Saturday, November 5, 2011

Around Town: Why the four-month delay?

LCUSD school board member Cindy Wilcox has called for the firing of La Cañada High School teacher Gabrielle Leko for allegedly calling a ninth-grade student “Jew boy.”

Wilcox, in her individual capacity, filed a formal complaint with the school district on June 15, more than four months ago.

Last week, Wilcox publicly called for action on the complaint.

Reporter Megan O’Neil wrote a story about this that appeared on the Valley Sun website, on Oct. 13 and in the Sunday Valley Sun three days later.

There has been no public response by the teacher. There is, however, a response from Mandy Redfern, president of the La Cañada Teachers Assn., that questioned Wilcox’s decision. “The association believes that such allegations should be made using the clear and fair procedures outlined in the collective bargaining agreement rather than through media outlets,” Redfern said in a prepared statement.

Redfern's response is troublesome. If the allegations are true, why is this process taking so long? Conversely, if Leko is innocent, why is this process taking so long?

The collective bargaining agreement provides for swift resolution of complaints such as this: “It is the intent of this article to resolve the complaint as quickly as possible at both the informal and formal levels.”

Nothing in the collective bargaining agreement requires that such serious complaints against a teacher take more than four months to resolve.

This long delay is unfair to the accused teacher and unfair to the students.

The collective bargaining agreement invoked by Redfern takes a “maximum” of 48 “working days.”

Wilcox says that the complaint process is on hiatus during the summer, even though the superintendent works year round.

If that is the intent of the collective bargaining agreement, then the LCUSD school board needs to renegotiate those terms.

Wilcox, who filed the complaint as a member of the public and not in her role as a school board member, says that Leko made an anti-Semitic remark to a ninth-grade student, anti-Armenian remarks to Armenian students, and inappropriate remarks to female students.

Maybe the allegations are true. Maybe they are false. Either way, a four-month delay is a shameful.

Given the seriousness of these allegations, why wasn't this matter addressed over the summer, in keeping with the express language of the collective bargaining agreement to speedily resolve such complaints?

If the allegations are untrue, Ms. Leko may publicly deny them, right here in the Valley Sun. If she is innocent, let's clear her name.

But if the allegations are true, if Leko called a ninth-grader a “Jew boy,” then she should be removed from the classroom.

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