Saturday, February 08, 2014



Iris Steveson with President Barrack Obama
<<Crenshaw Music Teacher and Choir Director Iris Stevenson with President Barack Obama

Community members and students hold rally at Crenshaw High School protesting removal of choir teacher who is being investigated by the district.

By Stephen Ceasar, LA Times |

Crenshaw High School

Cecil Thompson, right, and other former students present a musical tribute to their teacher Iris Stevenson in front of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. Stevenson, the school's longtime and well-known choir director, was removed from the classroom in December and has been assigned to L.A. Unified offices pending an investigation of unspecified allegations. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

February 7, 2014, 8:30 p.m.  ::  Parents, students and community members rallied Friday in front of Crenshaw High School against the removal of the school's longtime choir director, who was reassigned while under investigation by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Iris Stevenson, who leads Crenshaw's award-winning choir, was removed from the school in December and is reporting to work at district offices — sometimes referred to as "teacher jails" — that house instructors who are facing allegations of misconduct.

District officials would not comment on the specific allegations, citing privacy laws. The investigation could take "several months to complete because of the complexity of issues involved," the district said in a statement.

Under Stevenson's direction for nearly three decades, the school choir has thrived — competing and winning competitions around the world. Stevenson was reassigned soon after returning from a class trip to France and Washington, D.C., where the choir performed at the White House for President Obama.

A couple dozen community members Friday defended Stevenson as an icon at the school, a strict but loving teacher who demanded the best of her students and showed them a world outside of Los Angeles.

"We want Miss Stevenson, we want her now!" they chanted. A choir made up of former students sang renditions of songs arranged by Stevenson as students made their way into school.

"She is needed here in this community," said Cecil Thompson, a 2007 graduate of the school and former member of the choir. "She taught us that we can be somebody."

Alex Caputo-Pearl, a former teacher at Crenshaw High School, said Stevenson has helped countless students through the years.

"She's an institution," said Caputo-Pearl, who is Stevenson's union representative. "It's an absolute travesty that a teacher like her is caught up in teacher jail and is taken away from her students."

United Teachers Los Angeles, the local teachers union, has vigorously opposed the way in which the district handles teachers who face allegations.

The union contends that teachers are kept in these offices for far longer than necessary and that, in some cases, they are unjustly fired even after an allegation is proved untrue. The union has called on the district to end the practice of keeping teachers in these offices, to inform instructors of allegations against them within 10 days of removal from the classroom and to conduct an independent review of all dismissals by the Los Angeles Board of Education since 2012.

The school district can reassign teachers for a range of allegations including sexual misconduct, failing to follow school rules and policy and financial improprieties.

L.A. Unified officials said Stevenson has been informed of the allegations. The union contends that she has not.

Stevenson could not be reached for comment.

Because of persistently low test scores and graduation rates, Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy last year reorganized the storied Leimert Park campus into three magnet schools — a move that required teachers to reapply for their jobs. Few teachers were rehired.

UTLA President Warren Fletcher said the district has a cavalier attitude toward the removal of teachers and the subsequent destabilization of urban schools.

"This school has already taken a huge hit, a huge destabilization," Fletcher said. "To remove someone who is a pillar of this community … it's a level of disregard that is frightening and would not be tolerated in suburban schools."

Caputo-Pearl, who was not rehired at Crenshaw during the restaffing said the process is a detriment to students.

"The superintendent has taken a method that was supposed to deal with the very few teachers that may be causing really significant problems and turned that method into a broad way of creating a climate of fear among teachers and destabilizing schools," he said.

Keeja Stewart, 16, a junior, said students were stunned and angered by Stevenson's removal. A substitute teacher has been filling in. "It's terrible," she said.

"She was helping me find my voice," Stewart said. "She's more than just a teacher — she's a second mother to me."

Crenshaw High choir director placed on leave by LAUSD following trip


Rob Hayes  ||

Crenshaw High choir director placed on leave


Thursday, February 06, 2014  ||  CRENSHAW DISTRICT, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A Crenshaw High School teacher, who is beloved by students and parents, is currently in hot water after taking students on an unsanctioned field trip.

The district has suspended Iris Stevenson, with pay, as it investigates the incident.

