By Thomas Himes, Los Angeles Daily News | http://bit.ly/1BuwCnm
Posted: 09/10/14, 9:39 PM PDT :: A judge will decide whether the Los Angeles Unified School District created a scheme to silence teachers and union opposition at Crenshaw High in judicial proceedings that started Wednesday.
One dozen teachers claim Superintendent John Deasy led the retaliatory effort that sent them looking for jobs at other LAUSD campuses, because they spoke out against his plans to split the South Los Angeles school into three magnet programs in 2012.
“As the evidence will reveal, his comments will clearly demonstrate his motivation to get rid of union supporters who challenged him,” United Teachers Los Angeles attorney Dana Martinez said in opening arguments.
Among the teachers who lost their positions after reapplying to stay at Crenshaw’s magnets is United Teachers Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl, who was the first to testify Wednesday.
“I applied to stay at Crenshaw, because I live down the street from the school and own a house there and have for many years,” Caputo-Pearl testified. “I am a part of the community and devoted a lot of time, and effort, and wrote a lot of programs into the school.”
Some of those programs aimed at improving the poor performing school were funded by grants that paid Caputo-Pearl stipends on top of his salary.
LAUSD attorney Aram Kouyoumdjian questioned whether the teachers were protecting those “lush” stipends in his cross-examination of Caputo-Pearl. During opening arguments, Kouyoumdjian said the campus was transformed into a magnet because of its poor performance.
“The notion that was used as a reason to make staffing changes that somehow retaliated against an individual is a very cynical view, because the alternate view is the district should have let Crenshaw remain a failing school,” Kouyoumdjian said.
Nearly every employee from cafeteria workers to teachers were forced to reapply for their positions. Not a single teacher lost a job in LAUSD, Kouyoumdjian said. The teachers who weren’t allowed to return to Crenshaw, he said, were transferred to other campuses.
But Caputo-Pearl said before Wednesday’s hearing that Deasy resented efforts he was leading to restructure curriculum. Those techniques, he said, were proving effective when the program was stopped by the superintendent and his decision to make the school into magnets.
“That’s what’s tragic about it,” Caputo-Pearl said. “Good teachers who were committed to the community, who were committed to the school, were lost.”
If UTLA wins, it wants California’s Public Employment Review Board to make LAUSD send out electronic notices to all members, pay wages teachers allegedly lost and let displaced educators return to Crenshaw High.
The hearing continues today with more testimony from Caputo-Pearl.