Why did actor Edward James Olmos turn up at a Pajaro Valley Unified school board meeting?
It turns out the actor has a youth cinema program that works with PVUSD students — and, like others, he was none too pleased about the sudden ouster of schools chief Michelle Rodriguez.
One of actor and activist Edward James Olmos’ most famous roles was playing a teacher in the 1988 film “Stand and Deliver.”
And though he wasn’t in a classroom, Olmos did deliver for ousted Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez during a virtual Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting on Friday night; he was the first of more than 200 people to sound off on Rodriguez’s abrupt and unexpected termination.
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Olmos’ video message in support of Rodriguez kicked off the nearly six hour meeting with some fireworks and led to a brief stoppage of the event as the school board president tried to stop the playing of his video.
When Olmos’ message was played in full, he described Rodriguez as the driving force behind PVUSD’s involvement with his Youth Cinema Project and called for her reinstatement.
“I’ve known Michelle for a long time,” Olmos said. “She has my utmost respect and admiration.” The meeting ended with a 5-2 vote to reconsider Rodriguez’s termination, which could happen as soon as Sunday.
Olmos, 73, first emerged as a leading man in the 1981 film version of “Zoot Suit,” adapted from the play by San Juan Bautista-based director Luis Valdez.
He later played iconic roles as teacher Jaime Escalante in “Stand and Deliver,” and a crime kingpin in “American Me.” He’s played regular roles in a number of TV series including “Miami Vice,” “Dexter” and “Battlestar Galactica.” And he played in both the original 1982 “Blade Runner” and its 2017 sequel “Blade Runner 2049.”
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Olmos is also the founder of the Youth Cinema Project, a program of the Latino Film Institute, designed to give young people hands-on experience with the technology and artistic techniques of filmmaking. The PVUSD adopted the program and Olmos visited Watsonville schools in 2019 to promote the program, The Pajaronian reported.
The YCP’s mission statement describes it as “project-based learning that produces competent, resilient, and real world problem-solvers and bridges the achievement and opportunity gaps by creating lifelong learners and the entertainment industry’s multicultural future.”