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After teacher Rafe Esquith was suspended from his fifth grade classroom at Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles, LAUSD leaked that another staff member heard him refer to nudity based on a story in Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Then the story was leaked that a man accused Rafe of abusing him 40 years ago, when he was a counselor at a private Jewish camp. Now the district has requested all the financial records of the private, nonprofit group that supports the children who are Hobart Shakespeareans.

Here is a comment that was posted by “melinson” which reads as follows:

“Rafe Esquith worked for me when he was a counselor at Camp Rancho at the Westside Jewish Community Center. I was the camp director. I NEVER heard any accusations against him. As I followed his remarkable career, I reflect on the enthusiastic 18 year old who was admired by the staff and loved by the campers.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District removed Rafe Esquith from his 5th grade classroom at Hobart Elementary School, where he had become nationally acclaimed for creating the Hobart Shakespeareans.

He has not learned yet what offense he had supposedly committed. First, he was told that some people objected to his reference to nudity, while discussing Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” Then, the claim was made that he had abused a child 40 years ago, when he was a counselor at a Jewish day camp. Then that claim apparently was withdrawn.

Now the LAUSD wants the past 15 years of financial records from the Hobart Shakespeareans, a private nonprofit group that does not receive district funding.

In response to this request, actors Sir Ian McKellen and Hal Holbrook joined with past and present students of Rafe to explain what the group had done with its funding.

It is a terrific video, the kind that would make any teacher proud to be a teacher. Rafe has changed many lives. He has made a difference.

Please read Andrea Gabor’s take on the situation. No one can understand what LAUSD is up to or why.

It is time for LAUSD to produce charges and evidence or let Rafe teach.

On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times published an article I wrote (at their request) about what the next superintendent should do. I contended that he/she should be a cheerleader for public schools, should restore confidence in them by reducing class sizes and restoring a full and rich curriculum to every school, especially the arts. I also hoped the next superintendent would audit charter schools regularly and impose a moratorium on their growth (there are more charter students in L.A. than any other city). The superintendent’s mission should be to lead and improve public education, not to abet those who want to privatize it.

The response from the powerful charter industry came swiftly. Accustomed to pouring millions of dollars into school board races to capture control of the district, the charter lobby could not tolerate a direct challenge. Here is its response. The charter champion insisted that I was “polarizing” the situation by standing up for public education and opposing privatization.

Last October, KIPP announced plans to more than double its enrollment, from 4,000 to 9,000. Moody’s, the bond rating service, reacted by saying that the KIPP expansion would have a negative impact on the LAUSD bond ratings. This article, specifically about Los Angeles, reflected a warning by Moody’s in 2013 that charters posed a significant risk to some older urban districts because competition weakened the district by drawing away students and resources.

I hope you will read the opinion piece that I wrote for today’s Los Angeles Times about what priorities the next superintendent should have.

 

For those of you who have frequently criticized the LA Times as a tool of the charter industry, please note that I was invited to write the article.

 

The article is a strong plea for a leader who will restore public confidence in public education. Given that Los Angeles has a very rich, very powerful lobby for privately managed charters, it was written to counter their pressure to convert more public schools to private management. They heavily invest in school board candidates who follow their agenda. In the last election, the charter lobby managed to place a charter school operator on the district school board. Only an awakened public can defend the public sector from raids by the corporate sector on what rightly belongs to the entire community.

 

Los Angeles’ public schools are indeed in crisis. The solution is not to abandon them, but to rebuild them so as to meet the needs of the children enrolled in public schools.

 

 

A reader in Los Angeles sent this reflection on LAUSD’s demand for Rafe Esquith’s personal financial history.

“This whole thing getting really wacko.

“Can an employee—under threat of being fired—be compelled by his employer to turn over private
information such as this—i.e. 15 years of tax returns, loan documents, monthly bank statements?

“I mean, why stop there? Why not demand all your private diaries or journals? All your computers with all the personal data, internet activity, emails etc.? How about your
medical records? Your private written correspondence?

“This is especially ridiculous in this case, as the employer refuses to divulge the foundation for such a demand, or the suspicions, or the
testimony/evidence that warrant this demand to give up one’s privacy?

“And again, THESE INVESTIGATORS ARE NOT AGENTS OF ACTUAL LAW ENFORCEMENT!!! They’re
retired LAPD detectives working as bureaucrats in a public school district!!! WHO THE HELL DO THESE GUYS THINK THEY ARE???!!!

“In your own life, if a past employer — New York University? or whomever? — sicced two investigatorson you who demanded this of you, what
would you have done?

“I would have been left utterly speechless. Could this even be possible in the U.S.?

“Whatever happened to the Constitutional right to privacy?

“This is as at least as bad as quid-pro-quo sexual harassment—i.e. “have sex with me or you’re fired”—in its enabling of the employer to use the threat of losing one’s job, livelihood, income, etc. as a way to take away one’s basic civil liberties and innate human dignity.

“This is way bigger than Rafe’s case.”

