Students protest as Wallen rescinds resignation as PUSD superintendent

Page High School students hold signs during a protest against Larry Wallen on Oct. 26.

Page High School students staged a walkout on Tuesday afternoon in protest of Larry Wallen, who had resigned from his position as superintendent of Page Unified School District over the weekend but gave notice on Tuesday morning that he had rescinded the resignation.

Students gathered outside the PUSD district office around 12:30 p.m., chanting “kick him out” and carrying signs with slogans like “I’m the brown kid” and “Indigenous lives matter.”

An announcement that Wallen had rescinded his resignation was posted on the PUSD Facebook page around 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday.

“This morning, October 26th at 7:54 a.m., PUSD Superintendent, Larry Wallen, informed the District that he has rescinded his resignation,” the statement said.

The original resignation notice from PUSD had been posted on Facebook over the weekend. 

“Page Unified School District Superintendent, Larry Wallen, has announced his resignation as Superintendent of the District,” said the resignation statement, which was posted on Facebook on Sunday evening. 

“Effective immediately he will be on administrative reassignment and will not perform any duties as Superintendent pending the conclusion of the terms of his resignation.” 

No reason was given for the resignation, but it followed accusations by Page community member Katharine John that Wallen had made racist remarks after a school board meeting on October 19.  

John said that after the meeting, she and other community members approached Wallen to discuss his plans to replace the growing number of teachers and other staff who have resigned in recent months.

In a letter sent to the Chronicle and posted on Facebook, John said she expressed concerns to Wallen about his strategy of bringing virtual teachers into the classroom rather than having physical teachers present. 

“I worry about the performance of the students in these classrooms,” she wrote. “As a parent, I want my children to be in a classroom with a teacher. Knowing that my children would be coming to school only to be taught from a screen causes me to consider alternative options for public education.”

John alleges that Wallen responded to these concerns by saying, “Your children will be fine. It’s the brown kids in this district who will struggle.” 

John said she was surprised by the comment because she is a white mother with children whose father is Navajo and whose children identify as Navajo. She also pointed out that the school district is more than 80% Navajo. 

“With over 80% Navajo students in this district, why are these strategies being implemented if he believes they will not fare well for the majority?” she wrote.  

Wallen responded to the accusations with an email to John describing her comments as “fairly accurate.”

In an interview with azfamily/CBS 5 following the resignation announcement, Wallen was quoted as saying, “I’m taking myself out of it. … I'm sorry. … I just … it’s been a long, hard challenging battle over the past year and a half without a lot of support.”

He added that he felt a sense of “embarrassment” about the situation. 

“What people don’t know is my whole family is Navajo. My wife’s Navajo, my grandkids are Navajo, my son’s Navajo. And to think I would make racist remarks is … after 35 years on Navajo is very unforgiving,” Wallen said. 

Wallen took the position of superintendent on July 1, 2020. During his tenure, the school district faced mass resignations among teachers and other staff. In an interview with the Chronicle in July, Wallen attributed the resignations to issues with housing, but many teachers blamed the school administration’s “rigidness and poor communications.”

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