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
Canter says that since 2001, she and the board have been told of incredible, persistent, rotten-teacher problems during closed-door personnel briefings and in conversations with Kathleen Collins, an attorney who joined the district about the time Canter was elected to the board. Collins was handling dismissal cases and was often outraged over teacher misconduct — and exasperated at how difficult it was to fight the bad ones, especially if young students had to be called as witnesses.
Collins began documenting the district’s losing struggles in internal memos, which started to attract attention. Says Collins, “Every case seemed to bring some new problem to my attention.”
Eventually, she discussed some of the most shocking cases with Canter, as well as with Ted Rohrlich and Jason Song of the Los Angeles Times, whose creepy, in-depth series about the near-impossibility of firing bad teachers was published in May. The series elicited about 1,500 Web comments and nearly 300 e-mails, according to Song. The stories ran just as Canter was about to give up pushing the highly reluctant, union-indebted LAUSD board members to act. The intense public anger in response to the articles made Canter reconsider.
“I decided I’d have to, on behalf of the people,” she says.
Never mind that the resolution ultimately adopted is widely seen as a cave-in to Villaraigosa’s allies Garcia and Aguilar. The fact that Canter introduced it at all draws a venomous response from A.J. Duffy, the blustery head of the UTLA. Rather than speak to the issues, the first thing Duffy does is launch a gratuitous attack on Canter herself.
“I think it’s politically motivated,” Duffy tells L.A. Weekly, revving up his hostility. “Marlene Canter has been pretty much a do-nothing school-board member. ... I think her only claim to fame is she presided over the largest increase in bureaucracy in the history of this district.”
Duffy accuses Canter of going after bad teachers in order to grab headlines and attain higher office — but can’t offer any facts to support his accusations. “What a platform,” he says. “‘I got rid of bad teachers.’ In fact, she did nothing.”
Only after spewing about Canter does Duffy get around to saying, “We recognize there are some people in the profession who don’t belong there,” citing, as one example, a school administrator caught at the beach making out with a 15-year-old girl. “[But] 99 percent of our teachers do a great job.”
Now that the weakened resolution has been approved by the school board, Duffy pronounces himself in full support. “Because it calls for what I originally called for — a commission to study this issue.”
Unlike L.A., some cities are joining a movement to let schools fire bad, tenured teachers — not just sexually and physically abusive teachers — who can hurt the achievements of thousands of children during a single, unfortunate career. L.A.’s school board, which has known about, discussed extensively in private, and punted on the issue for years, will instead create a commission to study the problem.