LAUSD and UTLA: Connecting the Dots

LAUSD UTLA PACTLAUSD UTLA PACT

I spent Monday sitting on the 6th floor of the Office of Administrative Hearings at 320 W. 4th St. in Downtown Los Angeles in Court Room 9 of Administrative Law Judge Vincent Nafarrete in the LAUSD dismissal hearing of a fellow teacher Paulette Jackson. I encourage all of you to do the same.

What follows lays out how generational corruption of LAUSD and UTLA is being used to cover the present $400 million plus budget deficits and other malfeasance on the backs of veteran professional teachers like Ms. Jackson by seeking their unjustifiable dismissal from teaching.

When you get rid of teachers like Ms. Jackson, myself, and the estimated 300 ( and rising) others presently being illegally and unethically attacked by LAUSD with the tacit support of UTLA, you get a twofer:

  • You get rid of more expensive tenured teachers with high seniority, that make more than twice the salary of newly credentialed teachers with no tenure (which makes them employees at will) and little or no seniority;
  • You get rid of honest and professional teachers who question social promotion, no discipline, and countless other misconceived LAUSD policies that have created a glorified daycare system out of what once was an excellent public education system, where the only people now benefiting are those going along with the corruption.

Before the hearing began, Judge Nafarrette said, “I haven’t even reviewed the file,” which Administrative Law Judge Scarlett had only given him at 8:40am that same morning. But as I listened to the testimony, I realized this was only the last step of a seamless system of endemic incompetence that started with the unwarranted harassment and removal from teaching of Ms. Jackson by novice Principal Kendra Wallace of Daniel Webster Middle School with the blind support of LAUSD administration that not only offered no critical analysis of the completely false charges brought against Ms. Jackson, but actually helped in the fabrication of evidence against her.

While proper documents had date stamps on them, documents offered in this proceeding did not and LAUSD’s legal counsel Mampre R. Pomakian, along with Ira Berman from Staff Relations and paralegal Christine Wood were unable to authenticate most of these documents. One of the dead giveaways that they were fabricated was that a student in one memo supposedly between Principal Wallace and Ms. Jackson was referred to as “Carlos G,” which is only a measure used to protect students identity that would be practiced in a court of law and not between a principal and teacher in the normal course of communication at a school.

More importantly, all the charges that Principal Kendra Wallace was lead through by Attorney Pomakian were vague – immoral, unprofessional, dishonest, unfit – when the California Education Code and basic concepts of constitutional due process of law would require greater specificity.

Most blatant to me was the fact that all of the testimony and even the select citations of the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement made me wonder why we were sitting here in the first place, since clearly this matter should have been handled by grievance and possible arbitration under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Why wasn’t this vigorously being advocated on Ms. Jackson’s behalf by UTLA? According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement this should have gone to arbitration before going to the Office of Administrative Hearings, but LAUSD was able to completely leapfrog over Ms. Jackson’s (and my rights along with 300 other LAUSD teachers) by simply alleging a morals violation under California Education Code Section 44939.

I say alleging, because no evidence was offered to support allegations under this statute and it was sufficient for LAUSD to completely bypass Collective Bargaining by merely alleging the violation of this statute. As I assume most of you know, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a preponderance of the evidence in a civil matter and the burden of proof rests with LAUSD in this matter. This fact seems to be lost on the whole Administrative Law Hearing process, whose only purpose seems to be to consume the $30,000 of legal insurance that every teacher has to engage legal help against dismissal.

In reality, if there was a refusal to follow the clearly described procedure laid out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, California Education Code, and LAUSD’s own internal regulation, Ms. Jackson and all of us being harassed and removed from teaching in the same manner, should bring a motion(s) in Superior Court for sanctions against LAUSD and UTLA, adverse findings of facts, and injunctive relief to stop quasi legal proceedings that violate all the aforementioned legal rights that teachers have along with others. It is even possible, given the lack of even minimally sufficient legal basis for these charges, that Superior Court might drop all charges against Ms. Jackson and all of us others.

In the administrative hearing earlier this week:

  • Out of court statements (hearsay) were allowed into evidence without any valid exception being offered.
  • Fabricated documents in the form of bad copies were offered instead of the original documents (Best Evidence Rule) with time stamps.
  • Statements of students would be allowed into evidence without having the students in court or the right to cross-examine. Put this in the context of an habitually truant student who is years behind grade level and has done little or no work being solicited to make false statements by LAUSD administration against teacher for the promise of credit in courses
  • The two retired teachers, who were serving along with the Judge Naferrete as triers of fact, were given large notebooks with all of LAUSD “evidence” to go through before the court determined if the evidence contained in the file was admissible.
  • The judge ruled that prior actions Ms. Jackson had taken in defense of herself in other venues were barred from coming in under the legal doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel, even though these matters are still on appeal.

Where is UTLA in this process? Teachers spend $57 a month to be members of a union with the justifiable expectation that their union will protect them. UTLA refuses to aggregate LAUSD’s well orchestrated assault on teachers- especially those with more tenure and seniority – while UTLA President A.J. Duffy makes plans to go to work for LAUSD when he terms out this year.

leonard isenbergAll that UTLA says is that, “It would violate teachers right to privacy,” if they publicized the teachers who are presently being harassed and terminated. This misbegotten notion of privacy to cover your crimes is exactly the argument LAUSD makes. Privacy belongs to the individual and cannot be asserted by either LAUSD or UTLA against the best interests of these teachers.

If UTLA was not in bed with LAUSD, they would aggregate the exploding number of cases against teachers for dismissal where LAUSD has violated these teachers’ California Ed. Code rights, Collective Bargaining rights, and LAUSD’s own internal polices and bring a consolidated action against LAUSD in federal court, where if LAUSD loses a case based on blatant discrimination, they would be in danger of losing all their federal funding. At the very least, harassed and dismissed teachers should be given the option of whether they would want to be part of such a lawsuit or opt out of it.

Leonard Isenberg

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