By Gary Walker
Marina Del Rey Middle School teacher Leticia Escajeda was not expecting any major developments when she began her day June 10, but she ended up receiving the biggest surprise in a year full of uncertainty at school.
Escajeda, the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union representative at her school, was under the impression that her reelection bid for the position, which ended in a 19-19 deadlock on the last day of school, would have to wait until September. But due to the insistence of her opponent in the race, fellow teacher Darlene Haezaert, a coin flip to break the tie was held June 10 despite Escajeda’s absence.
And Escajeda won.
“I’m happy that it’s over,” a relieved Escajeda told The Argonaut hours after the coin flip.
A teacher for nearly 20 years at Marina Del Rey, the Venice native said she offered to share the duties of UTLA representative with Haezaert, a former chapter chair, but “she resisted that suggestion,” Escajeda said.
According to Nancy Pierandozzi, another Marina Del Rey teacher and the coordinator of the school’s performing arts magnet, union representatives conducted the coin toss, the method in which ties are settled.
UTLA Secretary David Lyell flipped the coin, which came up “tails” in Escajeda’s favor.
Now that the UTLA representative race is over, Escajeda said there is still work that she would like to do before the new school year begins.
“I want to meet with the faculty throughout the summer because there are a lot of issues that we need to look at,” she said.
Pierandozzi, who supported Escajeda, said it was “surreal” to decide an election that way and found the result interesting.
“It was ironic that (Haezaert) was the one insisting on the coin toss and it didn’t go in her favor,” she noted.
Another election that is yet to be decided is for the middle school’s next Title I /bilingual coordinator. That election is being contested because it transpired while some of the teachers were off campus on a field trip to Santa Catalina Island last month, say Escajeda’s supporters. Others claim they were not informed of the day that the voting was conducted.
Escajeda called her reelection a “bittersweet end to the year.”
When school reopens Aug. 13, Escajeda and her fellow teachers will be facing another daunting situation. They heard on the last day of school, June 7, that their principal of two years, Miranda Ra’oof, would not be returning to the campus. In addition, there are rumors that Marina Del Rey’s assistant principal position will be eliminated.
Haezaert did not return emails requesting comment on the election.