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Complaint Alleges Wide-Ranging Retaliation Scheme by El Rancho Unified Board Members to Rid District of Administrators and Teachers

By Brian Hews • August 26, 2019, 1:55 p.m.

An eleven page Unfair Practice Charge filed against El Rancho Unified School District, exclusively obtained by HMG-LCCN, portrays some members of the ERUSD Board as an extremely malicious group, pitting administrators and teachers against each other, fabricating reasons to terminate administrators, demoting and dismissing ERUSD personnel without evaluations, and harassing parents who spoke at Board meetings, all in an effort take over the ERUSD, hand their own friends a job, and install their radical left-wing communist ethnic studies curriculum into the district.

The ERUSD Board Members involved in the scheme, as outlined in the Public Employees Relation Board (PERB) Charge filed by Los Angeles-based attorney Jeff Boxer, include ERUSD Board President Jose Lara, Vice-President Gabriel Orosco, and Clerk Leanne Ibarra (the Group); the remaining Board members are not implicated. 

Lara and Ibarra are currently targets of a recall effort.

Jose Lara, Gabriel Orosco, and Leanne Ibarra.

The scheme started after Ibarra was elected in 2018,  giving Lara a majority on the Board. By March 2019, the Group issued twenty-three layoff notices for nearly all ERUSD Administrators. 

The layoffs were targets of the Group, meant to decimate the entire El Rancho Administrators and Supervisors Association Union’s Bargaining Unit, threatening them with imminent unemployment. 

But none of the employees targeted had evaluations, a requirement as dictated by the Educational Employment Relations Act, so the Group narrowed the field to seven.

Targeted were former ERASA President Sam Genis, and ERASA members David Sermeno, Hector Vasquez, and Rosalio Medrano; El Rancho Federation of Teachers members included Todd Zola, Pedro Canizales, and Natalie Valdiviez.

The Group’s plan was to pit administrators against teachers and fabricate discipline issues so they could be fired, forcing administrators to violate the protected rights of subordinates while prohibiting “protected activities” on their school sites.

The Charge alleged that Lara and Orosco personally threatened many administrators, who will testify if there is a hearing, with termination if they did not retaliate and falsify records against certain ERFT members.

Also included in the scheme was former Superintendent Karling Aguilera-Fort, who recently resigned and took a job at the Oxnard Unified School District.

It is unknown if Fort was helping or an unwilling partner in the scheme, but he did corroborate facts that the Group was attempting to fire certain administrators.

Fort told several ERASA and ERFT members, including Genis, that the Group told him to “get rid of” certain administrators justifying their actions by stating the terminations were due to “poor performance, the inability to move the school forward, and evaluations.” 

Yet none of the administrators were subject to negative evaluations, failing test scores, or other issues and none of the terminations were backed up with the required administrator evaluations.

Former ERUSD Board President Dr. Aurora Villon told HMG-LCCN that she informed Aguilera-Fort of the abuses but he “failed to address them.”

Durfee Elementary targeted

According to the Charge, the Group first targeted Genis, who at the time was principal at Durfee Elementary. 

A twenty-eight year employee, Genis did not have a single negative evaluation in his personnel file.

The Group and Fort were disturbed that teachers and parents from Durfee were speaking negatively about the Group at Board meetings, blaming Genis for organizing the protests.

Dr. Villon will testify that Fort was told by the Group to “watch Genis” and paper his file with negative evaluations, building a case to get rid of him.

Orosco followed Fort by constantly complaining to Genis about how he ran Durfee Elementary School, objecting to protected activities which included parent and teacher involvement in the school community. 

Finally, the Group got what they wanted after they attempted to demote Genis from principal to the classroom; Genis reluctantly retired losing out on two years of pay and service benefits.

Rivera Elementary targeted

The Group then set their sights on David Sermeno, Principal of Rivera Elementary School.

 Sermeno has been with the school district for 20 years and, similar to Genis, does not have a single negative evaluation in his personnel file.

The Group was angry that Sermeno was allowing protected activities at the school, permitting parents to use classrooms for meetings to discuss their concerns about the Board.

Fort eventually met with Sermeno and told him that those types of meetings now required Board approval and indicated that they were “watching him.”

Finally, the Group got what they wanted after they attempted to demote Sermeno from principal to the classroom he resigned in June of this year.

North Park Academy targeted

It was in August of 2017 when Lara and Orosco “urged” Rosalio Medrano to apply for the principal job at North Park Academy of the Arts.

