finding its way through the glass, into the back of my skull, plunging into my brain. Without time to panic, noting the ease in which the Mother was absorbing the moment, seeming tested, like this wasn’t new to her.


Unable to see, my back directly turned away from the corner intersection where the drive by shooting was occurring 30-50 yards behind me, and my neighboring colleagues classrooms, as our school’s campus was alive with students, and families back to school that evening.


Deciding not to duck, comforted by the actions of my student’s Mother across from me. Reality had shifted across the middle school desk that separated me from this woman I’ve just met, whose child we both knew, both wished the best for. Who was now engaged in prayer, watching as she maneuvered her hand in a cross motion over her chest, silently mouthing a message to above.


The shell casings hadn’t fallen, yet I had the strange understanding she was not praying for me, or herself, at least not explicitly, she was praying for someone else.


Possibly, her prayers were answered, or it was the shaky trigger finger of a gunman unseasoned to the act of blindly shooting at human targets, not grasping the consequence of their soon to be forever action. There were no physical injuries reported, no immediate loss of life.


The shooting had stopped. No bullets had hit our classroom and his Mother was okay, I ran to the window to see if anybody outside was hit. Not seeing anyone down, hurrying to the room of my neighboring teachers, one who was out of the room, and the other teacher was calling the office. A fellow English teacher, and friend whose classroom was closest to the shooting had ducked under his desk for cover. As I entered the room, he was gathering himself, as we all were rattled on some level.


Within moments the police were there beginning to secure the scene with yellow caution tape. Another cautionary tale too close to home, too close to school.


“Again. Why does your son have trouble paying attention?”


Walking out with my Dad on the way out that night, even as Maclay’s Literacy Coach he was always dedicated and in attendance at these school functions. It felt good to be next to him, cognizant of the fragility of existence.


At the front gate by the main office we passed Maclay’s Principal Verónica Arreguín.


“I’m glad I gave you the highest rankings on the Principal survey we took earlier today. Thanks for running towards the bullets, instead of away from them.” I said.


In response to seeing her again, the previous time an hour earlier she was running down the outdoor hall corridor to our back row of classrooms as soon as the shooting started.


Walking out my Dad offered to walk me to my car parked in an adjacent lot. Thinking that was sweet, I thanked him and declined. A reminder he will always be My Dad.


We all went our ways only to return the next morning.
Lying in bed that night my ears were ringing with the sounds of bullets. Not because of the volume, but because of its sharpness, precise in execution. The reverberations are numbing to the senses, deeply rooted in their cavernous echoes, implanted not only in your eardrums, but into your psyche.


My Final Year at Macay

“…I was challenged that year as an educator. Population wise it may have been one of my toughest years; the students had an intensity of needs, out of a school with a population who all have intense needs. It ranked up there with the challenges faced during my first few months taking over mid-year, during my first days of teaching at Maclay.
All of the work was worth it, much was learned, and taught along the way. I had a student who ate glass, and students who didn’t eat. I had homies and the homeless, addicts, cutters, and the forgotten. They were not sprinkled in, but to a student each had one to several major obstacles impeding progress. I looked out for all, and taught with my all. Sometimes they didn’t say goodbye they just disappeared.”

LAUSD Removed as Defendants




When the Los Angeles Unified School District is dropped as Defendants in the Vergara Trial, my name was not even associated with the Case yet. Finding out from one of the California Teachers Association union lawyers representing the Defendants that it wasn’t until two months later, before my name was even mentioned. First brought up by Elizabeth Vergara, in a deposition taking place in November of 2013.


After all my sacrifice, dedication, debts paid, and burdens carried this is what happens? The Los Angeles Unified School District is dropped as Co-Defendants in the Vergara Case. Walking off unscathed, while I am soon to be named, and included in the Case, set to engage in a battle I wasn’t even aware I was fighting.


LAUSD in the matter of a day, one announcement goes from Defendant in the Case, to dropped from the Case. With its highest ranking official poised to testify in support of the Plaintiffs, against the teachers under his watch, and leadership. LAUSD Superintendent Deasy was to take on the battle cry of teacher tenure, and grossly ineffective teachers, precisely what they were calling me.


