Archives for category: Los Angeles

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?

Do you want to know why teachers need due process (aka “tenure”)? Read the story below, sent by reader Drew Pepper.


Here’s another story of how LAUSD (mis)handles a case where a teacher is accused of something:


1) LAUSD and Sun Valley High teacher Jason Duchan discovers a student drawing genitals on his desk, then reports this to the principal, who then informs the student’s parents, causing the student to get in big trouble with the adults both at school and at home;


2) That same night, the student retaliates by fabricating a Facebook page that is supposedly created by the teacher, Jason Duchan, full of lewd images and writing—all in an effort to frame Duchan; the teacher remains unaware of the page’s existence for over a year;


3) A year or so later, LAUSD’s “Student Safety Investigative Team” (yeah, that’s what the call it) discovers the Facebook page, but does not deign to talk first to the teacher, Jason, Duchan, and ask him whether or not he was the lewd Facebook page’s actual creator, even though doing so would have cleared the matter up instantly;


4) Instead, Duchan is suspended and hauled off to “teacher jail” without being told the reason, where he languishes for weeks before discovering the charge—and not from LAUSD, but from another teacher, his school’s union rep; upon Duchan’s removal, LAUSD immediately sends out a letter informing all of the parents of students at the school that Duchan was under investigation for possibly being a danger to students;


5) The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) becomes involved and does what LAUSD’s quasi-police unit, “The Student Safety Investigative Team”, did not… they first go to Duchan to hear his side of things, who then tells it all — his innocence, how this was all the doings of a mischievous, vindictive student out to frame him, etc.;


The moment Duchan saw the Facebook page, he said he knew who created it. Two of the posts made reference to a student being accused of drawing genitals on a desk, and Duchan said the date the page was created corresponds exactly to the time he reported a student to the assistant principal for drawing genitals on a desk;


6) LAPD quickly investigates the matter, arrests the student for “false impersonation” on a Facebook page, and LAPD Detective Lisette Fuentes issues a statement fully exonerating Duchan;


7) Instead of putting Duchan back to work and apologizing to him, Jose Cantu, head of the district’s Student Safety Investigative Team, said that an active investigation of Duchan by the district is still underway, although he wouldn’t comment on the details;


8) Two weeks later, and after some outcry, Duchan was told by LAUSD that he could return to his classroom, but, as a condition of his return, demanded that he sign a paper that acknowledged he was still under investigation and could not talk about the case. Duchan said he refused to go back to the Sun Valley High campus because he had heard many students thought he was guilty, so he didn’t feel safe returning.


“They were putting me into a hostile environment. They had already sent letters home, and wouldn’t parents be upset to find out a teacher under investigation was back in the classroom?” he said.


Duchan, who teaches media art classes, said he went on medial leave and returned to the district on Feb. 2 as a full-time substitute teacher at a different school. He said the district will only offer him is his old job and no other full-time work. Duchan said he feels his name and reputation have been ruined at the campus.


“I’m trying not to cry when I talk about it,” he said. “I’m going through very severe PTSD, panic attacks, and I have acute insomnia.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that suspended teacher Rafe Esquirh is being investigated for abusing a child 40 years ago.

This must be every teacher’s worst nightmare: being accused of behavior to which there were no witnesses. The accusation alone, even if false, can ruin one’s reputation

In this situation, an allegation about what did or did not happen 40 years ago, how is it possible to establish guilt or innocence?

I tend to be skeptical because of a situation that occurred when I lived in Washington, DC, in the early 1990s. Half a dozen girls accused their teacher of inappropriate touching. The case seemed overwhelming against the teacher. But when the girls were questioned individually, they retracted their accusation. They wanted to punish the teacher for assigning too much homework and being a tough grader.

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

According to LA School Report, Rafe Esquirh has hired a high-profile lawyer, who will file a class-action suit on behalf of all teachers who had been denied due process rights. Esquith, who has written best-selling books and been featured on national television, is a super-star teacher.

The district refuses to say why Esquith was suspended. He thinks it was because he made a joke about nudity. Rumors say that he is being investigated for the activities of his nonprofit group, the Hobart Shakespeareans, which raises money to take student productions to Shakespeare festivals. The Los Angeles Times summarized the situation here.

Rafe Esquith is one of the nation’s most celebrated teachers. He teaches fifth grade in Los Angeles. Each year, his class produces a complete play by Shakespeare. They are known as the Hobart Shakespeareans.

Esquith was suspended for making a joke. Here is the story. Unbelievable.

Steve Zimmer, a second term member of the LAUSD school board, became furious because of the charter industry’s vicious attacks on Bennett Kayser. And why should he not be furious? The charter industry accused Kayser of being biased against Latinos and mocked his disability (Parkinson’s).

Here is the speech that Zimmer gave:



“This (election) is NOT just about Board District 5.
This is about the ENTIRE CONTROL and FUTURE of LAUSD.

“This is about CONTROL. Make NO mistake about it.
The control of the (LAUSD) school board hangs in the balance.

“And listen…. you don’t have to applaud on this line,
but you can.

