On the night of Wednesday, May 9, Principal Salvadaor Velasco answered a series of parents’ questions in a forum at the school library moderated by LAUSD District 4 Coordinator of Operations and School Safety Stephen Koffman. Annick Draghi, LAUSD director for secondary schools in District 4, presided over the forum.
As this short video shows, the Q&A session was contentious and frequently charged. Velasco was quizzed about his reasons for the firing in February of Steven Jovanelly, an ERHS alumnus who, by all accounts, was a widely respected junior varsity football and basketball coach as well as a substitute teacher. The issue caused about 75 students to walk out of their classes on Tuesday—and Velasco noted at the start of the forum that a second protest by a smaller number of students also occurred Wednesday.
At the heart of Jovanelly’s dismissal is his conflict with a PE teacher, Roman Cisneros. The latest twist in that clash occurred last week on May 2, when Jovanelly was briefly taken into custody by school police and cited for trespassing.
Velasco gave parents an account of what he believed to be the circumstances behind the conflict. But he faced persistent criticism about what several parents alleged was his blatant favortism toward Cisneros, which, the parents maintained, stood in sharp contrast to his alleged persecution of Jovanelly.
Many parents accused Cisneros of sexual misconduct with female students. Jovanelly’s mother, Ronda, told the meeting that Cisneros had verbally abused her in front of several students, including her own son, a ninth-grade student at the school.
Velasco pointed out that he had not received any formal complaints of sexual misconduct against Cisneros, who was not present at the forum. Although none of the parents challenged Velasco about the lack of complaints against the PE teacher, Ronda Jovanelly countered at one point during the forum that the principal had done nothing to investigate her written complaint to him about Cisnero’s allegedly abusive behavior toward her.
Many parents agreed that the reason why there were no complaints against the PE teacher was that his alleged victims were too intimidated to protest. "As soon as you can prove that, it will be my first responsibility to investigate," Velasco said, alluding to the accusations against Cisneros. "I encourage young ladies to report against Cisneros," Velasco said, pointing out that the PE teacher would be retiring in June. "We still have six weeks left."