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5 Adult-School Teachers Share $147,000 : Bellflower District Settles Back-Pay Case

February 14, 1985|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

BELLFLOWER — Five adult-school cosmetology teachers, who said they worked as much as eight years full time but received only part-time pay, have been paid a total of nearly $147,000 in back wages by the Bellflower Unified School District.

The district teachers, instructors at American Beauty College, complained to their union, the Bellfower Education Assn. The union conducted an inquiry and filed a grievance with the district.

"After an investigation, we confirmed that the teachers were not being paid for hours they worked," said Kenneth Davis, Bellflower schools superintendent.

An agreement was reached between the union and the district to pay the teachers for time worked from 1982-84, Davis said. "We think it was a fair settlement," he said.

Internal Audit Asked

As a result of the case, the board of education has requested an internal audit of the 4,000-student adult education program "to see if there are any other problems," Davis said.

In addition, Rogers Lindley, principal of adult school education, has been placed on indefinite, paid vacation pending the outcome of the audit and "further investigation," Davis said. Lindley, who first came to the district as a teacher in 1957, was vice principal at Bellflower High School before becoming principal of the adult school program in 1975.

The Board of Education also has ended an apparently informal agreement between Lindley and the beauty college.

The teachers were turning in incorrect hours of time worked, said John Burritt, executive director of the union. "For example, teachers would work 40 hours and were told to turn in only 20 hours."

The teachers said they were told by Lindley, and Catherine and Michael Gormley, owners and operators of the beauty college, to put down fewer hours than worked. The teachers said they were intimidated and complied out of fear of losing their jobs.

Lindley could not be reached for comment. Catherine Gormley denied there was any intimidation or harassment of teachers at the beauty college.

There were only the normal complaints from instructors, she said. "There were always teachers fussing about their salaries," she said, adding that the case was "a lot to do about nothing. All it is, is a nightmare for me."

Beverly Morgan, one of the instructors at the college, said the teachers were told they would lose their jobs if they complained to higher authority about being asked to turn in fewer hours.

"We were told by Mr. Lindley and the Gormleys that the job was slotted (by the district) for only a certain amount of hours, and even though we worked longer we would be paid for only so much time," she said.

"Whenever one of the board members or administrators would come into the college to have their hair done, we were afraid to tell them what was happening," said Morgan, who received $32,694.55 in back pay in the settlement.

Morgan, 44, who has worked intermittently at the school since 1977, said she worked there 32 hours a week since 1981 and was being paid for 16.

Afraid for Their Jobs

Board member Peggy Turner said board members were not aware of any salary problem at the school before the union brought it to the district's attention. The teachers were unaware of their rights, she said. "They believed they would be fired if they came forward with complaints."

The teachers finally "got up enough courage and complained" to the union, said Iona Dee McQuarrie, who received $44,658.39, the largest amount of back wages.

McQuarrie, who had been at the school since 1977, worked 40 hours a week and said she was paid for half the amount.

Other instructors who received back pay were Melva Myers, $43,908.72; Pamela Blood, $16,697.86, and Rosemary Brownstein, $8,910.27.

"We think the district has been fair with us. We are more than satisfied," Myers said.

Meanwhile, the board terminated an oral, eight-year agreement between the Gormleys and Lindley, said Eric Bathen, legal counsel for the district.

A dispute had developed over the details of the agreement, board members said.

'Hired to Teach'

"They were hired to teach, but they never did. So we fired them," said board member Larry Ward.

Catherine Gormley said, however, the district paid them about $3,000 a month only for the use of the school. "This is extremely shocking. The money was for the use of the facility and not for teaching. If it was for teaching, I would have been there teaching," she said. "We have always run a respectable business."

She said the 120 to 150 students attending the school's nine-month course for hairdressers and manicurists would be allowed to continue there. "It is not the students' fault," she said.

Superintendent Davis said that allowing the students to remain was "sort of a gentlemen'sagreement" between the Gormleys and the district.

The district was considering moving the cosmetology program to Mann-Wilson Elementary School, one of its schools closed in 1980 because of declining enrollment, said Trustee Jay Gendreau. But "that could take a couple of months," he said.

Union Satisfied

Burritt, the union executive, said the union was satisfied with the settlement.

The teachers' grievances were brought to the union's attention in November. The board ended the agreement with the Gormleys by a 5-0 vote Feb. 7. On the same date, the settlement for the teachers was agreed upon by a 4-1 vote. Board members Ward, Turner, Gendreau and Justine Miller voted for the settlement, with Trustee Brooks Cope dissenting.

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