By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Ullman, a former teachers-union rep, acknowledges having had run-ins with the principal, but he asserts that the probe is warranted.
A former Manual Arts assistant principal attributes such discrepancies to a simple mistake in the paperwork. “I can tell you that no kid graduated without meeting requirements,” said Deborah Wiltz, now an administrator at Northridge Middle School.
The allegations against former assistant principal Anton also involve transcript tampering, but the alleged alteration was a family affair, involving one of her sons. Two teachers said they gave the son low marks, only to discover later that his grade had been raised in official records.
At the time, apparently during the 1997-98 school year, there was some question about whether the grades of Anton‘s son would make him ineligible to play football. Head football coach Glenn Bell would not discuss the specifics, saying only that Anton was “like most parents” in wanting her son to do well.
District officials acknowledged this week that there were some irregularities at Manual Arts involving grades, but they declined to specify which administrators or students were involved. Anton would have had access to her son’s records, said a district spokeswoman, but so too would a handful of other staff members.
Anton denies that she ever altered her son‘s grades or anyone else’s. Anton also took issue with the notion that she‘d been demoted. She insisted that she voluntarily accepted a teaching job in East L.A. after it became clear that Greer was leaving Manual Arts.
Anton attributes the school’s problems to disgruntled teachers. “Mr. Greer was involved in some disciplinary action against teachers, and they were very vindictive.” In essence, she said, Greer was suffering for his virtues. “When I went to Manual Arts, I was absolutely thrilled at his attitude. I was impressed by his high energy level and his commitment to students, his expectations. He was personally involved with all of the students. He was easily accessible to all the students, and the parents.”
As for the teachers, “He was asking for them to teach. He was asking for accountability. He said, ‘I want to see lesson plans. I want to walk into a classroom and see exciting things.’”
Some teachers supported the former principal. “My impression was that Greer did a great job,” said health teacher Peter Senick. “There were computers all over the place. Buildings were being repainted; grass was being put in. This school was cleaner than any other school I‘ve been in. I used to work at schools where kids were throwing food around. This school seemed to be very well-organized.”
Critics offer a starkly different take, saying that the surface calm masked a troubled campus where everyone was not treated according to established district procedures.
Male athletes, in particular, could count on special privileges. For one thing, a staff member allegedly changed birth dates in student records so athletes would have additional years of eligibility to play sports -- this according to a Manual Arts employee with access to student transcripts. Another staff member, a coach, told reporters that his male athletes were allowed to earn “extra credit” to qualify for playing sports when their low grades would otherwise have made them ineligible.
Those associated with the girls’ sports program, on the other hand, were not as fortunate. One women‘s coach told the Weekly that the school would not reimburse him for his team’s tournament expenses. “I ask Greer, ‘How do I get my money back?’” said one coach. “‘Go park some cars,’ he says.” The coach explained that the school routinely raised money by opening its lots for events at nearby Exposition Park and charging parking fees.
“Apparently, for years Manual Arts has parked cars for events taking place at the Coliseum,” confirmed district spokeswoman Stephanie Brady. “The money should then be reported into school accounts and put to school use. A lot of the money goes to supporting the athletic programs.” Brady could not comment on whether improprieties were found, she said, because of personnel rules and because the investigation is ongoing. Investigators have been trying to determine whether school accounts actually got all of the money.
According to the coach, who requested anonymity, “You get 10 bucks a car. I parked 27 cars. I never did it again, because I thought it was unfair,” he said, to be reimbursed in this fashion. “It was unfair to me and to the girls‘ program.”
Brady noted that “It would be highly irregular for a coach to be reimbursed for team expenses by being allowed to park cars and keep the proceeds.” She could not, however, confirm the incident.
If athletes received any favored, improper treatment, said Anton, it had nothing to do with her.
Some of the allegations have more to do with mismanagement than intentional wrongdoing. Special-education teachers complain that some of their colleagues were never informed about the presence of learning-disabled students -- with special needs or learning impediments -- in their classes. They also contend that disabled students have been given legally substandard reviews of their individual-education plans. These allegations are familiar in L.A. Unified; they were supposed to have been addressed in the district’s landmark 1996 settlement of litigation filed by advocates for the disabled.