After nearly 30 years of guiding the choir to world-class status, the Los Angeles Unified School District summarily yanked Stevenson from the music department at the end of last year.

"This community is in outrage over it," said civil rights activist Celes King IV.

King is taking up Stevenson's cause because Stevenson won't discuss the circumstances surrounding her reassignment and ongoing LAUSD investigation.

King says Stevenson is being punished because she took the choir to perform in France and on the way back, they sang for President Obama at the White House.

But King says while Stevenson had permission from parents, she didn't get approval from the school district.

"The parents decided that they wanted their children to take this trip. When they returned to Los Angeles, Ms. Stevenson was told that she was persona non grata on the campus of Crenshaw High School and she was to report to teacher jail," said King.

Globetrotting trips are common for the Crenshaw High School Elite Choir who has traveled the world performing and winning several awards. Stevenson rattled off just a few places where the students performed on invitation.

"France, Austria, Belgium, Korea, Spain," said Stevenson. "In every country, we sing in that particular language."

In a press release, the L.A. Unified School District said since this is a personnel matter, the facts of the case must remain confidential and that its investigation could take several months.

Former choir members say the school district needs to put Stevenson back with the choir immediately.

"The removal from her classroom was unwarranted and unjust, but she needs to return to her rightful place," said former Crenshaw High School Elite Choir member Vanity Brown.

Students and community members will be staging a rally to show support for Stevenson outside of Crenshaw High School Friday at 7:30 a.m.

Crenshaw Students Protest Teacher Placed On Leave

City News Service/FOX 11 LA KTTV  |

Posted: Feb 07, 2014 8:11 AM PST Updated: Feb 07, 2014 9:09 AM PST South Los Angeles, CA - Students and parents at Crenshaw High School are holding a protest in support of a choir director, who has been placed on leave.

Crenshaw High School community members will hold a news conference and demonstration demanding that Los Angeles Unified School District officials reinstate Iris Stevenson, director of the Crenshaw High School Elite Choir.

The choir recently performed at the White House as guests of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.

From Reporter Gina Silva:

For nearly 30 years, Iris Stevenson has been the music teacher at Crenshaw High School.

She has taken the school's talented choir all over the world. Students from South LA have travelled to France, Austria, Belgium, Korea, Spain and other locations to perform.  But all the fun has come to an end. LAUSD has pulled Stevenson from the classroom and placed her in teacher jail. She is in trouble because during the Christmas break, she took her students to France to perform. On the way back, they stopped at the capitol and performed at The White House for President Obama.

Parents say, she had the permission from the school principal and from the parents. But apparently, not from the district.  When Stevenson returned to work in December, she was told to report to what is known as teacher jail.  She has been there since December.  District officials won't do an interview on this issue but they did say this is a personnel matter, the facts of the case must remain confidential and the investigation could take several months.

Meanwhile, parents and students today, held a protest outside of Crenshaw High School. They are demanding their beloved teacher be allowed to return to the classroom.

‘Teacher Jail’ Under Fire As Crenshaw High Alum Rally Around Music Teacher

CBS Los Angeles

February 7, 2014 10:24 AM  ::  LOS ANGELES — A practice known as “teacher jail” was under scrutiny Friday as the union representing teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) was expected to testify in an unfair labor practice trial.

The Public Employment Relations Board was set to begin hearing testimony on so-called “teacher jails”, a term used to describe what happens when teachers who can’t be fired under union rules go to sit all day after they’re removed from the classroom.

The practice has come under fire most recently after Crenshaw High School music teacher and choir director Iris Stevenson was prevented from being allowed to teach since December following a trip to perform at the White House for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.

School officials won’t say why Stevenson – who has been a fixture at Crenshaw High since 1985 -  isn’t being allowed to teach, only that the investigation “involves a personnel matter.”

But United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) spokesperson Warren Fletcher told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO it’s time for the school district to change its policies.

“We’re talking about a situation where folks don’t even know what it is they’re accused of, sometimes for months and years, while they sit away from their students and continue to collect a paycheck,” Fletcher said.

Opponents say that teachers assigned to “teacher jail” are confined to a room filled with as many as 130 other teachers and are “arbitrarily placed without due process.”

