So let me start by saying that I am writing this post to see if there are any witnesses out there. It is my belief that some of my fellow teachers might be willing to come forward and share what they know, when they hear the reality of what I found out today at the appeal hearing of the charges against me.
Not that it will make a whole lot of difference in the long run, but I decided to present my own case. Instead of just answering the bogus charges against me, I would preface my responses with some questions of my own, while relegating my UTLA Representative to the task of taking copious notes of the responses that were made by my Principal Janet Seary's immediate supervisor Janet Davis and a representative from LAUSD Staff Relations, David Vidaurrazaga. One of the reasons that I decided to present my own case was that I have come to believe that LAUSD and UTLA have become too comfortable with each other in a process that never seems to serve the best interests of teachers.
When and if a grievance is filed by UTLA, it could be against the same principal for the same habitual harassing behavior toward teachers that they have exhibited before, and yet, UTLA allows itself to be swamped by these repetitive cases that clearly violate the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement again and again with no action by UTLA to either connect these cases or make the teacher under attack aware of the prior cases and clear pattern of harassment and punishment. Often teachers are cajoled by UTLA to accept lesser charges, when they are in fact not guilty of anything, because UTLA refuses to vigorously pursue the grievance, ask for arbitration, or seek redress in an independent legal action against LAUSD for this clear pattern of total disregard for teachers rights. With this reality and me standing a good chance of being terminated irrespective of my innocence of the charges, I decided to take my own different approach to my defense.
So after making an opening statement that I would accept no Notices of Unsatisfactory Acts or Suspensions of any kind, I proceeded to ask questions that I wanted to put on the record of the meeting, but in all honesty had no inkling that they would actually respond to.
As some of you know who have been reading perdaily for a while, I am presently starting the fourth month of being on paid administrative leave after having been removed from my classroom in handcuffs and searched in front of my students. So the first question I asked was:
1. Have either of you read my responses to the charges that were filed against me over 6 months ago and which are the basis of this appeal of the two 8 and 11 days suspensions?: The shocking answer that both Janice Davis and David Vidaurrazaga gave was that neither one had read my responses to the charges against me in the 4 months that I have been on paid administrative leave or before. Davis just rubber stamped Principal Seary's request to have me removed from my class without having done any independent investigation. At least arguably she might have never initially proceeded had she done so or withdrawn the charges against me as being totally and completely without merit, if either one of them had bothered to do so, given that their was significant evidence presented by me that the alleged bad act that lead to the suspensions never actually took place. I must confess that this only increased my belief that the result of the present appeal hearing was already a foregone conclusion before we even started today. Well that and the fact that Ignacio Garcia also of LAUSD Staff Relations had told my UTLA Representative Ed Kaz several weeks before this hearing that, "The District is probably going to move for dismissal against Mr. Isenberg in any case."
2.The next question I asked of my Principal Janet Seary's immediate supervisor Janice Davis, who was supposed to preside over the appeal was whether it was also true that she had not only approved and signed my suspensions, but was also a party to the notices of unsatisfactory acts upon which they were based?: Janice Davis freely admitted that she was party to and approved the initial notices of unsatisfactory acts and suspensions against me, but seemed to have a little trouble getting her mind around the concept that it therefore might not be appropriate for her to also be the person to hear an appeal from those charges. Conflict or interest and recusing herself on this appeal of the initial charges did not appear to be something she thought obligated to do.
3.The following question was inspired by my teacher's curiosity and the realization of my UTLA Representative in going over the charges and my responses, that not only had I not done anything wrong, but that even if I had done what was alleged, it did not warrant 8 and 11 day suspensions. So I asked, "Does LAUSD have any standard for how many days of suspension a teacher is hit with? Vidaurrazaga said yes, but was unable to tell me what it was and said, "I'll have to get back to you on that" -- I'm not holding my breath. After that comment, they initially didn't seem to get what I was trying to get at so I used the analogy of "Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3" improper behavior of a student that would subject them to different punishments for let's say using profanity as opposed to bringing a gun to school. At that point, both Vidaurrazaga and Davis admitted that there was no LAUSD standard as to how many days of suspension any teacher got for specific behavior. Hypothetically, one teacher could get 8 and 11 days of suspension like me, which automatically puts my credential into question with California Teacher Credentialing and my future ability to teach in any public school or the teacher could get nothing, Janice Davis said, "It is all left up to the discretion of the principal," who, if you'll remember from a post last week and according to the California Government Code Section 821.6 says, is immune from prosecution. I wonder why some principals think that they can do pretty much anything that they want to do no matter how outrageous?
4.The last question I asked Davis was about the investigation of my initial complaint about the fraudulent graduation at Central High School. Davis was the only person to "investigate" my initial complaint about the fraudulent graduation and never bothered to contact me before finding that my claim had "no merit." I must admit at the time that I thought it a bit strange to file a complaint with the LAUSD Inspector General's Office, only to have it investigated by my Principal Janet Seary's immediate superior Janice Davis. As of this writing the OIG has not independently investigated the claim I filed 9 months ago. As a matter of LAUSD policy according to Chief OIG Inspector Johnson, they always turned it over to immediate superiors to investigate as a matter of LAUSD policy -- standard operating procedure.
So for all of you teacher colleagues out their that continue to delude yourselves that doing nothing will protect you, I hope the aforementioned facts will finally serve as a rational appeal to you to testify and talk about what you know -- either in any future process against me or at the very least anonymously at firstname.lastname@example.org. And finally, although both Vidaurrazaga and Davis admitted to not having read my response to the charges against me, Vidaurrazaga told Davis in yesterday's hearing that they didn't need copies of the witness letters I offered because he said, "We already have them in the file." Knowing this detail was the clearest testimony of all of the contempt that he held for my rights and yours.