Sex, Lies and Teacher Dismissal: Let the Voting Begin
Guest contributor | July 22, 2013
By: Ashunda Norris
Heading into the final day before a special election for the east valley City Council seat, teacher dismissal has emerged as a central issue between Cindy Montanez and Nury Martinez.
Responding to accusations that she protected predatory teachers while serving as a school board member, Martinez fought back over the weekend, saying she has been falsely accused. In a campaign flyer available on the City Ethics website Martinez, who finished second to Montanez in the May primary, said Montanez “crossed the line” and that “every local newspaper has looked into it and confirmed that her statements are false.”
At issue are disputed campaign accusations made by Montanez claiming that among other things, Martinez was involved in what one campaign flyer calls a “cover up of sex abuse cases,” a reference to teacher abuse cases that came to light last year. Martinez was a school board member when the scandal broke but, in fact, had been a vocal supporter of a state measure intended to make it easier to fire teachers accused of child abuse.
But in a twist, Martinez is also being attacked for her support of that same dismissal legislation. In a development that has so far gone unreported, Warren Fletcher, the president of the United Teachers Federation, wrote a letter of support for Montanez urging members of the union to vote against Martinez because she “advocated in Los Angeles and Sacramento for the elimination of teacher due process.” (See letter at City Ethics here).
The teacher dismissal bill, which was never voted on by the full assembly was killed partly because the union opposed it. The letter was paid for by the teachers union superpac called PACE.
Montanez has also charged Martinez, with deceiving the public about key votes when she served on the school board and making decisions that were harmful to the community. Campaign ads from the Montanez camp state that Martinez voted to “fire thousands of teachers, balloon class sizes, and give away public schools to for-profit corporations,” all while covering up the sex abuse cases.
Martinez has publicly denounced the sex abuse cover-up accusation and in an interview with LA School Report said she’s very proud of her school board membership run and only regrets she didn’t have more time to make changes.
“I would have liked to have had the Art at the Core plan implemented,” Martinez said, referring to a plan that would essentially use art to teach core courses such as math and reading.
While serving on the board, Martinez said she introduced pilot schools and linked high school students with companies opening to offering internships to school district students. “We figured out what was missing,” Martinez stated. “The pilot schools are very successful because they focus on personalized instruction.”
Martinez appears undeterred by the criticism and said if she wins, she plans to raise awareness of public school issues with the City Council, such as truancy and student safety. Her first order of business, she said, would be to build a core relationship with the LAPD to ensure that truancies are handled more delicately than simply writing tickets and jamming the court system.
“We cannot continue to ticket out way out of this issue” she said. “Why aren’t the students in school? Why is a student not getting to school on time? Some of these students are dropping off their younger sister or brother to elementary school before they go to school themselves.”
Martinez is also eager to push the idea of community schools, a concept used in New York, Chicago and other school systems, where the school becomes a center for outside local resources that focus on health and social services.
“School becomes the center of the community,” said Martinez. “We have to have a lot more access to resources to be able to see that.”