Problems At Miramonte Could Cost LAUSD Millions
Following the arrest of Mark Berndt, 61, and Martin Springer, 49, both charged with committing lewd acts with children, LAUSD removed all of the teachers and workers at Miramonte Elementary. The staff is now working at Augustus Hawkins High School which is still under construction.
“We were told by the school district that teachers were not going to be able to return,” said Marla Eby, director of communications at the teachers' union UTLA. “Subsequently, the school district backed off of that but now they’re saying that those teachers can’t go back to their classes until June, which doesn’t seem appropriate. They should be able to go back as soon as the investigation is completed.”
While substitute teachers take over the Miramonte classrooms, it is uncertain what the former teachers will be doing at the empty high school during the investigation.
“We want to make sure that their time is well spent,” Eby said. “They’re professionals and it would be nice if they can actually do what they're trained to do.”
For the LAUSD, this means months of pay for two sets of staff while the investigations continue. The LA Times reported that the new hiring alone would cost the district $5.7 million for the remaining school year.
And with the dramatic drop in attendance, the LAUSD may find it hard to cover expenses. Every day of attendance is worth $40 per student and the low attendance during the parents’ protest of the teachers’ removal may have cost the district up to $15,000 each day, according to the LA Times.
Most students have returned to their classrooms and attendance is now in the 90th percentile. But the worst of LAUSD’s financial woes may not be over just yet.
According to legal experts, the district could be facing millions of dollars in settlements to dozens of student victims if proven that the district was aware of past problems with the teachers.
The courts may not have to look very far for evidence either. In 2008, a concerned father complained to the principal after seeing pictures Berndt had taken of his daughter eating a cookie, the LA Times reported. Investigators now believe the substance coating the cookie was Berndt’s semen. Also, detectives investigated Berndt in 1994 after a girl claimed he had tried to touch her genitals, but the evidence was not strong enough to pursue charges.
For now, Berndt remains in jail on $23 million bail. Springer is out on bail and his preliminary hearing has been set for April 16.
Reach staff reporter Karla Robinson here.