Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Around Town: It's time for the board to step up

Now that the election is over, it’s time to resolve the Leko issue.

On June 15, outgoing school board member Cindy Wilcox filed a complaint against La Cañada High School math teacher Gabrielle Leko for an alleged ethnic slur in front of an entire class. As of this writing, the complaint is unresolved.

The school board, administrators and teacher’s union have indirectly responded to my last column on this subject (“Around Town: Why the four-month delay?” Oct. 19). They argue that the collective bargaining agreement and other bureaucratic procedures mandate a process that now has taken nearly five months.

This reliance on the collective bargaining agreement, as if it were engraved in stone, is wrong. It is wrong because the collective bargaining agreement contains maximum, not minimum, time limits; wrong because the collective bargaining agreement expressly calls for complaints to be resolved “as quickly as possible;” and wrong because a collective bargaining agreement is nothing more than a contract between the district and the union.

No more delays. If Leko is innocent, she deserves a quick exoneration. And if, in fact, Leko did call a 9th-grade kid “Jew boy,” then shame on the school board for this lackadaisical approach to a serious community issue.

Either way, Leko is not the problem. The school board is the problem.

The school board is a problem because its inaction speaks volumes. The school board sets the tone. Board members are the co-captains of the ship.

Their delays teach the LCHS students that the accusation is not serious.

The school board is the problem because last week, two new witnesses came forward. Both are moms. Both are well-educated. Both are respected members of the community. Debra Archuleta reported to the La Cañada Patch that she complained earlier in the year about Leko calling a student “Jew boy.” Hillary Werhane reported that she complained in 2009 when Leko called students an expletive by spelling out the letters.

Both said that school administrators did not respond to their complaints.

Meanwhile, the school board and union continue to defer to a broken process.

Clearly, it is time for the school board to renegotiate the complaint provisions of the taxpayers' contract with the teacher’s union.

The election is over, but the problems remain. It is time for the school board to take a leadership role and to solve this problem.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at

No comments: