Miramonte Reopens, Previous Staff On Paid Leave
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Some other news. Let's go to Los Angeles, where Miramonte Elementary is open again, with an entirely new staff. The school had previously shut down after two people who taught there were charged with sex abuse and lewd acts with students. Changing the whole staff was a dramatic response, prompting even some parents to wonder if it was too drastic. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates reports.
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KAREN GRIGSBY BATES, BYLINE: On Thursday morning, many parents hustled their children onto school grounds, where there seemed to be almost as many media as students.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: They say having new teachers at their school makes it feel like a whole new Miramonte. And a lot of these kids...
BATES: While many kids lined up at Miramonte's gates to be welcomed back by a staff that didn't know them, others remained on the lawn. They carried signs saying we love our teachers and don't condemn all for the acts of a few. District spokesperson Tom Waldman says he believes parents who are keeping children out of school to protest the teacher reassignment will only do so for a short time.
TOM WALDMAN: The district's OK, but we think in the days and weeks to come, parents will realize their kids need to be in school and that the new faculty is an experience LAUSD faculty that will do its best and do well educating these kids.
BATES: The protests have been going on all week. On Wednesday evening, a small group of Miramonte mothers and children gathered in front of the school to urge Superintendent John Deasy to return the ousted teachers. Guadalupe Garcia nodded for her eight-year-old third grader, Roberto Alvarez, to translate how she felt about the replacement faculty.
GUADALUPE GARCIA: (Through translator) We don't know them. We don't have trust for what they are. We don't know if they're nice or mean.
BATES: Mrs. Garcia says she was pleased with Roberto's former teacher and worries that the entire character of Miramonte will change, even if the new teachers are good ones.
ROBERTO ALVAREZ: We are sad because without our teachers, nothing is going to be the same.
BATES: Margarita Asefas(ph) says that's a good thing. Her sixth-grader Melanie will be returning, and Mrs. Asefas applauded superintendent Deasy's decision to clean house top to bottom.
MARGARITA ASEFAS: I'm pretty sure that it was a very good decision, what the superintendent had done, and it's going to be a better outcome for everybody.
BATES: The teachers removed from Miramonte were scheduled to transfer on Thursday to an empty, newly constructed school. While there on paid administrative leave, they were to prepare lesson plans to give to their replacements, be interviewed as part of the ongoing investigation, and receive counseling themselves.
But instead, the 85 teachers went downtown to their union headquarters to file a grievance against the school system for having removed them. At a press conference in front of the school on Thursday morning, union president Warren Fletcher said Miramonte's scandal claimed many victims.
WARREN FLETCHER: The teachers and the parents and the students of this community feel betrayed.
BATES: Union Vice President Juan Ramirez says parents are indeed upset by the scandal here, but many are also upset by the school district's decision to remove all of Miramonte's teachers without consulting them. The continued protests, he says, may not return removed teachers any sooner, but they do serve a purpose: They give parents in this struggling neighborhood the right to demand accountability from the system just like their better off counterparts across town.
JUAN RAMIREZ: It's good that they're doing this because the district needs to realize that, you know, even if we're a low-income neighborhood, they should be respectful.
BATES: Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR News.
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