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LAUSD Closes Ranks with Principals

Leonard Isenberg: When I first started teaching back in the late 1980s, somebody told me that principals were Gods and I was foolish enough to believe that they did not mean this literally.

When I first started teaching back in the late 1980s, somebody told me that principals were Gods and I was foolish enough to believe that they did not mean this literally.


ThursdayI spent another day in the surrealistic world of the Office of Administrative Hearings at 320 W. 4th St. in Downtown Los Angeles in "courtroom" number 9 on the 6th floor, where I got another object lesson in just how unquestioningly LAUSD administration will support its principals no matter what they do. What I saw again was an expensive process where LAUSD Attorney Mampre R. Pomakian, Staff Relations or Human Resources Ira Berman (he can't seem to make up his mind) and an expensive cast of judge, commissioners, court reporter, paralegal, and a stellar supporting cast spent their time trying to prove that when it comes to teachers:

If it doesn't fit, you must convict.

When I first sat down, before the administrative law judge arrived and put the hearing on the record, I heard the two retired teachers, who were functioning as commissioners and triers of fact in this hearing to decide the future of veteran teacher Paulette Jackson say, "Have you been keeping track of what the judge has admitted into evidence and what he has excluded? To which the other teacher/commissioner said, "No."

In a real court every effort is made to shield the trier of fact from evidence whose probative value is far outweighed by its prejudicial impact on the respondent/defendant's right to a fair and impartial hearing. In this venue, where for all intents and purposes Ms. Jackson appeared to be guilty until proven guilty, these retired teachers were given books containing all the potential exhibits/evidence on the first day with no attempt made to shield them from inflammatory, irrelevant, or fabricated evidence that was in the massive binder from day on. This was long before there had been any adjudication as to its admissibility.Teacher Paulette Jackson's constitutional rights to a fair and impartial hearing by insuring due process of law was completely compromised from jump street.

As the day proceeded, although the picture of dedicated special education teacher Paulette Jackson, who had a SESAC full case load of the most problematic students, taught three different levels of English, three interventions, and often came back to work and stayed until 10pm in order to finish more and more work that Principal Wallace continued to pile on and to assure the success of her students,

Attorney Palmakian, with the prodding of Ira Berman, missed no opportunity to try and paint Ms. Jackson as incompetent in order to vindicate the obvious harassment campaign of Principal Kendra Wallace whose motives and actions like all other principal I have seen in similar proceedings is never questioned.

The fundamental assumption running through all of the District's case against Ms. Jackson is that LAUSD is the optimum school environment and it is only teachers like Ms. Jackson that keep it from working. To establish this canard, Attorney Palmakian have no problem in manipulating evidence to try and trip up Ms. Jackson.

What I found amazing was that Ms. Jackson was able to remember detailed information from incomplete or doctored documents to show that they were not what they appeared to be. In addition, Since Attorney Palmakian had no real case against Ms. Jackson in a matter that by all rights should have been conducted under the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement, he confined himself to a series of bizarre gotcha questions that border on the irrational or at the very least downright dishonest:

  • Palmakian asserted that teachers had an 8 hour work day, when any teacher can tell you that we are only paid for 6.
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  • Falsified sign-in sheets were presented, where Ms. Jackson initials had clearly been added after the fact.
  • The illegal teacher evaluation (Stull) by another teacher Ms. Barton made by the direction of Principal Kendra Wallace was presented as if it was not a complete violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It is worth noting that the playing off of one teacher against the other by the coercion of one teacher to act against another ended a long friendship between these two teachers.
  • A math problem that was incorrectly written by one of Ms. Jackson's students was attributed to her in a pathetic attempt to paint Ms. Jackson as incompetent to teach math, irrespective of the fact that she had earlier received commendation for teaching math out of her credentialed area of English.
  • Allegation that Ms. Jackson had shredded a disciplinary memo that Principal Kendra Wallace continued to send again and again in an open campaign of harassment that went unabated, even though it was clear that Ms. Jackson had no part in this action.

In general, you would have had to be deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid to not see that none of the issues Palmakian was presenting on behalf of the District came anywhere near a justification for terminating the career of a professional teacher like Ms. Jackson or serve as justification to a priori deprive her of salary and medical benefits for the last 11 months without any real justification. Clearly these proceedings are designed to harass and intimidate with the hope that Ms. Jackson will roll over like many teachers have done and either quit or go into early retirement with diminished salary, retirement, or benefits that they are entitled to

This brings out the real purpose of these proceedings, which is to get rid of high seniority teachers to balance the LAUSD budget. LAUSD administrators have a clear motivation to go after high seniority teachers like Ms. Jackson and the estimated 4500 others that the Office of Administrative Hearings is gearing up to give their 15 minutes before terminating them. If the $400 million plus budget deficit cannot be filled with their salaries, higher retirement, and benefits gained by dumping these teachers, then I think it has been made clear to some administrators that they will lose their jobs.

In the meantime, whose actually running the District? Whose addressing the massive problems that have now gone on for generations, not only unabated, but constantly getting worse. While teachers are harassed and dismissed, LAUSD administration faces no consequences of any kind for their malfeasance and outright corruption? It remains business as usual at LAUSD for expensive administrators, lawyers, and business folks to feather their own nests and busy themselves with attacking the professional teacher work force necessary to reconstitute a finally functioning public education system in Los Angeles.

leonard isenberg

And where is UTLA while all this is going on?

Leonard Isenberg