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L.A. Unified school board examines dismissal process; parent notification

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The L.A. Unified Board of Education will look at two resolutions Tuesday related to the district's employee discipline procedures after a recent spate of reported teacher misconduct cases.

The first resolution, authored by board member Tamar Galatzan and co-sponsored by board member Nury Martinez and board president Monica Garcia, calls for changes to the state's Education Code on how it deals with credentialed employee dismissals.

The resolution is very similar to one that was approved by the board in 2009, which also called on legislators to enact changes to the Education Code, but the action was not pursued in Sacramento.

"We're going to try again," said Galatzan about calling on state legislators to change the law. "I think now, in light of everything that's happened, there's a heightened awareness to what's going on and the fact that school districts do need a little help with regard to letting people go who will be involved in activity we don't want in classrooms."

The resolution calls for allowing districts to stop paying employees once they are dismissed by the board and during the appeals process, which can often last for more than a year, Galatzan said. It also addresses the fact that teachers accused of misconduct can resign during the process and keep their full pension and health benefits, Galatzan said.

"Right now there’s basically an incentive for people to drag this out longer and longer because they get paid throughout the process," Galatzan said. She said classified employees, however are paid for a certain period of time, and if ordered to be rehired after the appeals process, are given back pay.

Among other things, the resolution would call for legislators to change the Education Code to allow evidence to be introduced from more than four years prior to the district's filing for a teacher's dismissal. A clause within teachers' contracts requires unproven allegations of misconduct and reprimands that didn't result in discipline be removed from active personnel files after four years.

"Folks don't realize, so much of what we get frustrated with at LAUSD, and to be honest UTLA gets blamed for, isn't their fault, isn't our fault. It's state ed code," Galatzan said. "It's the state legislature micromanaging how school districts run their schools, and that's a really good example."

Superintendent John Deasy has instructed the district's negotiating team to enter into discussions with the teacher's union to change or eliminate the practice.

Marla Eby, a spokeswoman with UTLA, said union officials have not had a chance to review the resolutions, which were posted Wednesday afternoon, and could not comment.

If passed, the superintendent would have to return back in 30 days with a plan of action to pursue such changes as a district priority. Galatzan said that would entail "any and all of the above" — "I've done outreach, I've talked to legislators, I assume my colleagues, some of them might have as well. If we need to go up and testify, whatever we need to do, hopefully if this passes on Tuesday this is going to be a priority for us."

The second resolution, crafted by Nury Martinez and co-sponsored by Galatzan and Garcia, aims to create a procedure for how and when the district notifies parents about misconduct cases; it also aims to create a "centralized and computerized, confidential database" for all complaints.

If passed, it requests the superintendent develop a process within 60 days that would allow the district to take immediate action when a teacher is arrested for alleged misconduct, which may include "summary dismissal" and instant notification to parents.

For Martinez the impetus for the the resolution was seeing how betrayed parents felt when they learned about the incidents at their schools and allegations against their kids teachers from a news story.

"We've broken the trust of our parents, and trying to restore that is going to take a long time," Martinez said. We've got to do the right things, notifying parents when an investigation is taking place, but especially, especially when criminal charges and an arrest have been made."

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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