I am a 2005 graduate of La Cañada High School and have been following the news regarding Gabrielle Leko’s actions and the school district’s response — both are appalling and deserve careful consideration by La Cañada residents interested in maintaining the excellence of our school district. Although I do not have any personal knowledge of the incident, Gabrielle Leko’s alleged actions are broadly similar to my own interactions with her, as is the school’s response. When my parents tried to intervene and schedule a meeting with her and the principal, the union contract was cited in refusing to schedule a discussion in violation of the Education Code.
These incidents need to be contextualized within with the pervasive culture of silence at La Cañada High School. Another employee (teacher would not be an appropriate description) is so incompetent that students and parents tried to have her removed when I took the class in 2004, and again in 2009, when a relative did. Instead of having her fired in response to overwhelming criticism, the school had to pay someone else to watch the incompetent one. The fact that this is being considered again for Ms. Leko is outrageous. In what other industry or occupation would multiple, sustained consumer-driven attempts over a period of years to remove an incompetent employee be met with the false remedy of hiring a babysitter? Keeping both on payroll is a waste of taxpayer dollars and a missed opportunity to hire one of the many excellent, enthusiastic teachers that are available in this economy.
Ultimately, the school board needs to create a culture of accountability by ensuring that bad teachers are not kept employed for fear of violating provisions of a poorly-negotiated contract. If the allegations against Ms. Leko are correct, the school district should hire an excellent employment lawyer to ensure that she, and anyone else failing to adhere to basic standards, is permanently removed from the classroom.
Oxford, United Kingdom