Four L.A. Unified administrators removed pending misconduct probe
Two senior administrators and two principals have been removed from their jobs pending the completion of an investigation into how they handled sexual misconduct allegations against a teacher at a Wilmington school, district officials told The Times.
Those placed on paid leave are Linda Del Cueto, the senior instructional administrator in the San Fernando Valley; Mike Romero, head of the adult education division; David Kooper, principal at Gulf Elementary in Wilmington; and Valerie Moses, principal at Los Angeles Elementary in Harvard Heights.
The district confirmed that the administrators were removed from their positions on Friday, but would not comment on why. High-level district officials confirmed that the action was taken as part of the district’s inquiry into the handling of allegations against Robert Pimentel, a teacher at De La Torre Elementary.
News of the administrators’ removal was first reported by the L.A. Daily News.
Pimentel, 57, is charged with sexual misconduct involving 12 children under the age of 14. Fourteen felony counts involve alleged abuse that occurred between September 2011 and mid-March 2012. Two additional counts date back to years earlier. He has pleaded not guilty and remains in jail in lieu of $12-million bail.
Shortly after Pimentel’s January arrest, L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy said De La Torre Principal Irene L. Hinojosa had been aware of allegations against Pimentel in 2002 and 2008. She apparently never reported these allegations, which was a major factor in her removal, Deasy said.
Both Pimentel and Hinojosa resigned as the district was preparing to fire them last year.
But other district employees quickly came under scrutiny as well, based on statements by parents and allegations made by attorneys who represent students and their families in a spate of alleged sexual-misconduct cases.
They alleged that parents accused Pimentel of misconduct in mediation sessions attended by Holly Priebe-Diaz, an intervention coordinator, and Del Cueto. At the time, Del Cueto was the senior administrator in the region for the L.A. Unified School District. The goal of the mediation was to ease tensions between parents and Principal Hinojosa.
Regardless of the forum, sexual misconduct allegations must be reported to law enforcement under state law and district policy.
District officials have confirmed that a mediation took place in 2009, but have not released information about who was present or whether abuse allegations were made, citing ongoing internal and police investigations.
Priebe-Diaz has not been removed from her position. Del Cueto later became the top academic administrator in the Valley.
Romero was the top regional administrator over De La Torre at the time of Pimentel’s arrest before moving to the adult division. But sources said he was under scrutiny for his actions during an earlier period.
Moses was drawn in because she was in the chain of command as an administrator, said district sources who could not be named because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.
During all or most of the period in question, Kooper was the chief of staff for school board member Richard Vladovic. Sources said that a parent complained to Kooper by phone or email about Hinojosa and that he referred the issue to Del Cueto. It isn’t clear that Pimentel’s name came up in the complaint.
Kooper left Vladovic’s staff to become a principal.
Attempts to contact the administrators were not successful.
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