Jay Mathews of the Washington Post tells the story of LAUSD’s relentless investigation of celebrated teacher Rafe Esquith.

Having first pursued a lead about Rafe referring to nudity (based on a scene in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”), then explored a 40-year-old claim that he abused a boy in a Jewish summer camp, now the investigators are poring through his financial records.

Here was the offense that led to his suspension:

“The next day, Esquith learned the truth: A school staffer had reported to administrators that Esquith made a joke about nudity that she thought might offend students and their parents. Esquith had read to his students a passage from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in which a character called the king comes “prancing out on all fours, naked.” Esquith reminded the students that the district did not fund the annual Shakespeare play, and if he could not raise enough money “we will all have to play the role of the king in Huckleberry Finn.”

Asked to apolgize, Rafe did. But the investigators were not satisfied.

This sounds like “Les Miserables,” with Rafe as Jean Valjean. Not sure who is playing Inspector Javert.

According to the latest report, the Los Angeles district administration has abandoned its investigation of a 40-year-old complaint against super star teacher Rafe Esquit alleging shoving or sexual abuse and is now poring through the financial records of his independent group, the Hobart Shakespeareans. Esquith has not been informed about the charges against him.

 

The LA School Report says:

 

Now, the investigation is turning toward Esquith’s nonprofit group which is independent from LAUSD and is run by an independent board of directors. Esquith gets no salary from the Shakespeareans, and in fact donates thousands of dollars of his own money to the group, which was started because of cuts in the arts by LAUSD.

 

The group teaches students how to perform Shakespeare plays, and has been profiled by CBS, Time, Washington Post, PBS and other national media outlets.

 

The recent request for documentation came from Scheper Kim & Harris, a law firm outside of LAUSD.

 

“These investigations become self-fulfilling prophecies,” Meiselas said. “This is a program that has changed people’s lives.”

 

Actors such as Ian McKellen, Hal Holbrook, John Lithgow and Michael York have visited and praised the Hobart Shakespeareans, and donated money to the group. On its website, 17 groups and individuals have pledged $10,000 or more to them, including William McClatchy, the Roth Family Foundation, Peter and Helen Bing and The Vanguard Group. At least 19 others have donated $5,000.

 

None of the students or parents involved with the Hobart Shakespeareans has complained about Esquith, who was awarded Disney National Outstanding Teacher of the Year, among other awards. Because of his “teacher jail” status, the dozen sold-out performances planned this year were canceled, as well as a July trip to Oregon for a Shakespeare Theatrical Festival.

 

This is a bizarre situation. The sooner LAUSD winds it up, the better for all concerned.

Super star teacher Rafe Esquith has filed a class action lawsuit against the Los Angeles school system. He is represented by a super star lawyer, Michael Geragos.

“High-profile attorney Mark Geragos has notified LAUSD that he intends to file a class action lawsuit about the so-called “teacher jails” that could involve hundreds–and potentially thousands–of past and present teachers.

“The required notice for the class action lawsuit was stamped and received by the school board on June 22, and 45 days from that date the suit will be filed, according to Ben Meiselas, an associate of Geragos & Geragos who is representing noted educator Rafe Esquith, who was taken from his classroom earlier this year and placed in teacher jail, pending an investigation on a variety of issues.

“The letter, obtained by the LA School Report, deals mostly with the Esquith case, but it also gives notice of a class action complaint “on behalf of all teachers, during the applicable statue of limitations period, who have been denied procedural and substantive due process by LAUSD.”

“The notice says: “It is anticipated the composition of the relevant class will be comprised of at least several thousand current and former LAUSD teachers who have similarly been deprived of due process, and have endured arbitrary process, undefined investigations, indefinite stays in teacher jail, and capricious classroom removals.”

“The issue is an especially volatile one with LA Unified, which has been severely criticized over the years by the teachers union, UTLA, for what union officials say is a capricious and unfair discipline system. Tensions were especially acute during John Deasy‘s years as superintendent, making the elimination of teacher jail a prime rallying cry of Alex Caputo-Pearl‘s run for the union presidency last year and the union’s subsequent campaign for a new labor agreement with the district.”

Andrea Gabor wrote a piece referring to testimonials to Rafe Esquith by former students.

 

Now other Esquith alums have contacted her, and she reprints their reactions here to the LAUSD disciplinary actions against him. He has been suspended with pay, and his class trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival was canceled this year.

 

One student writes about how Esquith changed her life; the other expresses his suspicions that administrators are out to get Esquith because he never followed orders. With all the national and international honors heaped on him, the LAUSD has conspicuously never celebrated his renown as a teacher.

 

 

Rafe Esquith, the acclaimed teacher who created the Hobart Shakespeareans, is in teacher jail, suspended from teaching his fifth graders, their production canceled.

Andrea Gabor interviewed one of his former students to get a sense of Esquith the teacher.

He is a teacher who changes lives.

When will LAUSD file charges , present evidence, and give him a chance to clear his name?

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