Attorneys working for distinguished law firms, containing the scope of influence and financial backing as the Plaintiffs legal team shouldn’t waffle like this. The Plaintiffs drop LAUSD as co-defendants, with Plaintiffs lawyers stating that as a district the Los Angeles Unified School District, ‘are hindered by rigged and outdated laws that harm students.’


Lawyers, masters of nuances and veiled manipulation, intentional in word selection don’t use such concrete words believing in them one day, and disbelieving in them the next. It speaks to a philosophical waffling regarding who is truly responsible for the ailments of education, or is a weak attempt to mask some greater agenda spawned from a muddled political petri dish.


Six months after the Vergara Trial´s verdict was announced, Superintendent Deasy would resign from his position in LAUSD, finding employment with Students Matter, led by Silicon Valley billionaire, spearhead of the Vergara Trial, David Welch. Deasy’s replacement would be former LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines.


Was LAUSD the innocent bystander in all of this, the damsel in distress? If true, then either way the Plaintiffs are reactionary with whom they are including in this Case, the teachers, or the school districts.


These are people’s lives, and livelihood, let’s not throw caution to the wind. If you’re going to pull a trigger marking someone, something, as a target, make sure with absolute certainty that you are firing in the right direction. If you fail at that, you are as reckless as a gang member who commits a drive by, and inadvertently hits an innocent child with a bullet. It doesn’t matter whom you are aiming at, it matters whom you hit.


Surely, the Plaintiff’s lawyers check their facts at least on all of the 16 teachers named in the Case. 16 people is a lot, maybe they should enact a cap, or some sort of reduction of accused quasi-Defendants named in lawsuits. Checking up on 16 teachers before you put them in a Case of this stature; this magnitude, is an overwhelming undertaking. The due diligence required is mind-numbing, 16 teachers.


I couldn’t imagine the Plaintiffs’ lawyers being required to check up on 35 plus kids, I mean co-quasi defendants, in their classroom, or legal proceedings. What would happen if someone had to go to the bathroom, or three defendants walked in tardy, one had a disability, showed up every three days, doesn’t show up at all, couldn’t even read, or understand the court proceedings, was suicidal, starving, or dying on the inside. How would the lawyers look on them? Like teachers look after students, with the same humanity, love, depth of compassion, levels of patience, ability to teach?


Although, yet to be named in the Case, never even hearing of it before, let alone aware of my potential future inclusion, this is a pivotal day in its evolution. The Los Angeles Unified School District is dropped as a Defendant from the Vergara Case after reaching a “settlement”.


Yoda You’re My Father


Friday 12.13.2013


Nick Mize, my Father, coined “Yoda” by some colleagues during his time at Maclay Middle School, for the capacity to know and understand, much like Yoda from Star Wars. By title, and position he was the school’s Literacy Coach. A role in which he served for over six years, prior to that, working as an English teacher at Maclay for the previous three years.


As Literacy Coach, he had direct and absolute access to key data pertaining to the analysis and measurement of students and teachers at Maclay. Having firsthand knowledge of all the operating systems, with the capacity to access individual student data on a micro level, to understanding the entire scope of the school, through the lens of data on a wide scale.


Specifically, his computer’s hard drive contained information, and data vital to understanding our school, teachers, and individual students, from a variety of statistical and data analysis means. He was the sole gatekeeper, and behind him housed on his computer’s hard drive, a treasure trove of current and archived historical data essential to understanding Maclay’s students and teachers.


On Friday, December 13, 2013, the same day the Vergara Case had its official trial date set, my Dad, Maclay’s Literacy Coach, sitting in his office at Maclay, in front of his LAUSD issued computer, at his desk watching his computer screen said, “It looked like the flesh was falling off the computer.”


Files started to disappear, simply vanishing from his desk top. Losing all control of his operating system, he was unable to intervene. His mouse cursor moved, unmanned, across the screen, while helplessly witnessing the removal of data, and the crash of his entire hard drive. Every file, every document, every letter keyed, every mouse click ever stored was now completely gone, ceasing to exist, never again to be retrieved, never again to be viewed.

