Miramonte Elementary School teachers speak about their removal from their classrooms after two teachers were arrested on charges of misconduct with students. (May 2, 2012)
As the crowd dissipated today after an emotional march and press conference, one Miramonte Elementary School teacher stood along 60th Street in South L.A. and spoke nervously about what it was like to not only be removed from the classroom but to receive a preliminary pink slip during that time.
The teacher, who instructed a fifth grade intervention class, has taught at L.A. Unified for eight years. The last time she was in the classroom with her students was in December, when the track went off for their break. When the students returned in February, they found an entirely new staff.
"It hurts, it's awful," she said. "...What hurts the most [is] this special class of students needed consistency, routine, someone they can trust. They took that away from them and that's the hardest part."
Along with more than a 100 other staff members from Miramonte Elementary, she now spends her days at Augustus F. Hawkins High School. And she said district officials told her not to answer students' calls and to avoid talking to their parents during the course of the investigation into the staff members.
When she first arrived at Hawkins High, she said there had been a gate along the front of the still-under-construction school and parents showed up to support the teachers.
She remembers holding hands with them through the holes in the fence.
On Thursday, dressed in a blue Miramonte student t-shirt, she saw parents she had not seen in months and she had to tell one she might not be returning next year.
The parent started to cry after learning that the teacher might not be able to return to the school. As the teacher related the story, her voice grew heavy with emotion.
In March, the fifth grade teacher received a preliminary pink slip notice. Statewide districts are required by law to notify teachers that they might be laid off by March 15; LAUSD sent out roughly 9,500 preliminary pink slips to teachers and health and human services professionals this year to help offset a $390 million shortfall.
"It's scarier again," the teacher said. "I've been riffed on top of all this. It's just very uncertain and uncertainty is hard. It's stressful."
She is even more concerned because union officials have said only a little more than half of the staff will be able to return to a smaller Miramonte Elementary School in the fall because of a separate district effort to eliminate year-round schools in conjunction with a new building program.
"I spent eight years at Miramonte. I started there. It's the only school I've ever taught at," she said. "That's why I'm so worried. For my resume, that's my only school. 'Oh you're from Miramonte? Good luck.' That's how I feel."
The teacher said the hardest part of the last few months has been feeling like they were forgotten. Teachers would visit the LAUSD website and find updates that indicated all was back to normal at Miramonte.
She received her "cleared" letter from the district earlier this week. She said it tells her that she is "cleared of any wrongdoing" and to "be assured that your time at Augustus Hawkins won't reflect negatively with LAUSD."
"But if you're a principal at another school..." she trailed off.
The teacher now faces another seven weeks of whiling away time at Augustus F. Hawkins High before the school year ends. Because she just had a baby boy and was on maternity leave she cannot take any sick days but is having a hard time bearing the thought of spending nearly another two months not teaching. She looked back at the officially unopened high school building Thursday with dread.
"If they said I could go back Monday, I'm there. I'll co-teach, yeah, in a heartbeat," she said with a broad smile.
"I want to get our story out there, and I'm glad we finally did," she said. "We don't want to be here...we want to go back."
Correction: The name of the high school was reported as Augusta Hawkins High School. It should be Augustus F. Hawkins High School.