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District transfers Lincoln officials

Top administrators will be leaving the Santa Monica school, where a teacher is accused of molesting students.

June 21, 2008|Tami Abdollah | Times Staff Writer

Bowing to increasing pressure from parents, Santa Monica-Malibu district officials will transfer the principal and assistant principal of a middle school where a teacher was recently charged with molesting several of his students.

Principal Tristan Komlos will be moved from her position at Lincoln Middle School to become principal of John Muir Elementary School, making her the fourth principal to leave the school in seven years. Assistant Principal Francis Costanzo will be moved to a district position that deals with the special education program.

The district will also lose Supt. Dianne Talarico at the end of this month to Burlingame School District in Northern California.

The changes come after the district was rocked last month by the arrest of 30-year district employee Thomas Arthur Beltran, 60, on molestation charges. Beltran, who taught English as a second language at Lincoln, was charged with 23 felony counts involving the alleged molestation of eight girls under 14.

At least one of the charges stems from a 2006 incident that was investigated by police at the time and reported to Costanzo and then-Principal Kathy Scott. Prosecutors declined to file charges at the time, saying they lacked sufficient evidence. No information on the incident was found in Beltran's personnel file, according to the district.

Some parents have voiced outrage over the case. They say the school has lacked leadership and the district has lacked accountability. A strongly worded letter was sent by a group of parents to the district this month expressing a vote of no confidence in the school's current principal. PTA President Lynn Leavitt said Komlos' transfer was not related to the Beltran case.

"I'm concerned about the number of changes going on right now," said Lincoln parent Debbi Mulvaney. "But I'm trying to look at it as an opportunity for us to find strong leaders, and there's certainly more transparency at the district level than we've seen."

Since last month, the district has worked to significantly revamp and improve its child abuse reporting procedures, creating a task force of parents to help advise the process.

A new version of the policy will be sent before the school board for approval Thursday.

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tami.abdollah@latimes.com

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