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ERHS Coach in Hot Soup for Distributing Inflammatory Letter to Students

Steven Jovanelly incited students to ‘create upheaval’ in a letter Wednesday, Eagle Rock High principal says.

As Principal Salvador Velasco tells it, a volunteer junior varsity coach named Steven Jovanelly approached students with a letter on Wednesday and asked them to post copies of it on the walls of the school to “create upheaval.”

Copies of the letter went up on school walls, but were taken down by school staff, according to Velasco, who had told the coach weeks if not months ago to “stay out” of the ERHS campus.

Here’s what the first of five paragraphs of the letter said, based on a copy Patch obtained from the school principal:

“Dear Parents and Students,

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I inform you that JV Zero Period is hereby suspended as our coaching staff will not be returning next season to ERHS. We have done nothing wrong whatsoever, yet Mr. Velasco refused to let us come back to continue teaching our student-athletes. This man is a liar, has abused his power repeatedly, and does not act in the best interest of our school, community, or students. He has successfully created an atmosphere of fear amongst the staff of ERHS, but we are not afraid and will not bow down to such a divisive, negative force.”

The letter, said Velasco, contains “many inaccurate statements.” It also violates an understanding that Velasco said he reached with Jovanelly following a conflict that the coach had in February with an ERHS physical education teacher named Roman Cisneros.

Velasco explained that “several incidents” occurred between Cisneros and Jovanelly. “I’m not at liberty to go through those personnel situations,” he told Patch. But an incident in February that appears to define the conflict is described in graphic detail in the letter that Jovanelly distributed to students and parents:

“I was fired from coaching football and basketball (after losing two games combined) in February 2012 because the PE teacher Mr. Cisneros was allowed absolute control over the weight room and we clashed many times over petty policies which prevented access to our teams. On February 3, Mr. Cisneros sought me out in the weight room and jabbed my ribs with a mop stick while I was working out. He then claimed I was harassing him at work. Velasco’s response was to fire me, without any evidence, saying I went looking for a fight.”

Velasco confirms that after the conflict, he told Jovanelly, “number one, not to create any more problems, and number two, not to trespass into our school because you don’t have a right to come into our school.”

The latter condition, Velasco explained, stems from the fact that “Mr. Jovenally is not an employee in our school, he’s not a teacher, he’s not a paid person— he’s what they call a ‘walk-on coach,’ somebody who comes from the street and can coach.”

Added Velasco: “And he got into a conflict with one Cisneros, who is an employee of the school. And because of this conflict, he was asked to stay out of the school until the end of June for two reasons: Number one, his seasons were over—he was a basketball and football coach, both seasons had ended, so there was no reason for him to be in school to create conflict. And number two, the employee had to be protected from this other person creating the conflict.”

According to Jovanelly’s letter:

“In response to Velasco’s unreasonable decisions, an anonymous parent letter of complaint was written to the District, which has brought negative attention on him [the principal] and does not bode well for his career … In short, he falsely believes I made the parent write the letter. On April 25, Velasco told Coach Josh the only way I can return is if we find the parent who wrote the letter and get them to retract their statement.”

Velasco told Patch he is not aware of any letter of complaint to the LAUSD.

According to an adult member of the ERHS community, which primarily includes parents and teachers, Jovanelly has a long—and strong—relationship with the school: Not only is he an ERHS alumnus, several of his brothers have graduated from the school as well—and one is still studying there. Further, according to the source, Jovanelly has worked as a substitute English teacher at ERHS, where his father is a full-time English teacher.

“He was a very good sub—very conscientious, very thoughtful, and had a good reputation,” the source told Patch on condition of anonymity.

Editor's Note: Patch is trying to reach both Cisneros and Jovanelly to get their respective sides of the story.

Patch will be following this story as it develops. Stay tuned.

