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Schools Chief Quits Under Fire; Replacement Is Named : Education: Rebecca J. Turrentine takes post of Supt. George H. Bloch, who is accused of sexual harassment. He denies allegations.

July 25, 1993|PSYCHE PASCUAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

BELLFLOWER — The Bellflower school board has accepted the resignation of Supt. George H. Bloch, who was accused by top managers of verbal sexual harassment, and it immediately appointed a replacement.

Bloch could not be reached for comment, but his attorney, Bill Shaeffer, said the former superintendent denies the accusations.

The board unanimously named Rebecca J. Turrentine, assistant superintendent of instruction, to the district's top post after meeting last week for nearly three hours behind closed doors.

Turrentine will be paid $98,000 a year and have a $400-a-month expense account and a district car.

Board members placed Bloch, who was paid $92,700 a year, on administrative leave July 8.

School officials and board members declined to comment on the reasons behind Bloch's departure. However, sources in the district said several top administrators had accused Bloch of verbal sexual harassment. The nature of the accusations or the identities of the administrators could not be determined.

Board members expressed relief at Bloch's resignation.

"Recent times have been unpleasant for both Dr. Bloch and the board," trustee Larry Ward said Thursday. "This was a fight he couldn't win.

"I think he would do a good job somewhere else," Ward added. "He's learned a lot from the conflicts we had here. He just didn't need to be here anymore."

Bloch was hired three years ago to head the 10,600-student district, and his contract would have expired in June, 1996.

He resigned to avoid a public court battle that could have hurt his career, Shaeffer said.

As part of a settlement with the district, Bloch will receive his monthly salary until Jan. 21. The school district has also agreed to pay Bloch's health benefits until Sept. 30, 1994, or until he gets another job.

"He didn't want to get into a fight with the board," Shaeffer said. "This was something he felt comfortable with, and it gives him enough time to find a job."

Board President Jay Gendreau said the district also wanted to avert a legal skirmish that could have resulted in an expensive settlement with Bloch. By law, he was entitled to up to 18 months' salary in severance pay, Gendreau said.

Gendreau said staff members expressed confidence in Turrentine, and board members did not consider interviewing other candidates when they asked her to fill the vacant post.

"She leads by example. She's highly motivated. She's very precise, and she's a real people person," Gendreau said.

Turrentine, 46, of Seal Beach, is the district's first woman superintendent.

Born and educated in Long Beach, Turrentine began her teaching career in the Long Beach Unified School District. She was hired in Bellflower in August, 1990, after serving as assistant superintendent of instruction for an elementary school district in Huntington Beach.

Turrentine declined to comment on the sexual harassment allegations raised against her former boss, but said she has a good working relationship with her teaching and managerial staff.

"I hope the staff here feels very comfortable with me," Turrentine said. "I've been here three years, so I don't think that's going to be an issue."

Turrentine said she is also confident of the school board's support, but she is aware that trustees can change their minds.

She requested a year-to-year contract with the district that requires either party to give six months' notice to terminate the relationship.

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