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Teacher at Kennedy High School is back after district removed her

Yana Gracile | May 21, 2014

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JFK High School LAUSDA librarian and teacher at John F. Kennedy High School, Leslie Garcia, is back at school shortly after being removed over allegations that she mishandled and manipulated the record-keeping of an after school provider, ARC.

Garcia said she had “no comment” after LA School Report contacted her yesterday at the school library.

Principal Suzanne Blake, who took the helm at Kennedy two years ago, and is herself a target of mounting criticism, told LA School Report that she was unable to comment on Garcia due to an investigation by LAUSD into Garcia’s alleged mismanagement of a federally-funded after-school program, Beyond the Bell, and ARC, the program-contractor that administers it.

As a result, the circumstances surrounding Garcia’s return and her removal remain unclear, fueling an already volatile and contentious atmosphere on the school campus among parents, teachers, school administrators and students, who in addition to making allegations of misconduct, have complained about Garcia’s inappropriate behavior, including bullying and verbal abuse.

LAUSD did not respond to a request for comment.

Sources close the situation told LA School Report that on May 2, Garcia had received a notice of re-assignment to Education Service Center North to take effect the following Monday. Thomas Waldman, the LA Unified spokesman, had confirmed her removal one day after LA School Report posted a story about it.

Parents and students seem perplexed that Garcia had returned so soon.

One of the students quoted in that story, Gabriella Orellana, a senior at Kennedy and a former member of student council, told LA School Report yesterday that school administrators have begun to retaliate against her and another student, for speaking out about the harassing behavior.

Orellana said she has experienced countless instances of unfair treatment and intimidation, sentiments echoed by a petition that has gathered more than 1,000 signatures, which accuses Garcia and Blake of threatening “all of the students with further repercussions if they filed complaints against her or Ms. Garcia,” according the petition. The petition also accuses Blake of ignoring complaints and protecting Garcia.

Rosemary Mendoza, the mother of a Kennedy senior, accused Garcia of verbally abusing him and others. “She yelled and made kids cry,” she said in an interview. She said her son was forced out of the student government program and was told he had to take another class.

“It’s definitely unfair to students, she added. “They’re seniors and supposed to be preparing for real-life scenarios and moving on and being able to know that if they do have an issue that they can bring it up, and it will get addressed without them having to worry about the consequences.”

The Granada Hills high school, which serves 2,400 students struggles to compete with its peers, ranking 4 out of 10 when compared to similar schools in the state.

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