Over the ten years my Father has worked at Maclay not one day, not one time, did his entire hard drive crash. Out of the years he has been on a computer, whether for personal, professional, or academic use, and the man is at the Doctoral level, not once had his hard drive ever crashed.

Mayor Speak



Day four of the Vergara Trial, holding political traction, with politicians turning up the volume, former Mayor of Los Angeles Antonio Villaraigosa lends his support, joining the students’ cause.


“This lawsuit, Vergara v. California, is built on the simple and undeniable premise that every child—regardless of background—deserves a quality education. And that’s why I stand with these brave students who are standing up for what is right and what is just.”


As the teacher of the lawsuit’s namesake, I was in this, and chained from afar. Voiceless, as the political bandwagon was being piled on, fueled by a good ol’ boy’s club handshake, and billionaire’s air five, he do, she do, I do, politician see, monkey do, we all scream for ice cream.

The young man photographed on the right of former Mayor Villaraigosa was a classmate of Elizabeth Vergara’s, both of them students in my Period 3/4 English class. The student on the left was also a student of mine in an Intervention and Enrichment class that year. The narratives that follow connect with the young man on the right of the former Mayor.


Mayor Villaraigosa stood by him in this photograph, while I stood by him in life. Providing something lasting much longer than a fading image, or brush with celebrity.


Where Mayor’s take photo-ops for fame and agenda.


Teachers write the agenda on the board and remember.


Who’s the fake,


and who’s the contender?


If this was a team… you should give me an assist.


Politicians are shaking hands, and giving babies a kiss.


Claim MVP, mount trophies, stuff the ballot to be an All-Star.


Remember who’s in the back seat changing diapers, while you’re driving the car.


You see:


I play for the kid in the back row, who leans his hat back low,


And he’s a little agro, and back nearly broke, from the toil, toll, and load.


You wouldn’t know, because if that same kid was walking down the street, tug the wallet, grab the car keys, let’s beat feet.


I couldn’t express your expression, if you saw them roll up and sit next to you in your seat


while front court at a Laker’s game, No photo ops, -not now mijo


Back to the cheap seat, Those people we just meet,


like a bad memory hit delete, I don’t live what I speak, my speeches are weak


the same track, change a few words, and sometimes lanes, mostly just hit repeat.


In a town full of ego and stars, fraudulent plastic Botox mirages, even Jack Nicholson knows there is a difference between sitting courtside every Laker game, and actually being on the team.


I wonder if student “x” would have been in that photo if it weren’t for the effort, the care, the teaching, the mentoring that he received during the time he was in my classroom?


Or would there have been another student “x” in his spot? I say student “x”, because to be in a position as removed from the people, someone so disconnected in an attempt to connect to it all, confined by challenges and time constraints that cripple the position of one in such a responsibility, as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. One can only operate in a world where they know a student as “x”, and never their name. Student’s stories, and cause, a political tag-line in some greater personal and individual quest.


Just like LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer can only write an editorial stating, “I know Beatriz Vergara. Not personally. But I know thousands of Beatriz Vergaras. They are my students, my counselees and my neighbors.” He cannot write I know Elizabeth, or Beatriz Vergara, Villaraigosa can only reach as far as his position will allow. He can never know the Vergara’s, only of them.


We don’t have time to know any student simply as student “x”. Villaraigosa may have been emotionally invested in the cause of people of a similar identity, circumstance, or lot in life, possibly he even cared about the young men before him in this photo, but he certainly didn’t know them. Standing by them, he was really saying I support my cause, not I support you. Because I know what supporting them was, and is like.


He certainly didn’t know that those “brave” children he was standing for, I too have stood for, fought for, sacrificed for.


The same young man in the photo taken with Villaraigosa, was the same young man that on his birthday, his Mother emailed me because he was having such success in school that year. Centered on his breakthroughs in writing, increased understanding of academics and self, building a budding confidence, and self-esteem all positive products of his work in my class, specifically the work I did with him. She wanted to reward him, and brought cupcakes in for the class. Cupcakes? This kid was used to violence, and fear, not smiling, and green frosting.


