Two senior Los Angeles Unified administrators have been demoted and a principal has left the district following a two-month investigation into the handling of sex-abuse allegations against an elementary school teacher in Wilmington, Superintendent John Deasy said Saturday.
The inquiry focused on claims that parents had told district officials in 2009 that teacher Robert Pimentel was molesting their daughters at George De La Torre Elementary School, but that nothing was done. Deasy said he could not comment on what investigators had learned, but he did say that personnel changes had been made.
Linda Del Cueto, 53, the local superintendent and highest-ranking official in the San Fernando Valley, has been reassigned to an administrative post in the Office of Curriculum and Instruction, Deasy said. Del Cueto has worked for the district since 1982, and was honored in 2008 as an Outstanding Superintendent by the Association of California School Administrators.
Michael Romero, 50, a 25-year employee who was named last July to head the Adult Education Division, will be assigned to a yet-to-be-determined position at LAUSD's downtown headquarters, Deasy said.
Del Cueto and Romero, who each earned $171,239 annually under the previous jobs, will now "be eligible for a principal's salary," Deasy said.
According to the LAUSD salary table, the top yearly pay for a veteran principal is $134,290.
In addition, Valerie Moses, who had worked the last two years as principal of Los Angeles Elementary, has "separated from the district," said Deasy. He refused to say whether Moses had resigned, retired or been terminated. Moses, 57, had started at LAUSD in 1980 as a teacher's aide.
In 2009, Del Cueto was the local district superintendent overseeing De La Torre. Romero and Moses worked in her office, according to district records.
Deasy also said that David Kooper, another subject of the inquiry, has been reinstated as principal of Gulf Avenue Elementary. In 2009, Kooper was chief of staff to South Bay school board member Richard Vladovic.
Deasy put the four administrators on paid leave and opened the investigation in April, shortly after a lawsuit was filed by three alleged victims of Pimentel.
The suit claims parents had complained about the fourth-grade teacher as far back as 2002, but that district officials had failed to discipline him or notify authorities. It also alleges a district "cover-up" in the handling of the Pimentel case.
That claim is based on a confidential memo written by district social worker Holly Priebe-Diaz, recapping a meeting she had with De La Torre parents on Oct. 12, 2009. The parents told Priebe-Diaz they'd complained to Principal Irene Hinojosa that Pimentel had molested their daughters, but that she'd been "protecting" the teacher, according to the memo.
District officials have said that Priebe-Diaz reported parents' suspicions to police and county welfare workers. It's unclear what those agencies did with the information.
According to the suit, Del Cueto, Hinojosa and other administrators attended a meeting in October 2012, when parents repeated their complaints against Pimentel. The lawsuit claims district officials failed to notify authorities or take action against Pimentel, which allowed him to continue abusing young girls.
In March 2012, parents took their complaints against Pimentel to police, and he was removed from the classroom. Deasy has said he removed Hinojosa from her job after reviewing personnel files and determining that she'd failed to act on complaints against Pimentel in 2002 and 2008.
Pimentel and Hinojosa retired in April 2012, as Deasy was taking steps to fire them.
Pimentel, 57, was arrested in January and has pleaded not guilty to charges of molesting nine girls in 2011-12 and a female relative from 2002-04. He remains jailed on $14 million bail. ___