“I have a lot of dear friends in the room,
and sometimes we have disagreed,
and sometimes we look at an issue,
we see it from a different lens,
and sometimes there are painful moments.

“That’s true for me.
That’s been true for Jackie (Goldberg) in her service.
That’s been true for Bennett.

“But the difference between the people
who believe that it’s ALL of us TOGETHER—
—that it’s ALL of us working together,
that… that… that our employees,
that our teachers are our greatest partners.

“NOT our enemies,
NOT … NOT… litigants to be challenged in court,
NOT … NOT…. people to be blamed for
the crisis that is facing our children,
but the VERY PEOPLE who can
lift our children out of this crisis.

“Even if we disagree on some issues,
the difference between
the folks like Bennett Kayser,
the folks like Jackie Goldberg,
Jeff Horton before her…

“ … the folks… the folks who have tried
to fight the fight over the years that
I am proud to associate myself with.

“The difference between THAT and…

“And what the folks who are
trying to destroy Bennett Kayser—
NOT BEAT Bennett Kayser—DESTROY him
AS A PERSON, not just as a political figure, but
DESTROY him as a person.

“The difference between…
we who believe that it’s ALL OF US together.

“and …

“those who believe that it’s ‘us against them’…

“It’s NIGHT and DAY.

“We CANNOT let them
take control of the school board
because if they take control of the school board,
they’ll have control of who becomes the
next Superintendent of this district.

“They’ll have control over the budget.
They’ll have control over the policies.
They‘ll have control over the schools.

“And it took us too long for us to realize it—
Bennett realized it WAY before I did,
and I give him credit for it EVERY day—

“What John Deasy tried to do to this school district.

“He tried to bring public education DOWN.
And the MISIS crisis was NO accident.
That is… that WAS INTENTIONAL, because
if you read their websites,
if you read what they’re trying to do…

“ ‘Stability’ is an ugly word.

“ ‘Disruption’ is what it is about.

“But WE know
WE the teachers
WE the principals
WE the school workers
WE KNOW that disruption causes
REAL collateral damage
to REAL children EVERY DAY!

“And Bennett and I have been
about trying to re-STABILIZE and
re-HUMANIZE our schools.

“And at the end of the day,
we are about an ALL-kids agenda—
ALL kids, NOT SOME kids.

“And if you go to a door, and if you’re on a phone.
and people say,

“ ‘Why should I care?‘
“ ‘Why should I vote?’

“PUBLIC education is about
EVERY CHILD that comes to the
schoolhouse door—those who are the most gifted,
and those who have the most DIFFICULT
of challenges that are facing them.

“What makes public education PUBLIC education is
that it’s EVERY child that comes to the schoolhouse door,
and no one, NO ONE—NOT ME, NOT anyone else—
has been a better champion of that than Bennett Kayser.

“That said…
the MOST reprehensible,
the most DISGUSTING thing that they have done
is to somehow challenge—that while
Bennett has struggled, and continues to struggle
valiantly, publically, VICTORIOUSLY
against Parkinson’s disease,
they have SOMEHOW THOUGHT that it is okay
to suggest… to suggest that somehow,
because of this struggle, he is incapable of serving.

“Every … ANY one of us could go to a neurologist
some time over the next year,
and come out with that diagnosis—ANY ONE of us.

“And thank God we have Bennett Kayser to
show us that this is NOT a death sentence,
that it’s NOT a way of having to fade into
the background,
that you can serve with pride,
with integrity,
with intelligence
with capability.

for questioning that!
Damn them for questioning that!

“Don’t let that win!

“Because I’ve known Bennett for over 20 years,
but in our private conversations…
what he now knows is that there is a new
empathy for what our children with
the most challenges face.

to serve on the Board of Education.
than someone who INTIMATELY
and PERSONALLY understands those challenges
because he will NEVER turn way from them.

“So these next three weeks, Bennett…
these next three weeks…
they are about you, but they are also about
the future of public education
in this country, and in this city.

“We will NOT let this stand, Bennett,
and we WILL stand by you.

“But the last thing I want to say, Bennett, is….

“Thank you for your courage, for enduring this
on behalf of all of us, and most especially
on behalf of all the children who need you
the most.

“Thank you, Bennett!”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Here’s where you can donate on-line to Bennett’s campaign:

Here’s his website in general:

A story by Annie Gilbertson of public radio station KPCC reviews the dramatic increase in national spending on local school board races by the charter industry.


Billionaires like Reed Hastings (Netflix), Eli Broad of Los Angeles, and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City have spent millions to help candidates take control of the city’s public school system and to expand privatization. L.A. already has more students in charter schools than any other city.


Political action committees are spending 15 times the cash they did six years ago ahead of the Los Angeles Unified school board election on Tuesday.


Just this spring, more than $4.5 million flowed to PACs for glossy mail fliers, robocalls and ads on Spanish language radio in support or against school board candidates.


With runoffs set in west San Fernando Valley, east Los Angeles and South Bay board districts, PAC organizers hope to swing the ideological composition of the seven-member school board to their side, potentially altering the direction of the 650,00-student district and its $7.3 billion budget.


