Innocent Miramonte Elementary School teachers who were hastily and improperly reassigned to other schools following criminal charges against one teacher shared their story. Front row: Joyce Berwanger, Tom Louie, Christine Chipres, Maria Peaza. Second row: Tom Vaughn, Andrea Shaffer, Rosalinda Aguilar, Blanca Gonzalez. Third row: Ingrid Villeda, UTLA/NEA Secretary David Lyell, UTLA Elementary Vice President Juan Ramirez, MJ Roberts, Maria Miranda, William Turner, Martha Gemme, CTA Board member David Goldberg, Luiz Lopez.
Miramonte Elementary School staff addressed State Council in March, describing their treatment amid allegations of abuse by a single individual. Since then, CTA President Dean Vogel and dozens of local chapter presidents wrote letters to LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy expressing their disapproval. They urged him to follow district policies and state law in dealing with abuse allegations and student safety, and to treat teachers with respect.
The following are excerpts from the teachers’ statement, which was read by Maria Miranda.
We are the teachers from Miramonte Elementary School. … We take our job as mandated reporters very seriously, and the safety of our students has always been our top priority. We feel that our students have endured a traumatic experience due to the alleged incidents and to the removal of the entire staff at their school.
Children were wronged, and teachers have been wronged as well. …
We are under attack, vilified by both politicians and the media. This has become evident from the unfair treatment we have received from the Los Angeles Unified School District. We have been pulled from our classroom and students. Our futures have been put on hold.
We were removed from a nurturing educational environment and relocated to an unfinished high school without students. District personnel have told us they are making up the plan as they go along. While we have not been accused of a crime, we are being treated as though we are suspects or have already been found guilty of conspiracy. We have been told we cannot be around students or parents from our school community or any other school community within LAUSD.
On the evening of Feb. 6, we were informed by our superintendent, Dr. John Deasy, that we were to pack our personal belongings and vacate the campus. We were given two days to pack up our lives as educators. With each box we packed, we sealed our hopes and dreams of plans we had for our students. We packed our expertise and our chosen purpose in life.
We had one hour during the two-day packing process for a “seamless transition” to impart all of our knowledge of our students and educational plans to our replacement teachers.
Now Miramonte is being used as a model to create educational policies that negatively impact student achievement and the teaching profession throughout the state of California. We fear that this trend will spread. … This is exemplified by pending California legislation to remove teachers based on allegations prior to an investigation and without due process.
By attacking our earned pensions and reviewing our personnel files, our district is intimidating and creating a culture of fear in an attempt to paralyze and silence our union. These arbitrary actions are directly affecting the union rights and civil rights of teachers. … This puts the careers of all teachers in jeopardy and makes the future of public education uncertain.
We are here today to urge you to voice your disapproval before these practices become the norm.