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Inglewood School Board Under Fire

Wave Newspapers, News Report, Olu Alemoru Posted: Nov 21, 2008

Member of independent panel says district is in chaos right now, as the Inglewood Board of Education faces accusations of violating state law in its hiring practices.

INGLEWOOD A criminal investigation could soon be launched into the conduct of the Inglewood Unified School District governing board, following accusations that it has deliberately flouted state law with regard to the hiring and firing of classified staff.

The action was signaled at a Nov. 6 meeting of the IUSD Personnel Commission, an independent body created last year to oversee employment practices as they relate to classified non-teaching employees.

District policy calls for the use of a civil service merit system, requiring that classified staff be hired based on applicants fitness for employment, as determined by competitive exams. But with increasing furor in recent months, IUSD has come under fire for what some critics say is a culture of nepotism on the school board.

Unanimously, the three-member Personnel Commission comprised of chairman Willie Crittenden, a former IUSD board member; former school principal Gayle Caldwell-Johnson; and West Basin Municipal Water Board member Gloria Gray approved a series of investigative requests. They include calls for probes by both the Los Angeles County District Attorney and the countys grand jury into potential criminal acts by the governing board. In addition, the commission said it would notify the L.A. County Superintendent of Education of potential financial impacts on the district that could force it into bankruptcy.

All five members of the school board President Carol Raines-Brown, Vice President Trina Williams and members Arnold C. Butler, Alice B. Grigsby and Johnny J. Young declined to comment on the pending investigation. A call to the office of acting Superintendent Kenneth Crowe was not returned.

In a Nov. 6 letter to the Public Integrity Division of the District Attorneys Office, the commission charges that over the past year the governing board has willfully failed to take necessary actions to implement the merit system. At the same time, the governing board has continued to employ classified employees outside of the statutory requirements for employment.

At its conclusion, the letter says commission members have come to believe that it is now apparent after this one-year period of time that the governing boards only intent is to simply ignore the law and continue to act with impunity in the belief that it is immune from complying with the law.

Speaking during the meeting held inside IUSD headquarters, Crittenden outlined a number of grievances that forced the commission to take action. Among the most serious complaints: that the board is in clear violation of state law by failing to appoint a personnel director a legally mandated position with the authority to fully implement the merit system. The district is also, commissioners said, without a permanent superintendent, chief counsel, director of technology or director of human resources.

As of October 31, 5.01 p.m. the board was informed that they cannot hire any classified positions by rule of law, said Crittenden. You must have a personnel director. Anyone that is hired cannot be paid, because the director has to certify the payroll. However, the board continues to hire [classified] staff despite legally not being able to do so.

Added Gray: These measures may be perceived as drastic, but they are absolutely necessary. The classified employees voted for a merit system which unfortunately is not being recognized or supported by the board. The district is in chaos right now.

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