INGLEWOOD — Leaders of a citizens' group filed a formal notice of intent this week to recall school board President William Dorn for his part in the recent ouster of school Supt. Rex Fortune.
The group, led by the Rev. Matthew M. Jefferson, listed Dorn's involvement in firing Fortune "without explanation or due process" as one of eight reasons for the recall attempt.
In the notice, signed by five members and filed with the city clerk Monday, the group also charged that Dorn displayed "unprofessional behavior" at recent board meetings, failed to support educational programs, missed more than 25% of board meetings and failed to attend a number of school board training conferences.
Dorn, who declined comment, has seven days to respond in writing to the charges. If he responds, recall petitions circulated by the group will have to carry his printed response as well as the charges.
Caroline Elam, who filed the notice, said the group expects to begin collecting signatures by mid-June. City officials are unsure whether the school district falls under the city Charter rules for recall or the state election code and did not know how many signatures will be needed. The city Charter requires 30% of registered voters--about 13,000 signatures--while the state election code requires only 20%, or about 8,000 signatures.
Formed Last Week
The committee was formed last week after a tumultuous school board meeting in which the board voted 3 to 2 to fire Fortune, who has three years remaining on his contract. Two assistant superintendents are running the district.
At that meeting, the board majority also appointed Dorn as president and recently elected member Ernest Shaw as vice president after removing two Fortune supporters, William (Tony) Draper and Rose Mary Benjamin, from those posts.
Dorn, along with Shaw and longtime board member Caroline Coleman, is part of the new anti-Fortune majority faction that emerged from the April election with support from Inglewood Mayor Edward Vincent.
Fortune supporters charge that the mayor, together with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Roosevelt Dorn, backed the trio in an attempt to create a political machine that could take control of the school district as well as the city.
Roosevelt Dorn, a longtime political figure in Inglewood, is William Dorn's uncle. Both Judge Dorn and Vincent have denied charges that they control the school board or are attempting to build a political machine.
"If I was really controlling the school board, there wouldn't be all this mess going on, I can tell you that," Vincent said this week. "I'll tell you one thing: Somebody needs to control it.
'Masses Voted for Me'
"All I've ever done is support certain candidates. I don't know why certain people keep making these accusations against me. The masses voted for me overwhelmingly for mayor. They voted for me again in the school board. I just told them to vote for these people and they voted for them. That must mean they're happy with the situation."
But a number of parents, teachers and community leaders have vowed to recall not only Dorn but Coleman, Shaw, and Vincent as well. Committee spokesman Jefferson said the citizens group, which he said numbers about 200, will begin recall efforts against Coleman and Shaw after they have served 90 days. State law requires that newly elected officials be in office at least that long before they can be subject to recall.
Heightening tension has been a "winners and losers" list that started circulating through the district late last week. The list names nearly two dozen principals and district personnel and suggests that they are headed for new positions.
One district official who declined to be named said the list matches one that board majority members gave acting co-Supt. Jerry Norman last week. The officials said Norman was strongly advised to "think about" the suggested changes and then make his recommendations to the board.
Norman denied that he was given any names by any board member.
He said, however, that at the new majority's request, "We are working with attorneys on the proper procedures for transferring or reassigning administrators in the district. We're also considering the financial implications of such moves. But no specific names have been discussed."
Norman acknowledged that "you don't really get into researching these procedures unless you're contemplating moves." However, he stressed, "no one has approached me with a list of names."
Included on the handwritten list being circulated is Woodworth Elementary Vice Principal Vivian Shannon, who is said to have her choice between principalships at Warren Lane Elementary or Freeman Elementary. Fortune has said his ouster was the result of his refusal to accede to demands by the mayor that he promote Shannon to the top job at Warren Lane. Vincent has denied that charge.
Meanwhile, administrators and principals are growing increasingly fearful for their jobs and the future of the district.
"I want to be principal, but I'm not willing to sell my soul," said Nancy Ichinaga, principal at Bennet-Kew Elementary and one of those named on the "losers" list being circulated. "This is a terrible atmosphere to work in. Everybody's scared. I get dozens of calls from other principals every day now. Nobody knows what's going on. Nobody knows if they're going to be next."
Said Nancy Young, principal at Hudnall Elementary, "This is very demoralizing to all of us. I'm not sure whether this hit list is true, or just another form of intimidation to keep us in line. It's very upsetting. I think everybody's waiting for the other shoe to drop."