School Board Mum on Furey Scandal

imageLast week the City Council (minus Mayor Furey and Councilman Goodrich) concurred with sending Patrick Furey Jr. a letter requesting his resignation from the Traffic Commission due to an evolving scandal. Not discussed, however, was Furey Jr’s more significant role in the community serving on the Torrance Unified School District Personnel Commission.

That Commission comprises of three members – one of which is appointed by the Board of Education, another by the Classified Employees, and the third appointed by the Commission itself.  Commissioner’s are paid a modest sum and are entitled to the same health insurance benefits offered to School Board members.  The Commission’s duties include:

  • Supporting the District’s Programs for management and staff training, development, ethics, and character building; 
  • Working collaboratively with School administrators, staff, employees, and applicants in recruitment, classification, salary recommendations, and employee relations; and
  • Improving the recruitment and selection processes to hire the best qualified candidates for the District.

As one accomplishment for the 2014-15 year, the Commission touted that it had hired 171 classified employees. Notably, the District’s hiring practices have recently come under scrutiny with the revelation that a music teacher hired in 2014 at Calle Mayor was arrested for possession of child pornography. Another teacher set to begin coaching basketball at West High last year was arrested for raping a former player.

At the last School Board meeting, local activist Arthur Schaper, waited for over two hours for oral communications before requesting that Furey Jr. be removed from the Personnel Commission. In response, the District superintendent, Dr. Mannon, correctly explained that per policy Furey Jr. could not be removed by the School Board, but only by the Commission itself.

While the School Board may not have the authority to remove Furey Jr. from his position, it does not mean it is entirely powerless. They could pressure the Commission to act by agreeing to send that body a letter requesting his removal.  They could also take other measures such as sending a letter to Furey Jr. requesting that he resign, as the Council concurred to do, or agree to another sort of censure action.

The issue, however, does present a conundrum for School Board officials.  As part of their Charter, the School Board is to “operate openly, with trust and integrity” and is to “ensure that the District is responsive to the values, beliefs, and priorities of the community.”  The Code of Ethics established by the Board also states that, “In all actions as a school Board member, the member’s first commitment is to the well being of our youth.  His/her primary responsibility is to every student in the District.”

Taking action against Furey Jr., however, might put the Board at odds with the employee’s union whose support and money many of the current Board relied upon to get elected.  The Furey family also has a long history of involvement and service to the District.  Mayor Furey served four terms as President of the Torrance Education Foundation.  Mayor’s Furey’s wife, Teresa, has served as a paid employee of the District as a Job Developer.  She earned pay and benefits of over $70K in 2014.

Furey Jr. was appointed to the Commission by the labor bargaining units and has served in his current role as a Personnel Commissioner since December 2012.  Records indicate that he received $7,456 in pay and benefits for his service in 2014.

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