Los Angeles Unified School District officials have reinstated a Pacoima adult school principal who was to be transferred amid allegations that she was insensitive to the needs of Latino students.
School officials said Friday that the "timing was just not correct" for the transfer of Maureen Jensen, who has headed the Pacoima Skills Center for the past 12 years. The reprieve came Thursday as dozens of angry students and faculty members protested Jensen's planned departure.
"It was unexpected, and I was very happy," Jensen said Friday. "There were people who were extremely angry. I want all that to settle down, get the school back together, and mend and heal."
Meanwhile, a group of minority teachers at the Pacoima school sent telegrams Friday to district Supt. William Anton and board member Roberta Weintraub, requesting that their personal safety be assured, accusing pro-Jensen faculty members of harassing and threatening them during the protest.
Jensen was scheduled to be transferred Monday, the start of the summer session, to an adult school in Reseda--a move Los Angeles Unified School District officials publicly called a routine reassignment. But the decision sparked controversy, after some officials privately conceded that the transfer was ordered in response to a campaign by Latina activist Irene Tovar, who accused Jensen of being insensitive to the needs of minority students.
Tovar, who has spoken out against Jensen in the past, declined to comment on the reinstatement, saying that she and other minority activists would be meeting over the next few days to develop a collective response.
Assistant Supt. James Figueroa said a committee is being organized to investigate the allegations of racial insensitivity. Harlan Barbanell, director of vocational education who oversees the adult schools, said a list of 19 grievances and suggestions, compiled three months ago by Barbanell from complaints by Tovar and other community activists, had been dealt with by Jensen or proven to be unfounded, and no complaints are outstanding against her.
Barbanell repeated Friday that the move to transfer Jensen, described as having a good record, was part of a routine rotation. "Normally a principal stays in school around three years, to a maximum of five years," he said. "That's standard operating procedure.
"The time for her rotation came about. But some people felt she was not being transferred through the normal district process, that she was being transferred punitively. We didn't want anyone to think they were being transferred punitively when they were not."
So the transfer was suspended because "the district is sensitive to poor perceptions," Barbanell said.
It was unclear how long Jensen would remain at the Pacoima school, Figueroa said. Although activists have called for Jensen to be replaced by a Latino administrator, he said that ethnicity would be only one of several factors used when the time comes to name a successor.
At least four minority staff members sent telegrams to district officials Friday saying they were subjected to abuse by Anglo faculty members during Thursday's protests. They refused to return to the school unless their safety could be guaranteed.
Florence Flores, a counselor who has been at the school for five years, said several faculty members shouted and made derogatory comments at her and a handful of other minority teachers who have voiced concerns that the needs of minority students were not being met.
"They were yelling at me. They started chanting that I was prejudiced," she said, adding that she stayed home Friday for fear of further harassment at the school.
Figueroa said that district officials would meet with the worried teachers Monday to assure them that they were not at risk.