December 19, 2014 12:39 pm :: LA Unified sustained another legal blow this week in a “whistleblower” case that’ll cost the district millions.
After nearly a month-long trial, a Los Angeles jury awarded retired Air Force Officer and Junior ROTC instructor, Archie Roundtree, $3.3 million, finding that the district had revoked his teaching certification in an act of retaliation.
This latest setback comes a month after the district announced a $139 million settlement in civil cases stemming from the actions of a former teacher at Miramonte Elementary School.
Shortly after reporting a series of violations in the operation of the JROTC program at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, Chief Academic Officer Gerardo Loera began complaining to the Air Force about the veteran instructor. The Air Force subsequently revoked Roundtree’s 15-year certification to teach JROTC cadets.
According Renuka V. Jain, a lawyer who represented Roundtree, “The jury awarded Roundtree $1,810,840 on the whistleblower claim, $1 million in defamation damages against Loera, and $500,000 against Assistant Vice-Principal Adriana Maldonado-Gomez. The jury also concluded that Loera had acted with malice, oppression or fraud.”
“The settlement is good but he will never be able to get his certification back,” Jain told LA School Report. “There is no appeal, there is no review. The only people who can get it back is Air Force and they’re not going to do that,” she said.
The district said in an email response it is “very disheartened” by the verdict.
“It is never the intention of the District or its administrators to engage in defamation or retaliation against any employee for any reason,” the district said. “While the jury found in favor of Major Roundtree, the District believes and maintains that each of the administrators’ actions were taken with the students’ interests at heart and were not done in retaliation against Major Roundtree.”
The district is currently reviewing the record and considering its options with respect to any challenges to the verdict.
- “Shortly after reporting a series of violations in the operation of the JROTC program at John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley….”: Because this is a whistle blower suit I presume that Major Roundtree made the allegations - though to whom and what the allegations were are totally unclear. Did he complain to LAUSD? To the Dept of the Air Force? …and what exactly were the allegations? …and even more critically: What is the timeline?
- “….Chief Academic Officer Gerardo Loera began complaining to the Air Force about the veteran instructor”. Again, the timeline. Loera was named Chief Academic Officer on December 1, less than a month ago. The trial was “nearly a month long” so one must suppose that Loera’s action took place previous to him holding that job.
- Loera’s previous job was Executive Director, Office of Curriculum, Instruction and School Support - where he was often called upon to be the administration’s thankless+unthanked mouthpiece re: the CCTP (iPads) and MiSiS.
- Before that he was Jaime Aquino’s deputy when Aquino was Deputy Supe for Curriculum and Instruction.
- And before that Leora was Principal of John H. Frances Polytechnic High School – a/k/a Poly High. (I had a girlfriend who went to Poly – that’s a very complicated story!)
- And as for “Assistant Vice-Principal Adriana Maldonado-Gomez” …that is a new job title to me. We now have Assistant Principals – and back in my misspent youth there were Vice Principals …but….. Ms Maldonado-Gomez is currently on the faculty of Grant High School as an Assistant Principal