Thursday, June 18, 2015

Open Letter to LAUSD Leaders
By:  Karen Wolfe

Dear LAUSD Leaders,

The draconian removal of classroom teachers after complaints of almost any nature has turned California's largest school district into the Gulag. The case of Mr. Rafe Esquith--nationally recognized educator, three-time author, and respected teacher of so many students--is an egregious example. According to published reports, after complaints about teaching passages from Huckleberry Finn, he was removed from his classroom in March. The LA Times reported that he has been cleared by the state of California but not by LAUSD.

There is no good reason to treat complaints about curriculum or field trip slips with the same alarm as accusations regarding child endangerment. The upheaval for students and schools is too costly, as is the impact on the employee and other teachers who fear they are next. This is not conducive to educators doing their best work. My heart aches for the 5th graders who celebrated their matriculation to middle school without their beloved teacher who helped them achieve that milestone.

As a parent leader in LAUSD, I appreciate the district's diligent acceptance of its primary responsibility for the safety of the children in its care. At the same time, I am beginning to understand the unusual limitations with UTLA's legal support. But enough is enough. This is the ultimate in those "adult conflicts" that leaders grandstand about stopping. These political disappearances of teachers make LAUSD look like a banana republic. Unfortunately, it is the students who are hurt the most. I implore you to use urgency to fix this policy once and for all.

Karen Wolfe


  1. Unfortunately, the Board of Education and the Superintendent (no matter who he is) seem to be the center of LAUSD, instead of the schools and the students and teachers. When a teacher like Rafe Esquith or Iris Stevenson becomes to well know, then.....Election season is over—LAUSD board members can return to doing what they want.

  2. For the record, LAUSD does not "look like" a banana republic. It is a banana republic only bigger. And for each of these (extremely few) teachers who make the news, LAUSD is destroying the careers of hundreds just like them who are also innocent of any wrong doing (and are also cleared by the state of California) but did not happen to write a book or win any national awards. All they did was their jobs, often for decades, but not quite long enough to retire and/or qualify for retirement health benefits. Money is the district's sole motivation. Not children. Not education. Money. LAUSD is on a mission to eliminate as many senior teachers as possible "by any means necessary" to cut expenses related to teachers at the top of the salary scale while simultaneously freeing itself of it's obligation to fund retirement health benefits, win-win as far as LAUSD is concerned. If it has to return one or two along the way because they happen to find their way into the papers, then so be it. When you cast a trawl net as long and wide as LAUSD's, a few fish will inevitably escape. Too bad for the thousands of others whose careers and reputations have been permanently stained if not obliterated. That is the real tragedy. It is not the one. It is the many. "Gulag" is right. If LAUSD is anything, it is the Soviet Union of public education.

    1. This is how a "business" is run. That's exactly what the "ed reformers" like Gates and Broad and the Waltons want. The plan is going forward as anticipated. When will YOU stand up against it?

  3. Handling public schools, educators, and students in this manner reeks of fear.

  4. From personal experience, I can tell you that this kind of "personnel management" is counter-productive. Even devastatingly destructive. There are teachers who go to work every day in fear of not just their jobs or their livelihood, but their souls and their sanity. TEACHERS WHO HAVE TO WORK UNDER THESE KINDS OF CONDITIONS CAN'T TEACH AT THEIR BEST AND THEIR STUDENTS CAN'T LEARN TO THEIR ABILITY. The entire governing structure of a school district MUST emphasize the positive. That doesn't mean that everyone is told they are perfect, but it means that professional growth is recognized and encouraged, not beaten into the ground and spit on. Get rid of abusive administrators. Stop looking a the financial "bottom line." Your "bottom line" is the kids' education, not $$$$.

  5. It's not just LAUSD. It's everywhere! In one district in Southern California, the President's of the Teacher's Union (a job done while still teaching in the classroom) disappear a few years after they finish their term as President. 80% of the last 10 years of Presidents have disappeared in the last 5-years under the newest Superintendent who is hell bent on controlling everything and promoting her "brand". Teacher's are terrified of being her next victim of abuse. It's a disgusting culture that the small club of superintendents created and continue to promote without consequence.


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