Union Protests Renewal of School Principal's Contract


A decision by the Beverly Hills Board of Education to renew the contract of Principal Ann Picker of Hawthorne School has sparked a teachers union protest accusing the district of reneging on a promise to fire the controversial administrator.

During last year's strike, the Beverly Hills Education Assn., the union representing the teachers, filed unfair labor charges against Picker with the Public Employment Relations Board, accusing her of undermining the union and harassing its representative at the school. According to union officials, Picker tried to meet with teachers individually and create a faculty advisory council to settle grievances and discuss job conditions, functions for which the union has exclusive authority. The union also charged that Picker targeted its representative at Hawthorne by increasing his duties, reprimanding him and keeping a separate personnel file on him.

The union dropped the charges as part of its contract settlement with the district, but continued to pursue Picker's removal in private meetings in December with Beverly Hills Supt. Robert L. French.

"Dr. French agreed with our assessment and made an agreement with us that she would not be back next year," said Judy McIntire, president of the association. "Dr. French did not want us to discuss this with anyone, so he could resolve the matter in his role as superintendent."

But last week the board voted to renew Picker's contract, and the union accused the superintendent of reneging on a promise.

French denies making any promises to the union.

"Why would I make a promise I can't deliver on," French said. "I do not hire or fire anyone. By law I cannot. Only the Board of Education can hire or fire."

French said he met with teachers and parents about Picker's contract and passed along their concerns to the board.

"I took copious notes of all their concerns, and I shared them with the board, along with my own observation about any strengths and weaknesses," he said. "The board decided not to make changes in any administration positions next year."

Angered by the decision, McIntire vowed to organize the teachers union to work against the election of those board members who supported renewing Picker's contract.

Picker was unable to be reached for comment.

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