Protesters confront Poizner at book signing

April 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Insurance commissioner and Republican gubernatorial contender Steve Poizner released a new book on Thursday. It is about his time as a substitute teacher at a high school in East San Jose, and what he put in print is drawing a lot of heat.

Thursday evening, Poizner was at a San Jose Barnes and Noble bookstore to promote his new book "Mount Pleasant," but a large crowd gathered, not to support the book, but to blast it.

Mount Pleasant High School students, teachers, parents, and alumni were outraged. They marched to Eastridge Mall to confront Poizner on the day his new book went on sale.

"A lot of students there, when I was there teaching, were really struggling and I think they were struggling because they were put in an environment where it's hard to excel," says Poizner.

Poizner is facing harsh criticism from those associated with the high school he taught at for a semester in 2003.

Some are most offended by an excerpt on page 90, where Poizner says, "I absolutely knew not to expect Silicon Valley-caliber ambition and smarts from East San Jose school kids."

Mount Pleasant's school district president, Eddie Garcia, confronted Poizner about this specific passage.

"So we do not have the smarts or ambition is what you're saying? Thank you sir... he just said we do not. You just said it right now," said Garcia.

After Poizner rebutted and said he didn't say it, Garcia replied, "You said it. You said it on page 90. I asked you right now, you just said it again."

Poizner said, "I would love to come back... come back to the school."

"I don't know if they want you back," said Garcia.

Poizner came to the bookstore for a book signing. It is also where Mount Pleasant's principal, Teresa Marquez, had her chance to challenge the commissioner.

"You wrote some misconceptions," said Marquez.

"Sixty percent of the public high schools in California outperform Mount Pleasant, 60 percent, so I'm saying there is a lot of room for improvement," said Poizner.

"I'm not saying that we don't have the challenges... but kids are not ducking bullets and not too busy to think about their careers. Our kids have Silicon Valley smarts and ambition and desire," said Marquez.

"The conclusion I draw, of course, at the end is that no student should fail. No student should fail," said Poizner.

Back at Mount Pleasant, the very students Poizner says he wants to help say they are doing just fine.

"I'm succeeding in all of my classes basically and I don't see me or any other people doing bad at all," said student Monique Puente.

Late on Thursday, ABC7 spoke with Poizner's mentor at Mount Pleasant, Todd Richards. He is still a teacher there and said, "Nothing in the book is false. There are more positives that Steve doesn't talk about and people are motivated... but all of the negatives are real. Anyone that denies it is in the ostrich society."

Poizner said he would like to sit down and talk to Mount Pleasant staffers to talk about the book and why he wrote what he did. But he says he'd like to do that during a formal meeting, not at his book signing.


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