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Reinstatement of Fired Teacher Angers Parents

November 24, 1985|MICHELE L. NORRIS | Times Staff Writer

INGLEWOOD — The school board's decision to rehire a teacher who was declared "unreliable, inefficient and inadequate" by a professional review commission four years ago has angered some parent leaders and given ammunition to supporters of a recall movement.

The Inglewood Council Parent Teacher Assn. and the Inglewood Committee Against Corruption--the group that has been seeking the recall of board members Caroline Coleman and Ernest Shaw over other issues--accused the board of "overlooking the students' welfare" in rehiring Rosebud Joyner, a former Monroe Junior High School teacher who was fired in 1981 for frequent absences and tardiness.

The board voted 3 to 2 on Nov. 14 to rehire Joyner. Coleman, Shaw and William Dorn voted for reinstatement. Rose Mary Benjamin and William (Tony) Draper voted against it.

"This decision is a perfect example of how our school board ignores what's best for our children," said Caroline Elam, a leader in the recall campaign. "If they attempted to put that woman in my child's class, they would certainly hear from me."

Joyner, 59, said her absences were justified because she had a persistent back problem that has since improved. One of the first black teachers in the Inglewood district, she has claimed that her dismissal was racially motivated. Three blacks and two whites sat on the board at the time of Joyner's dismissal. All the members of the present board are black.

Board member Coleman said there was evidence that Joyner was a good teacher and that she deserved another chance to prove herself.

After Joyner's dismissal, a state Commission on Professional Competence held a four-day hearing at Joyner's request and found that she was absent more than half of both the 1979-80 and 1980-81 school years. Joyner said that at the time she was taking medication that "rendered me unable to drive or teach."

The commission's report said that even on days when she did show up, other teachers had to cover for Joyner's first-period class 28 times between 1978 and 1981 because she arrived late.

The three-member commission also determined that Joyner failed to leave lesson plans and instructions for substitute teachers and refused to submit a physician's verification that her absences were the result of chronic back pain associated with a job injury in 1975. District officials may request such verification if there is reason to believe that the absence was not illness-related, the report said.

"Such conduct . . . constituted evident unfitness for service and . . . refusal to obey reasonable regulations," the panel concluded.

Appealed Ruling

Joyner appealed the commission's ruling, but it was upheld by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge this past August.

With the board's vote to reinstate her, "justice has been done," said Joyner, who blamed her dismissal on racial prejudice.

"When I injured my back and started missing classes because of the medication I was taking, it gave people an excuse to get rid of me. These people who are going on about this negative thing are going off about this thing half-cocked. They are not familiar with my work."

But parent leaders say the school board decision was based on cronyism instead of Joyner's teaching ability. "I can't understand why they would have to hire someone who has been declared unfit when there are so many qualified teachers out there," said Zyra McCloud, PTA president. "The board has clearly overlooked the students' welfare in making this decision."

She said the PTA will file a protest with board members who attend the group's meeting on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Elam said, the recall committee has gathered more signatures on its petitions since Joyner was reinstated. The committee is trying to collect the 13,800 signatures needed to place the recall of Coleman and Shaw on the 1986 ballot. The committee has charged that Coleman and Shaw are more interested in advancing their political careers than in school board issues. Both members maintain that they have acted in the best interest of the district.

A similar effort to recall board member Dorn failed earlier this month, falling almost 8,000 signatures short of the required number. Elam said she could not estimate how many signatures have been gathered on the Coleman and Shaw recall petitions.

Board member Draper said he fears that parents will have grounds to sue the district if Joyner's absenteeism and tardiness become a problem again. "It seems unconscionable to bring this lady back," Draper said. "They really did it this time. They went against the recommendations of the district's lawyers, the hearing commission and a Superior Court judge."

Supt. Rex Fortune also recommended that the board not rehire Joyner but he declined to comment after the vote, except to say that the terms of her return have not been worked out.

Coleman denied that Joyner received preferential treatment by the school board. "I never felt all the facts were presented," Coleman said, referring to the original hearing. "I talked to many students who said Miss Joyner changed their lives. I don't think she should have been fired in the first place."

Joyner, who has been receiving worker's compensation payments for the past three years, said her back pain has subsided. "I definitely will not be missing classes as I did before," she said.

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