Alumni rallied Friday morning outside Crenshaw High to support Stevenson, who students say has always been there for her students.

“Without Ms. Stevenson, the opportunities that youth have to get out of our communities and stop seeing the same things would’ve never happened,” said Crenshaw grad Daymon Johnson.

District officials said despite her reassignment, Stevenson remains a full-time LAUSD employee “who is entitled to her regular pay and benefits.”

LAUSD officials also said they were working to restore Stevenson’s name on the Music Building at Crenshaw High after the letters of her name and other building contents were vandalized last summer.


Press Conference to be Held on Iris Stevenson in Teacher Jail

Los Cerritos Newspaper Group/Hews Media Group


Date: February 7, 2014     Time: 7:30 AM




LAUSD, remanded, to Teacher Jail, Iris Stevenson, who is internationally known as an exceptional Teacher and Choir Director at Crenshaw High School. Historically, at no expense to LAUSD, it has sanctioned trips domestically and abroad for the Choir which has always been funded by donations and nonprofit organizations.

In this case LAUSD denied sanction for the Choir to represent the United States of America as goodwill Ambassadors to France and further upon return to the United States to perform at the Whitehouse for President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Many parents chose to sign waivers allowing their children to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity. Upon return Music Department Chair and Choir Director was informed she was persona non grata on the campus of Crenshaw High School and remanded during school hours to Teacher Jail without cause to LAUSD headquarters 333 South Beaudry Ave. Another chapter in the flagrant abuse of teacher and parent rights THIS MUST STOP!

Parents, Students, Teachers and Clergy in attendance


2cents small A bunch of angry parents, alumni and community members can be wrong!

A case in point from last year at another high school: A baseball coach from a successful program took some players on an unauthorized field trip to a baseball game at Dodger Stadium. He drove them in his car. No trip slips, no insurance. No notice to the principal. He was sent to teacher jail or suspended, the machinery to fire him clanked into action and boosters and parents and team members past and present sprung to his defense. There were meetings and outrage and Op-Eds.  The due process dragged on just like Dr. Deasy complains it does and eventually the coach was gone. Of course the allegations that he allowed pot smoking on the trip complicated the matter!

The District has a right to be upset if Ms. Stevenson took her choir on a trip to France and the White House without their knowledge. Airplanes are admittedly safer than cars and obviously everybody's parents and the principal gave permission and knew what was going on and where everyone was.

  • Did the intermediate bureaucracy at the local district (ESC) level know? 
  • Did the Arts and Music Branch know? 

That it takes months and months to determine who erred and what the error was is preposterous. If it is true that Ms. Stevenson hasn’t been informed of the allegations against her that is preposterous squared. 

LAUSD for all its attempts at transparency relies an awful lot on the so-called The Cone of Silence: “We can’t discuss this on the advice of counsel – and you shouldn’t speak either!”  It’s a tool that can be used to protect the guilty as well as the innocent. If sunshine is the great disinfectant, whitewash is the great – uh -  whitewash.  “Housing” aka Teacher Jail I have been told is never used to shame or punish individuals but to only protect students or to expedite investigations.  I doubt if Ms Stevenson poses a much of danger of  re-offending and spiriting the Crenshaw choir to foreign lands or The Oval Office. Expedite this.

And this is all complicated by the superintendent's apparent (if not obvious) focus on (if not animus for) on Crenshaw – where the high school is the center of the community. The Crenshaw community is proud of CHS’s success in Sports and Music.  And until LAUSD colossally fumbled Crenshaw’s accreditation application back in 2005-6  those successes seemed success enough for the educrats downtown. 

Crenshaw is not a failure. Crenshaw is not a spreadsheet of disaggregated significant subgroups or a a cluster of data points in search of a turnaround. It is a vibrant community of unique individuals with a proud history. It’s a school that works, albeit not to the superintendents' satisfaction. Dr. Deasy is right that parents don’t have the right to choose to send their skids to crummy schools …but since the accreditation fiasco the school has been “transformed” repeatedly and “reconstituted”  twice. Dr. D.  has made little effort to convince anyone that he isn’t punishing or shaming  Crenshaw for the school+community’s  failure to meet his standards – whether in test taking or sending the paperwork downtown.

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