The stakes in this year’s election are especially high because the new board will select the district’s next superintendent. His or her leadership of the country’s second largest school district will be closely watched both statewide and nationally.


Donors looking to influence education policy may be migrating from national to local elections where their dollars can have a greater impact, said Raphael Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.


On one side are the billionaires who want privatization. On the other are the teachers who want reduced class sizes, ,the arts, and full services for students.



Over $5.5 million has been poured into races for the Los Angeles school board., according to Thomas Hines of the LA Daily News. A large portion has gone into attack ads and flat-out lies in two races that put charter supporters against supporters of public education.

“Teachers union-supported groups have spent $82,630 opposing Galatzan’s bid for re-election. A recent flier gives the two-term incumbent an “F” for failing to support students and protect tax dollars – apparently blaming her for a recession that cut revenues prompting layoffs.

“Charter school groups that support Galatzan, meanwhile, have spent $141,211 attacking her opponent, Scott Schmerelson.

“According to the mailers, the retired LAUSD principal and teacher is actually a lobbyist, responsible for trying to convince legislators they should “increase the already bloated salaries and benefits for administrators, taking money out of the classroom.”

“Schmerelson is not a lobbyist. He’s also backed by the teachers union. A political newcomer, Schmerelson said he’s shocked by all the money and lies used in a nonpartisan race for the school board.

“I just can’t believe people would say things that are absolutely not true,” Schmerelson said.

“But the most vigorous attack ads were made in efforts to influence voters in areas of Eagle Rock, Echo Park and other neighborhoods inside District 5.

“Charter school advocacy groups have spent $554,604 in an effort to oust board member Bennett Kayser and install Ref Rodriguez.

“The onslaught started before the primary, when a mailer made the unfounded claim that Kayser tried to stop Latinos from attending “schools in white neighborhoods.” While the stir caused by the mailer prompted Rodriguez to disavow the group “Parent Teacher Alliance in Support of Rodriguez, Galatzan, Vladovic, and McKenna for School Board 2015,” the negative campaigning continues.

“Recent attacks portray Kayser as being responsible for the district’s plan to buy $1.3 billion in iPads. Kayser never voted for the contract that sent money to Apple and Pearson – a deal now under federal investigation – because he owned a small amount of stock in Apple. He was also an outspoken critic of the program’s failings.

“Meanwhile, groups funded by the teachers union have spent $167,582 attacking Rodriguez. Recent mailers have largely focused on an audit of a charter campus Rodriguez co-founded, Lakeview Charter Academy.

“The audit concluded Lakeview Charter Academy, which is one of 16 schools operated by Rodriguez’s Partnership to Uplift Communities, operated in the red and had poor fiscal oversight. According to the attack ads, Rodriguez tried to hide the audit from the public.”

One major difference between the ads directed at Kayser and at Rodriguez is that the anti-Kayser ads are manifestly false, while the anti-Rodriguez ads are demonstrably true.

The Los Angeles Times reported on April 29 that one of Rodriguez’s charter schools had been audited and that the audit was being withheld from public release. Reporter Howard Blume wrote:

“Two well-placed district sources said that the release of the audit was delayed at the request of school board member Monica Garcia, a political ally of candidate Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez works for the charter organization.”

When the media obtained a copy of the audit, it showed that the charter school had multiple financial woes: “The audit focuses on the bookkeeping of one of PUC’s 16 schools from July 2011 to June 2013. It noted numerous fiscal “deficiencies,” including poorly documented expenditures, failure to meet minimum reserves and questionable oversight by the parent organization.” The school was “insolvent for nine years.”

Rodriguez was both a co-founder of the charter chain and its treasurer, so his fiscal stewardship is a legitate issue, not a smear.

Even more embarrassing to Rodriguez was the revelation that his charter chain had awarded a multi-million dollar contract for food services to a high-ranking official at the charter offices.

“A Los Angeles-based charter group awarded food-service contracts worth millions of dollars to a company partially owned by one of the schools’ high-ranking employees, a state investigation has found.

“The probe involved Jacqueline Duvivier Castillo, who is the director of business and development for PUC Schools and a part-owner in Better 4 You Meals, a company that has provided food to the charter group for the last five years. Investigators said the charter failed to demonstrate that the contract was “awarded properly despite the apparent conflict of interest.”

As treasurer of the chain, Ref Rodriguez is accountable for monitoring its finances and compliance with the law. His failure to do so is a legitimate campaign issue. It raises questions about his judgment and competence. Will he be vigilant about oversight of the city’s large charter sector or will he take a hands-off approach? Voters need to know.

Steve Zimmer knows what it is like to be targeted by the billionaires. He was outspent 4-1 or more in his last run for school board in Los Angeles. Nonetheless, miraculously, he prevailed.

Now board member Bennett Kayser is the target of the billionaires’ fury. They are spending millions to devote this gentle man and replace him with a charter operator.

Please watch Steve Zimmer’s brilliant endorsement of Kayser.


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