Public schools

LA Public Schools Still Searching for a Reason to Fire Their Most Effective Teacher

Soul-crushing bureaucracy.



The Los Angeles Unified School District is desperate to find a reason—inappropriate behavior, financial mismanagement, or anything else—to justify its punitive treatment of all-star educator Rafe Esquith, an award-winning teacher and Shakespeare enthusiast.

The investigation of Esquith already seemed like a witch-hunt, but new details suggest that district officials have behaved even more odiously than was previously understood.

Esquith, who teaches low-income and minority fifth graders, made a joke about the difficulty he was having raising enough funds for the yearly Shakespeare production, which he finances through donations to his non-profit. As I previously noted, "While reading a passage from Huckleberry Finn in which 'the king came prancing out on all fours, naked,' Esquith remarked that if he couldn't raise additional funds for his annual production, he supposed 'the class would have to similarly perform naked.'"

The joke was overheard by another teacher, who deemed it inappropriate and reported Esquith to the principal, Jonathan Paek.

But according to LA School Report, Paek made Esquith sign a humiliating letter of apology:

Before consulting with an attorney, Esquith signed the apology, which read:

"I am deeply and sincerely sorry that any comment someone hear, or thought they heard, has anyone uncomfortable. I am a teacher who prides himself on professionalism. I dress immaculately for the job. Over a thousand teachers a year come to my class to seek my guidance about the profession of teaching. As a proud teacher, I am deeply saddened by this situation."

Esquith was suspended anyway, and now sits in one of the infamous "rubber rooms" while he waits for the district to decide his fate.

Officials are doing their best to dig up dirt on him. LA School Report also claims that the district is investigating his non-profit's finances as well:

"It looks like the bizarre accusations of abuse have been forgotten, and now they're moving on a request to see 15 years of financial records for the Shakespearean group," said Ben Meiselas, of Geragos & Geragos, who is representing the teacher, and referred to the continuing investigation as a fishing expedition to try to find something wrong with his client.

It's almost as if a successful, entrepreneurial, free-thinking teacher is an institutional threat to the hideously inefficient, soul-crushing bureaucracy of the public education establishment. Clearly, he must be stopped at all costs.

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  1. I have heard countless tales of unionized line workers with seniority sabotaging the workspaces of junior people who were more productive, lest the standards be raised for all employees. This doesn’t sound too far off the trend.

    1. It happens every where,when I started as a barber in a chain,commision only,I worked my ass off and was number 1 in producttion in just over two years. I worked longer hours and never went to lunch. The crap I was accused of was almost funny.The higher ups though didn’t care ,they just looked at the numbers.

  2. It’s almost as if a successful, entrepreneurial, free-thinking teacher is an institutional threat to the hideously inefficient, soul-crushing bureaucracy of the public education establishment.

    Almost? As a former teacher, I can guarantee that is the case.

    1. My wife is a counselor and she says she is sabataged by administration if she tries to anything above the minimum required.

  3. I’m shocked he was allowed to read Huck Finn cause,racist along with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. There will be a time when 1984 will be banned in school.

    1. I would actually be surprised if 1984 is still taught in schools.

      1. It wasn’t when I went through. I read it on my own (or got to the boring part with Julia and stopped)

      2. It’s a manual, not teaching material.

      3. 1984 is still in the syllabus in my kids’ school in CT. What surprises me more is that Harrison Bergeron is also on the reading list.

        How else will people get relevant background training as interns to politicians?

      4. It’s still till taught, but as an how to course.

      5. I wasn’t in my high school in the mid 80’s. We actually had the books, but my English teacher told me the reason it was no longer assigned to students was because of the sexual content.

      6. 1984 is taught as what would happen if Republicans were in power.

      7. Not in my school. But Animal Farm and Brave New World were required reading in middle school.

  4. One of the few instances where a union might do some good. One good thing about the Teachers unions is that they can generally fight bullshit like this.

    1. Their work is done. He gets paid to show up and sit in a rubber room. Getting him back into the classroom to teach and do some good for the students? That’s not even in the top 100 of the union’s goals.

      1. Besides which, he’s making the other teachers look bad

  5. In a high performing or affluent school district the bureaucracy has a harder time messing with good teachers because parents have more power. Middle class and wealthy parents know how to work the levers of power. A popular teacher will get parent advocates and the union/administration won’t rock the boat. Unions will of course use other means, primarily social pressure means, to hold down an exceptional teacher. But, the kids who most need effective teachers in poor districts don’t have access to them. Having volunteered in districts in some of the worst areas in Jersey, my experience is the jobs – teacher and otherwise – are really make work projects for the locals. The kids aren’t even on the radar.

    1. But more money will solve this.

      1. I wish this site was more like Reddit so I could upvote you.

  6. Esquith, who teaches low-income and minority fifth graders, … remarked that if he couldn’t raise additional funds for his annual production, he supposed ‘the class would have to similarly perform naked.”

    Like some nappy-headed hoes?

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