New board members sworn in; undecided on Leko issue

La Cañada school board members failed to reach a decision Tuesday regarding potential disciplinary action against a high school math teacher accused of using offensive language and ethnic slurs in her classroom.


FOR THE RECORD: This article incorrectly states that Andrew Blumenfeld was elected board treasurer, when in fact he was elected clerk.


As a result of a formal complaint against her, Gabrielle Leko was directed last month to undergo sensitivity and diversity training. In June, then-Board Member Cindy Wilcox accused Leko of addressing a student as “Jew boy,” among other offenses. On Tuesday, the board met in closed session to discuss further sanctions, up to and including dismissal. Wilcox, who declined to run for reelection and no longer is a member of the board, was not part of the debate.

Despite meeting both before and after their annual reorganizational meeting on the issue, the board broke at midnight and announced no decision had been reached. The governing body is scheduled to discuss the issue again at 5 p.m. Dec. 21.

Whatever that decision turns out to be, however, it will be kept under wraps. Supt. Wendy Sinnette has said that no actions decided upon by the board will be made public, as dictated by the district-teacher union contract.

Newcomers Ellen Multari and Andrew “AJ” Blumenfeld were sworn into office during the open portion of Tuesday night’s meeting, jumping directly into one of the more controversial issues to hit the district in years.

The two join sitting members Susan Boyd, Scott Tracy and Joel Peterson. Each will serve a four-year term.

“I am feeling very awed by the weight of the responsibility,” Multari said. “I’m very concerned about the temperature of the community right now.”

Blumenfeld described his first meeting as an exhilarating start.

“We have a lot of important things on our plate as we arrive,” he said. “I have a lot of optimism for the great things that are going to come out of this board and this district in the next few years.”

Multari and Blumenfeld finished first and second in the Nov. 8 contest. But while Multari led a candidate pool of four from the outset of the vote tally, Blumenfeld did not secure the second open seat until the counting of mail-in and provisional ballots leapfrogged him ahead of three-term incumbent Jeanne Broberg in the 11th hour.

During the annual reassigning of board titles, Tracy was elected president, Multari was elected vice president and Blumenfeld was elected treasurer.

Broberg and fellow outgoing board member Wilcox were present Tuesday to relinquish their seats and to wish their replacements good luck.

“I am pleased and relieved that our 4,000 children will be in their capable hands,” said Wilcox, who formally complained about Leko after listening to the concerns of parents.

Supt. Wendy Sinnette thanked Broberg and Wilcox for their years of service.

“Words cannot express the commitment that these two have demonstrated,” Sinnette said. “They are exceptional leaders, they have worked so hard and have had such vision.”

Continuing board members also commended Broberg and Wilcox for their service to the district. Boyd acknowledged that with five strong personalities on the board, there have been moments of dissent.

“It was very rare that we all agreed on how we want to go about achieving our goals,” Boyd said. “But the one thing I can say is we all had the same goal and that was to provide the best education that we could for our students.”


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