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South Bay United Teachers: Where Are You?

Manhattan Beach Unified is in the news because of parent-teacher drama over a coach. Such drama is nothing new for South Bay teachers. When will their unions do something about it?

In the past two years, South Bay residents have read reports about dissed and dismissed educators. These teachers and coaches went out of their way to perform for their students, so that they could succeed later in life. No matter what background students hail from, no matter how well-off their parents may be, the growing disrespect toward teachers, along with rising student drug use and deviance , should alarm South Bay residents.

"Bullying" has become a major topic in the press and public education, yet teachers and coaches are getting harassed, too, and no one seems to care. "South Bay United Teachers" (SBUT) represents Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Centinela Valley teachers, yet more often than not it appears that SBUT has been MIA on behalf of their members.

Redondo Beach Unified (RBUSD) has had its share of drama. Paul White was a nationally recognized teacher who had taken charge of LACOE's West Valley Leadership Academy. 80 percent of students graduated, a third higher than the average for the Los Angeles area. White's credentials impressed Redondo Beach Unified School  district leadership enough to hire him for the South Bay Adult School, where White put a stop to "promiscuous sexual activity" and drug use rampant among students. Yet after White had given only ten weeks on the job, district administration with campus security confronted him. They informed him that they were placing him on administrative leave, and required him to turn over all access to his classroom and position. On leave for eight months, White received his full salary along with benefits, then he was released on July 1, 2011. In a letter to district leaders before his ouster, he commented that officials were frustrating his efforts with the students.

Also in RBUSD, Varsity Basketball coach Tom Maier had a successful career at Redondo Union High School. After eleven years with a 197-111 record, Maier was dismissed without warning. According to Maier, parents were abusing his staff and the team's opponents in basketball games. Even though the principal had issued a gag-order, the abusive parents and their kids never let up. One student actually assaulted the coach, but nothing was done about it. One parent explained that his son came home in tears, then criticized the coach because Maier was not "nurturing enough", and he  did not "mentor" the student. 

Maier's final comment foreshadows the drama that Mira Costa's baseball coach Cassidy Olson would face (more on Olson later):

“They [school administration] gave me no help with the situation. I’ve become one of many coaches at the high school level victimized by parents and the administrators who succumb to them.”

Then at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, RBUSD informed music teacher Scott Sutherland that they would not renew his teaching contract. According to The Daily Breeze, Sutherland had issued an "impassioned" email to the district officials about a construction project. Sutherland later apologized for his email. Nevertheless, he received a "needs improvement" mark on his teaching evaluation, which was enough to deny him tenure after two years of vastly improving the Parras Middle School music program. Despite a massive protest from parents and students, Sutherland was forced to leave.

Someone needs to ask Redondo Beach Teachers Association President Monica Joyce: "Where are you?"

Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association (MBUTA) has also faced off against district leadership with mixed priorities. First, the district splurged on Ipads, while the teachers had gone without a raise in five years. Next, the school board contracted out retired administrators to do the jobs which the current leadership was supposed to be doing. Now Mira Costa baseball coach Cassidy Olson has been sanctioned because a handful of irate parents are "defending" their children from his "abuse".

Karl Kurz is the president of the MBUTA. How come his members are forced to put up with unresponsive leadership? District money goes to non-essentials at the expense of the teachers and the classroom. The MBUTA needs to ask Kurz: "Where are you?"

Beyond RBUSD AND MBUD, Centinela Valley Union High School District (CVUHDS) is the "Valley of Elah" when it comes to abused teachers. Donald Flaherty, the former Hawthorne High School band director, got the boot for standing up to corrupt district administration. Then Principal Vince Bravo of Lawndale High School got involuntarily promoted, transferred, and then demoted, only to resign in undeserved and undisclosed disgrace. When CV teachers complained about district leadership, they received involuntary transfers or unsuitable assignments per their credential. The Centinela Valley Secondary Teachers Association (CVSTA) changed leadership two years ago, but has the union leadership dissipated the abuse and disrespect of qualified personnel?

Jack Foreman is the new President of the CVSTA. His members should be asking: "Where are you?" It seems that CVUHDS teachers are not getting the union representation that they deserve. They pay their dues and stand with their union, but when tenured staff get pushed into a corner, more often than not the district wins.

From irate parents to abusive students to inadequate pay to poor district leadership spending time and money on technology at the expense of the teachers, every educator (and voter) in the South Bay should be asking the South Bay United Teachers: "Where are you?"

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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