Wednesday, August 15, 2012


By CHRISTINA HOAG Associated Press from the San Jose Mercury News |

8/14/2012 10:58:02 AM PDT  ::  LOS ANGELES—Most of the teaching staff temporarily taken out of a South Los Angeles elementary school where two colleagues were arrested on lewdness charges earlier this year returned to their classrooms Tuesday for the first day of school.

Of the original staff of 76 teachers, 43 were back at Miramonte Elementary School, while the rest retired or went to a new school that opened nearby, said Monica Carazo, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"We're excited everyone's back," Carazo said. "The teachers are eager to be back in the classroom."

The district's surprising removal of the Miramonte teachers, administrators and support staff came after the January arrest of a longtime teacher, Mark Berndt, who is accused of playing sexually oriented games with 23 students in his classroom over five years.

Another teacher, Martin Springer, was arrested in a separate case just weeks later.

Superintendent John Deasy said he removed the staff in order to quell widespread parent concern and to investigate how the alleged conduct had gone unnoticed for so long. At the time, it was unclear if the teachers would be allowed to return to Miramonte.

United Teachers Los Angeles, the union, said the teachers were being treated unfairly and filed grievances against the district on their behalf. After the reported abuse, the teachers were removed from the classroom but were still paid and spent the end of last school year at a nearby unfinished high school.

The results of district's investigation are unclear and have not been released. It does not appear any teachers have been disciplined in connection with the cases, Carazo said.

In the meantime, Miramonte has been restructured and has a new principal.

The new school has absorbed about 500 children from Miramonte, which was severely overcrowded with 1,500 pupils and operated a staggered, year-round schedule. The enrollment reduction cut staffing needs to 45 teachers and put the school on a regular academic calendar.

The other two teaching spots were filled by replacement teachers who stayed on, while the rest of the replacement staff returned to the substitute status, Carazo said.

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