Medrano took the job and was immediately told by Lara to “get rid of” ERFT’s Lead Negotiator Todd Zola and union member Pedro Canizales who were both teachers at North Park.

In a later conversation, Orosco echoed Lara’s statement and told Medrano to remove another teacher, Natalie Valdiviez.

According to the Charge, Zola, Canizales, and Valdiviez confirmed that they were subsequently harassed, threatened with discipline, and were told to avoid public and union activities by Medrano.

But they were never removed; frustrated, Lara and Orosco forced Medrano out only six months after he was hired.

 Medrano would later apologize to Canizales,telling him that Lara and Orosco were behind the scheme.

El Rancho High targeted

One of the most egregious complaints in the Charge was alleged during former El Rancho High School Principal Hector Vasquez’ tenure. 

Vasquez took the job at El Rancho in August 2017 and immediately noticed Orosco’s constant intervention on matters that were normally under the Superintendent’s purview.

Vasquez stated he felt bullied and intimidated by Orosco who would often call meetings to secure preferential treatment for a person the Charge labeled “Student A.”

Multiple sources are telling HMG that Student A is Vice-President Orosco’s daughter; in a statement to HMG-LCCN, Orosco did not deny Student A was his daughter.

The Charge alleges that Orosco regularly intervened for Student A to address her academic record with Vasquez and several of the high school staff.

Sources tell HMG-LCCN that it got so bad that many of the high school teachers dreaded having Student A in their class for fear of retribution by Orosco.

Orosco even told others that he “owned” Vasquez and would go to his office demanding that Vasquez and others alter protocols, bend rules or otherwise ignore the Education Code on Student A’s behalf.

According to the Charge, at one point, Orosco ordered Vasquez to remove three members of the school’s Pepster squad because they were “mean” to Student A.

Orosco also demanded that Vasquez hire a different coach for the Pepster squad.

In both cases, Vasquez, along with other ERUSD employees and unions, fought Orosco’s demands and nothing was done. 

That  was it for Orosco with the Board removing Vasquez in 2018.

HMG-LCCN contacted former ERASA President Sam Genis who stated, “The harassment and targeting of administrators and teachers has ingrained stress, fear and anxiety which only causes a toxic work environment. I will testify [at the hearing] to ensure that the harassment and targeting of administrators, teachers and classified employees ceases to exist in the ERUSD.”

Dr. Villon told HMG-LCCN, “As the former president of the ERUSD Board of Education, a parent, an educator, and long-time resident of Pico Rivera, I am deeply concerned with the status of our district.  Our community has always placed the needs of children above all else.  This focus has been disrupted by irresponsible decisions, personal vendettas, and adult power struggles that have nothing to do with the education of children or service to our community.  All available research indicates that children, teachers, counselors, support staff, and administrators perform their best when they are in a nurturing, caring, and respectful environment.  Sad to say, this does not seem to be the case in the ERUSD at this time.”

According to the PERB website, once the unfair practice charge is filed, a Board agent will be assigned to review and determine whether a complaint should be issued. 

If, after investigating the Charge, the Board agent concludes that there are enough facts alleged that an unfair practice may have been committed, the agent will issue a Complaint with the case proceeding to an informal settlement conference. 

The informal conference is an effort to settle an unfair practice complaint by mutual agreement, if a settlement cannot be reached a formal hearing is scheduled.

The Charge is asking the PERB to take the following actions:

  1. Cease and desist from interfering with ERASA as the exclusive representative;
  2. Require the District to remove or rescind any discipline issued by the District or its agents based upon its unlawful efforts to impede ERASA as the exclusive representative;
  3. Make restoration of the status quo ante for any impacted bargaining unit members due to the District’s discrimination, interference and other illegal actions;
  4. Order backpay and a make whole remedy for any impacted bargaining unit members;
  5. Post a notice informing employees of the unfair practices committed by the District, as set forth above;
  6. Provide any other relief deemed by PERB to be just and proper.

  • Salvador Cisneros says:

    ERUSD El Rancho Unified School Board Member Gabriel Orosco initiating a RADICALIZATION OF STUDENTS INSIDE THE CLASSROOM…



    PS Someone ask Leanne IBarra and Jose Lara’s campaign manager, Erick Carbajal, about getting caught on camera STEALING CAMPAIGN SIGNS during the last election. The signs said: “NO MARXISTS IN ERUSD! SAY NO TO JOSE LARA”. Jose Lara is a self declared Marxist/Communist and is the current President of the El Rancho Unified School District