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JFK High librarian removed after allegations of fraud, forgery

Yana Gracile | May 7, 2014

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JFK High School Los Angeles

JFK High School

LA Unified officials are investigating a teacher who has now been removed from John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, over allegations that she mishandled and manipulated record-keeping and stole money from ARC, an after-school educational program that works with public, private and charter schools throughout several area school districts.

Parents and students at Granada Hills have accused the teacher, Leslie Garcia, a librarian and Student Government/Junior Council sponsor, of committing fraud by forging students’ names on ARC’s sign-in sheets, even when they weren’t attending the program, to falsely boost attendance.

The same accusations are included on a list of 16 complaints attached to a petition drive to have LA Unified remove the school’s principal, Suzanne Blake, for other reasons.

Item No. 4 on the petition charges that Garcia “fabricated and forced student signatures for a variety of ‘activities’ for the ARC Program” and “has forced her regular day students to sign in for after-school classes that are sponsored by ARC which results in the school receiving federal money.”

ARC officials told LA School Report that the more signatures the program receives, the more funding goes to the school. The organization is cooperating with the district in looking into the matter.

“We are working with them and will take any necessary action,” Gary Lipsky, ARC co-president said in an interview.

Students and parents said they have also complained to officials that Garcia engaged in bullying students and verbal abuse.

Gabriella Orellana, a senior at Kennedy and a member of the Senior Council, told LA School Report that she witnessed inappropriate behavior by Garcia and was a victim of forgery.

She said an official came to the school last week, seeking to learn more about the allegations of fraud and forgery. Orellana said the official showed her sign-in sheets, on which her name and the names of other students appeared, and she told the official that neither she nor the others had signed them.

“What she ended up doing was giving false information from when I was there in the morning to when I left, and she forged my signature several times,” Orellana said.

Orellana said she is happy Garcia has been removed.

“I feel relieved. It’s about time,” she said.

The district declined to discuss the accusations against Garcia, saying in an email, “Teacher has been pulled. Investigation ongoing. Since it’s a personnel matter, no further comment at this time.”

Efforts to reach Garcia through her union, UTLA, were also unsuccessful. A spokeswoman declined to comment.

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