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Founder of Crescendo charter schools fired [Updated]

March 4, 2011 |  6:34 pm

The Crescendo charter schools board of trustees voted unanimously Friday night to fire founder and former executive director John Allen after a cheating scandal led the Los Angeles Board of Education to move this week to close down the schools.

After a closed-door meeting, the Crescendo trustees announced that they had voted 7 to 0 to terminate Allen, and the Cresendo board chair indicated there could be legal action to overturn Tuesday's decision by the L.A. school board to revoke the charter. After the cheating was uncovered, Allen was demoted from executive director but remained a top administrator at Crescendo.

Allen, who has not spoken publicly, allegedly told principals to direct teachers to break the seals on the state standardized tests and drill students on actual test questions. Allen denied the cheating had taken place until presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary, according to Los Angeles Unified School District documents and interviews.

L.A. Unified authorized the charter, which included six campuses in south L.A., Gardena and Hawthorne. But after The Times disclosed the cheating in an article Monday, the school board voted to close down those schools.

The district staff had previously recommended that the board renew the charter for five years because they said they were satisfied that Crescendo had taken steps to deal with the cheating.

But incoming Supt. John Deasy asked the board to authorize an investigation with the possibility of a one-year renewal. Board members, led by Tamar Galatzan, went further, voting to revoke the charter.

Parents packed the Crescendo board meeting Friday, offering support for the schools and seeking recourse to keep them open.

Charters are publicly funded and independently run. Although they are mostly nonunion, Crescendo teachers recently became part of United Teachers Los Angeles.

[Updated at 9:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post referred to Allen as Crescendo's current executive director. He was demoted to director of facilities and development after the cheating scandal.]

-- Howard Blume