When he was awarded, and honored, with other students having his name called out before a Chivas professional soccer game, it was my two daughters, my wife and I who took the hour plus drive each way to support him. His only other support base in attendance was his probation officer, who also cheered for him even though he missed his opportunity to walk the field pregame because he didn’t arrive at the game until after the first period.


When his mother emailed again, inquiring about purchasing a yearbook for him, my Wife and I made sure that he had one to commemorate that year, his success. We didn’t have a lot, but more than some.


Even though by name, and by job assignment, that year I was a substitute teacher, there is no substitute for that kind of teaching.


Seeing him for the last time as a ninth grader visiting Maclay after school let out one day with a football to play catch with me. I have not seen him since.

Knowing him was the first time I was introduced to the F13, Florencia street gang. It was in him, it flowed in his brother, his mostly off again incarcerated Father, who often referred to the boy lovingly as Lil’ Homie, and many of the men who would brand, and exile their footprint on his young life. How do you fight your shadow? You can shadow box, but eventually your shadow will shift, and dance quicker than you, grow bigger than you, enter in, and through you.


In the strangest of ways

One of the rich ironies is that If I wasn’t Elizabeth Vergara’s teacher she may never have been in this Trial, nor would I be. As a teacher I am an advocate of the student’s voice, encouraging them to take a stand. Never thinking it was going to be the witness stand, speaking out against me calling me “Grossly Ineffective” as a teacher.


A constant proponent of social justice, ally to the community of Pacoima, seeing that it receives its proper and equitable due, highlighting stories of the forgotten, and the unknown. The teaching, the strength, the voice I encouraged in all my students, potentially gave Elizabeth, or aided her in finding herself, allowing for this to occur. Her voice, what she speaks in regard to me is completely inaccurate, declarations of perjury, yet I do applaud the spirit of sticking up for oneself.


Even agreeing with her cause, I disagree with the way she went about it. The way her team went about it. Adults using children as collateral, like parents in a nasty divorce. We all know those hurt the parents, but more importantly, and adversely it always damages the children deeply.


As plaintiffs in this case, children and parents are both strung along by the powerfully persuasive because they come equipped with sellable back stories, and are willing to contort to fit the required role. Showpieces for lawyers, and faces for agendas, the flashy escorts to judicial and legislative after parties of educational reformation, a self-promotion of those who have too much power.


This experience at times has been draining, exhausting in its consumption of my time, overwhelming in what it has drawn out, and put in. Yet, it has allowed me to experience life in new ways, understanding that which I could not have had, or known without these experiences. In a sense, and in many ways Elizabeth Vergara is my teacher, so too is Judge Rolf Treu, attorney Marcellus McRae, even billionaire spearhead of the Case David Welch. As is my mentor Verónica Arreguín, so too is Nick Mize, and “student x”, as are my own daughters my teachers. For this, and them, I do it all.


With that same respect, the young man that walked into the city of Pacoima, onto the campus of Charles Maclay Middle School, was a young man of much different experience and understanding. The man that exited, or checked out, but never fully left, was a young man with a much fuller comprehension of life in all facets. The learning that occurred within me is almost unfathomable in its infancy, essentially unmeasurable, because it continues to flourish daily, and sprout anew from seeds started and cultivated there.


I found my own voice in the community of Pacoima. A voice that was found there, but is carried everywhere. It has an edge, born from adversity, and circumstance, creating an ability to stick up for that in which you believe in. Pacoima by virtue of its beauty and brutality provided me a voice to speak, to stand up for myself with, to tell this portion of this story.


In the oddest and strangest of ways this is all intertwined and directly linked. Without my ability to provide Elizabeth with a voice in a sense, even though it did come out deeply misguided when referencing me, the edge that Pacoima provided me, allowed for both of us to speak out, and speak up.


My hope for Elizabeth Vergara is to know that she is not a grossly ineffective student, that at times our biggest weakness can be our greatest asset. That life forgives, that education does ignite, and allow one to overcome. But education does not only exist in a classroom, sometimes it’s a courtroom, sometimes it’s our own reflection. I thank her for the lessons she has shared with me, and wish her many successes.