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Staff Letter to Accrediting Team : Inglewood School Employees Voice Complaints

May 08, 1988|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | Times Staff Writer

A group of employees at Inglewood Community Adult School has used the visit of an accreditation team to complain about conditions at the school, saying administrators have violated the state Education Code and district policies.

The employees said they decided to detail their complaints in a letter to the accreditation team because of what they described as a year and a half of turmoil under Principal John Rabun.

School board members hired Rabun in November, 1986, although he was not the top-rated candidate and District Supt. Rex Fortune had recommended someone else. Walter Beyenberg, then acting principal, was the leading candidate, according to former board member William Draper. Beyenberg has filed a federal race and disability discrimination lawsuit against the district.

Fortune said Wednesday that he knew of some problems involving individual employees at the adult school but said he had not been aware of the wider concerns detailed in the letter. The letter from five teachers and staff members was sent in advance of the team's visit last week.

Although Fortune acknowledged that some employees expressed discontent to the accreditation team during the team's visit, he said there was considerable positive feedback from others.

Rabun said he wanted to discuss the matter but declined to do so, saying he needed Fortune's permission.

In their April 26 letter to the committee, the five employees said they spoke despite warnings from administrators not to "voice negative concerns."

The letter said that a self-study report prepared by staff and teachers for the accreditation team under Rabun's guidance "does not reflect a realistic picture of the school," which has about 100 teachers and other staff.

In interviews, current and former employees said problems at the school include the hiring and firing of employees without due process; a high rate of turnover caused by poor working conditions; lack of communication with the administration and with the community, and inadequate security at school sites. The letter cited Education Code sections, school board policies and previous accreditation reports that allegedly have been violated or ignored.

Important to Make Statement

The employees said they had not believed that their letter would have much impact on the team's decision but thought that it was important to make a statement.

It is unusual for school employees to send written complaints to accreditation boards, said Donald Halverson, executive director of the accreditation commission of the Western Assn. of Schools and Colleges. He said the committee met with those employees during the visit.

But Halverson said addressing improprieties alleged in the letter is ultimately the school board's responsibility, as long as "the district has an appeal procedure in place." The final decision on accreditation will occur in June, Halverson said.

The current employees who wrote the letter said they acted after several meetings of a group of about 15 disgruntled teachers and others.

"Many teachers and staff members were reluctant to sign their names, although they share the same concerns," said the letter, which was signed by teachers Diane Chrisman, Anthony Correy and Myrtle Hess, head counselor Gislene Mariette and administrative secretary Jackie Bose.

The adult school, based on the Inglewood High School campus, offers day and night classes in English as a Second Language, high school diploma equivalency classes and office skills at Inglewood High and various locations throughout the district.

Employees said there has been tension at the school since Rabun's hiring 18 months ago. Board members Caroline Coleman and the late Ernest Shaw voted to hire Rabun, with two other board members opposed and one abstaining. The decision came under a board rule that permits hirings in the case of ties. Before the vote, Fortune told the board that Rabun was not his recommendation.

In hiring Rabun, the board passed over former Beyenberg, a 25-year district employee. Beyenberg has filed a federal lawsuit charging that he was discriminated against because of his race and because he is disabled.

Walks With Crutches

Beyenberg is white and walks with the aid of crutches. Rabun and the board members and administrators named in the suit are black. The adult school employees who wrote the accreditation team include blacks and whites; several of them are Beyenberg supporters.

Fortune said that he did not want to discuss his 1986 opposition to Rabun's hiring, adding: "I have a very fine working relationship with the principal. I think in any large organization, personnel problems will come up from time to time."

Employees said that Rabun is an intimidating administrator and that employees have been hired and fired improperly. For example, their letter to the accreditation panel says the hiring of former teacher Alfonso Webb as Rabun's administrative assistant violated district policy because the position was not publicized or formally approved by the school board.

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