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Miramonte Elementary to get new parents center

Miramonte Elementary, the school where a former teacher faced misconduct charges, will have a new parents center next fall.

The $143,535 project to relocate and update the center won unanimous approval Tuesday from the Los Angeles Board of Education. The effort at Miramonte, which is located in unincorporated Florence-Firestone, is part of a $20-million districtwide initiative authorized in June 2011.

Miramonte Elementary burst into the news in February with the arrest of Mark Berndt, who has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of lewd conduct. A second teacher, Martin Springer, was later arrested on lewd conduct charges and has pleaded not guilty. L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy decided to replace the school’s entire staff, saying teachers and other employees would be allowed to return next year when all investigations were complete.

At least five updated parent centers have been finished across the nation’s second-largest school system, and a group of 22 more were approved for construction in February. About 300 schools will eventually benefit.

The timetable for the Miramonte upgrade was accelerated in response to the teachers' arrests and also because the school was moving next fall from a year-round schedule to a traditional calendar.

“There’s going to be huge shuffling of classrooms and administrative rooms,” Nadia Funn, a development specialist with the district’s parent-services branch, said in an interview.

Miramonte’s current parent center is large, using three bungalows on the edge of the playground, but poorly equipped, Funn said. The new location, in the main building near the school entrance, will have computers, wireless Internet access, printers, an independent phone line, furniture fit to the room and a children’s play area.

The goal is to give the neighborhood’s low-income parents online access that they can’t afford at home. The center also will provide parent training and space for meetings.

The project will not pay for big-screen TVs and refrigerators, which were included in parent centers at schools overseen by the nonprofit controlled by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Those features were paid for with donations solicited by the mayor’s team.

The district projects are funded through voter-approved school bonds, and rules limit what the money can be used for, Funn said.

In a public hearing, two Miramonte parents thanked the school board for approving the project.

Before they left, school board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte offered some advice.

“It’s not going to stop dirty-thinking people from coming on our staff,” LaMotte told them. Parents need to be vigilant: “You just have to be in your schools, in there with your teachers, know what’s going on.”

ALSO:

L.A. school board considers faster firings for sexual misconduct

Parents to learn of school sex misconduct allegations in 72 hours

Judge refuses to lower $23-million bail for former Miramonte teacher

-- Howard Blume

 
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