Board to deal with Leko issue

With the election finally in the rearview mirror, the two newest members of the La Cañada Unified school board are now tasked with addressing one of the district’s most controversial issues during their first day on the job.

Following the certification of the election results by county officials this week, Ellen Multari and Andrew Blumenfeld are scheduled to be sworn into office on Dec. 6, the same day that board members will consider in closed session possible disciplinary action against La Cañada High School math teacher Gabrielle Leko.

Leko was accused of making inappropriate comments in her classroom, including addressing a ninth-grade geometry student as “Jew boy,” in a formal complaint filed earlier this year.

“Taking into consideration the advice of legal counsel, the board will, at that time, discuss what its options are, the consequences of each of those options, and decide what, if any, additional discipline shall be forthcoming,” Supt. Wendy Sinnette said in a statement Tuesday. “Due to employment privacy laws, no additional actions related to those the administration has already taken, nor any additional actions decided upon by the school board, will be disclosed.”

The math teacher has already been directed to participate in sensitivity and diversity training as a result of the complaint, according to a memorandum released by the district last week.

Multari and Blumenfeld said that they have both been following the Leko complaint closely, and are ready to get to work.

“I feel very well informed as a member of the public,” Blumenfeld said. “I am interested in being otherwise briefed as a school board member.”

There will be no honeymoon period for the new board members, Multari said, and no rest for continuing members.

“[Blumenfeld] and I have a lot of work to do in the coming months, and I look forward to working with him, Susan Boyd, Scott Tracy and Joel Peterson, as well as Wendy Sinnette and her team, to help our district rise out of the morass of distrust and contempt that currently bogs us down,” Multari said. “We have a lot of healing to do and I believe that many in our community will look to Andrew and me to guide that process. I believe that we share this as a top priority.”

Multari secured one of two seats up for grabs in the Nov. 8 election early in the vote count, consistently leading the pool of four candidates by several hundred votes during the nearly two weeks of tally updates. But Blumenfeld landed the second seat only after the counting of mail-in, write-in and provisional ballots moved him ahead of three-term incumbent Jeanne Broberg in the 11th hour.

Broberg and her fellow outgoing school board member Cindy Wilcox were both examples of service to La Cañada schools, Blumenfeld said, adding that he is excited to take up the mantle.

“I am looking forward to working with all of them,” Blumenfeld said of his new colleagues. “I think they are good, intelligent, bright people. I know we share a lot of the same goals.”

In an email Tuesday, Broberg congratulated the newest school board members.

“I wish them well as they commence the very serious responsibility of being on the team that leads our precious La Cañada Unified School District,” she said.

She also extended a hearty thanks to everyone who contributed to her campaign.

“Names, yards for signs, time spent making phone calls — all so appreciated,” Broberg said. “Now we can all continue working to keep La Cañada the community that works together for its schools.”

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