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Miramonte teachers return to campus rocked by abuse scandal

Arriving students and their parents check out the class lists posted outside Miramonte Elementary on the first day of school

School opened Tuesday at Miramonte Elementary with the normal bustle and excitement -- as well as four TV news vans, two school police officers and 16 psychiatric social workers.

But the most notable event was the first day back teaching for faculty members abruptly removed from the school in February, following the arrests of a current and a former teacher charged with lewd conduct against students.

In what he called a confidence-building measure, Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy had ordered the entire staff to report to a not-yet-opened campus while Miramonte finished the school year with replacement teachers.

Now 45 of the original teachers, cleared of any wrongdoing, are back. Others moved to different campuses because Miramonte converted this year from a year-round to a traditional schedule, which reduced the enrollment at the campus located in Florence-Firestone.

Fifth-grader April Gonzalez welcomed the return of familiar faces.

“It was surprising what happened last year, and it was difficult, but we got through it,” she said. “I’m very happy to see the teachers back.”

“My teacher — she was like a second mother to me,” April said of May Lynn Montano, who is back teaching fourth grade.

Former Miramonte teacher Mark Berndt, 61, is charged with 23 counts of lewd conduct in his classroom over the period from July 2005 until authorities pulled him from the school in January 2011. The second teacher, Martin Springer, is charged in connection with one incident of alleged lewd conduct. Both longtime Miramonte teachers have pleaded not guilty.

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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Arriving students and their parents eye the class lists posted outside Miramonte Elementary on the first day of school. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times 

 
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