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Piece of Mind: Teachers, tell us your stories

November 23, 2011|By Carol Cormaci

Something has been nagging us in our newsroom for the past several weeks as the controversy unfolded involving the La Cañada High School math teacher accused of uttering at least one ethnic slur, and engaging in other questionable teaching practices, unfolded, for some years.

Since the story broke, we’ve heard loudly from parents and students who know the teacher, Gabrielle Leko. She has received words of support from some and castigation from others.

But there’s been a deafening silence from district teachers and administrators, regardless of how many times our reporters have reached out. And not just on this issue, but on just about any other school-related matter that has reared its head.

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We wondered why it required a sitting school board member to step in for parents unwilling to go on the record and file a formal complaint in the Leko case. So we explored the “culture of silence” in this community that seems to keep some parents from speaking up. We learned that many of those who stay quiet do so because they worry that their children will suffer at the hands of a teacher if they make a complaint.

What we have not yet definitively nailed down is whether or not there is a corresponding culture of silence among the educators, who may be fearful they will lose their jobs, or that life will somehow be made more miserable for them, should they speak up. This community is full of high-powered, driven people. While there are parents who advocate politely and successfully for their children, at least a few can be more heavy-handed. We did get a some off-the-record (can’t use the person’s name) anecdotes from a former La Cañada educator that demonstrate to us very clearly that this is a two-way street. 

We’d like to present the teachers’ side of life in the district, so today I am asking if there are any current or former La Cañada Unified educators who might be willing to call me or reporter Megan O’Neil to give us your perspective. It would be ideal if you would go on the record, but we’d also appreciate hearing from you even if you’d prefer your name not be published. I can be reached at (818) 495-4161 and O’Neil’s number is (818) 637-3215. Imagine how it might open the eyes of the community members who have not walked in your shoes if we could tell your story.

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On another schools-related note: One of the two seats up for grabs in the Nov. 8 La Cañada school board election was that of incumbent Jeanne Broberg. Broberg and challenger Andrew Blumenfeld were neck-and-neck in the ballot counts taking place at the county registrar-recorder’s office, Broberg with a slight lead until Nov. 18, when it was announced the race was over.

In the end, the challenger received 10 votes more than the incumbent. Early last week, several days before we knew who would join the newly-elected Ellen Multari on the board, we extended an invitation to both Broberg and Blumenfeld to write guest columns to run side-by-side that included their thoughts on the election, as well as their hopes for the future of the school district. On page A7 of today’s Valley Sun, you will find their responses. You also will find them on our website.

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It’s Thanksgiving, but the silver isn’t polished, the crystal remains in the cupboard gathering dust and the fine china is still in its assorted padded cases. This year just Gil and I will be at the table, so we decided the everyday dinnerware will suffice. The nonexistent guest list allows for an added bonus, especially from our cat’s perspective: there won’t be much competition for leftovers.

Happy Turkey Day! And may I just add this comment to our loyal Trojan readers looking forward to Saturday’s game at the Coliseum: Go Bruins!

CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor of the La Cañada Valley Sun. She can be reached at ccormaci@valleysun.net or at carol.cormaci@latimes.com

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