L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy told parents Monday night that the district will replace the entire 130-person staff at Miramonte Elementary School in South Los Angeles in the next two days. The move comes in response to the arrests of two teachers last week on lewd conduct charges last week.
The district has never relocated an entire staff before. The changes will affect everyone from the principal to secretaries to teachers to custodians, Deasy said. The staff will be moved to another school without student contact. Those who are not being investigated will continue to be paid, Deasy said.
Here is a roundup of the major changes:
- When students return Thursday after two pupil-free days, each classroom will be taught by a two-person team, including an instructor and counselor who will provide support.
- Families will have the choice to continue at Miramonte Elementary or to send their kids to one of four other local schools.
- Counseling services will be provided to every child who is or has attended the school and their families who request it.
- The entire staff will be relocated and the district will conduct a "comprehensive review" of what happened. It will also provide support services. ("We have a crime for someone arrested at this point, therefore the failure to report is also a crime," Deasy said. He said officials are looking into how it was possible for someone not to know what was occurring at the school.)
- Every current Miramonte student and staff member, and every former student and staff member will be interviewed.
- An Independent Commission led by retired California Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Moreno will be reviewing the events at the elementary school and providing a review of the processes and providing recommendations to the district as a result of the cases.
Parents packed into a room at South Region High School 2 Monday night. Some were unable to get in. Media was not allowed into the meeting, though a press conference was held there afterward.
"Parents were so angry and so disrespected that they learned of this information for the first time from the media and not the district," Deasy said. "And I was not going to disrespect them a second time."
However, parents told reporters they wanted them in the meeting. Crowds spoke to media afterward, informing them of what happened during the one and a half hour meeting. Some were upset because they didn't get to ask questions, though district officials said parents clapped and cheered the changes the school was making.
"Baloney," said Arianna Perez, 30, about the district's changes. She has two boys at Miramonte Elementary. "They're just going to change out everybody, but you know, we were trying to ask questions and they gave us these forms. They took maybe five or six questions. They're just promising, promising – but who knows what they're going to do. They did a criminal background check, but did they do a psychological background check [on the teachers]?"
Deasy said he met with the school's staff Monday afternoon to tell them about the decision and he said union representatives were invited, though not all came. "Some people are hurt. Some people are worried," said Deasy of the teachers. LAUSD staffers have been working on this plan since Friday and through the weekend, Deasy said.
Teachers who are hired or brought in to replace staff at Miramonte Elementary will have to go through a rigorous screening process process that includes the regular fingerprinting and criminal background checks that are typical of new hires. The process will also include a review of incoming teachers' personnel file, district officials said.
Often this file is not transferred from one school to another when a teacher is moved. Deasy said he will be reviewing the process through which a teacher is transferred from one school to another in the district.
A phone message went out Monday night to every parent and employee at Miramonte Elementary School informing them of the changes that will take place over the next two days. A letter was also emailed to every LAUSD employee informing them of the plan.
From Deasy's letter to LAUSD employees:
"We are taking a proactive approach to ensure the safety of our Miramonte students, and ultimately, the students throughout LAUSD. I am not going to wait for any other surprises at Miramonte.
Some might see this as an extreme measure but this is an extreme circumstance. I need to take action within the scope of what I can control. This is it. This is going to be a lesson for all of us. Our children are our number one priority. We must ensure their safety. Again, if you have a suspicion, report it."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has set up a hotline for anyone to report information regarding Miramonte Elementary. People can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866-247-5877.