Concerned Parent May 14, 2012 at 02:13 AM
Since the district evaluates a principal on test scores, one thought would be to have students fail the CST’s (state tests) which start tomorrow and last the entire week. That would be a statement to everyone in the district that the students are UNHAPPY and a CHANGE in leadership at ERHS is needed. That would affect the school’s API and shake things up in the district, making Mr. Velasco look bad. In essence, it would be a vote of no confidence by the students. CST scores do NOT affect individual students as far as graduating from high school or getting into college. Also, failing the test could be done anonymously, so try as he might, Mr. Velasco wouldn’t be able to retaliate against students who are protesting this way. He WILL THREATEN, as you’ve heard is his M.O. in keeping teachers quiet, but he can’t catch students who bubble in the wrong answers since reviewing students’ answers as well as tampering with those answers in any way is illegal. Let’s hit them where it hurts!
ERHS Moms May 14, 2012 at 02:29 AM
I completely agree that Velasco's had a desire to muddy the waters and malign someone's good name based on the allegations made by problematic PE teacher, who had run ins with many teachers, over the issue of reigning over the weight room. Is is not ridiculous that football players were kept from the weight room when strength training helps off set injuries? He has already spun it so many ways from his original interview and later what he said at the meeting. It's like the ever evolving story with him. If Cisneros said Jovanelly was being "hostile" at work in October then why did Velasco never speak to him about it? The implication that the letter written by AP Ikeda, that is printed in the third installment video, is a legal document is ridiculous. You can't legally ask somebody to stay away from a public place without just cause & there was no just cause. Note that the Patch said that Velasco wasn't even aware that Coach had been given a letter. There was never a conversation between Velasco & the coach. The snowballing of this situation falls directly at the door of the administrator who is inept at administrating!
Ron Kato May 14, 2012 at 03:21 AM
Maybe we could put a more positive spin on Eagle Rock High School and generate some school spirit by attending the Girls Softball Playoff game on Tuesday and the Boys Volleyball Semi-Final game Tuesday night at Verdugo Hills High School. Or perhaps a patch article about the success of the boys tennis team this year despite the coaching turnover. Even when we have OUR coaches and teachers that we DO 'want' we rarely rally around our true successes and simply focus on our failures or mishaps. I wish we could have generated this much patch.com activity when the girls water polo team won the city championship this year!
Monica Rod May 14, 2012 at 03:49 AM
They are kids! They should have a voice too! Mr. Velasco should man up and just fire Mr. Cisneros! If he's touching girls innapropriately then he should get fired! TEAM JOVANELLY !
Rene Diedrich May 14, 2012 at 04:49 AM
It's a far worse problem than you all realize, the districts failure to return calls is an act of disrespect. They are lawless at this point. Firing teachers at will and threatening to deport parents. You guys are just getting some of what poor kids have put up with forever. You may say wekl thats not my problem. You may say it but you 'd be wrong. Society pays for the row aways, the illiterates, the inmates, the drug addicts and teenage moms. Their parents are products of lausd and if we dont intervene things will spread to your burbs and beyond. Read the Broad Report or How to Destroy Public Education and earn 4 trillion dollars. We should have coomunities like your autonomously runninh sm districts. Torrance, KB, HB ass the seperate small districts are better for it.
person May 14, 2012 at 06:33 AM
This whole problem started because Mr. Cisneros would go completely psycho whenever anybody - student OR staff - went near the weight room. The weight room is supposed to be resource like the library or a computer lab. Students and faculty are supposed to have access to it just like they can enter the library or a computer lab. But instead for most of the year the weight room has either been locked or Mr. C. refused to let people use it. It's a shame because there is thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the weight room and no one can use it.
Mary Sinclair May 14, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I agree with Ron Kato. Let's celebrate the GREAT things about ERHS and let's support the students.
ERHS Moms May 14, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Way to go Mary! Are you really advocating celebrating the good things at ERHS and ignoring abuse? That is the singularly most ridiculous statement any of us has ever heard! Pull your head out of the sand! Kids are being abused both verbally and physically! A teacher has been assaulted! How exactly does supporting a sporting event change that? We already all do support sporting events anyway. IF Velasco would deign to do his job protecting the safety of kids and employees, both, then we could all get on with it and just focus on the good things. He is the dictator allowing for injustice. He is ruing ER, trying to turn it into a ghetto school with his stupidity.There were probably a lot of Germans who celebrated the good things in their life as their Jewish neighbors were taken away to be exterminated. If you honestly are not an admin plant/flunkie you are a horrible parent to suggest to other parents that their ABUSED kids should be ignored or made better by attending a game! Perhaps the people at Kent State should have just gone to a game rather than seek justice? Or Rodney King? Or the man recently beaten to death by the "law"? What do you want ER to turn into? One day, Mary, it could be your kids and then you will care. How can any parent who has loved a child tell other parents to not get involved when their kids have been abused? How desperately idiotic you and your suggestions are! Pull your head out before it happens to you!
Pride May 15, 2012 at 12:31 AM
That would be all because of the coaches, but the credit will go to the principal.
Pride May 15, 2012 at 12:32 AM
The great things are not caused by administration, but by the students. Best better to distinguish the two.
Aquila Verdad May 15, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Unfortunately, CP, if the test scores drop it will be a direct reflection of the teaching not the "administrating" that happens at ERHS. Velasco can spin any numbers to meet his needs. A drop in scores in no way will reflect on the principal. He will deflect the drop to the teachers responsible for those subjects, just like he did this year during accreditation. What he does not get is the fact that demoralized teachers do not teach as well in the classroom, no matter how "professional" they are. The culture he is fostering will lead to lower test scores over time. We have teachers that are dedicated and students that are conscientious and most of them are not the rebellious type. What we really need is an assault on the big district so that it realizes how an exemplary school is being turned inside out by a power-hungry career-minded principal who figured out that if he surrounded himself with yes-people he could manipulate the data to make himself look good on paper. If you have ever heard him speak about Eagle Rock it is all about numbers... the things he and his minions can manipulate to make him look competent. We need to expose the ruse! This principal is not fit to lead and is an insult to education.
Aquila Verdad May 15, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Unfortunately, CP, if the test scores drop it will be a direct reflection of the teaching not the "administrating" that happens at ERHS. Velasco can spin any numbers to meet his needs. A drop in scores in no way will reflect on the principal. He will deflect the drop to the teachers responsible for those subjects, just like he did this year during accreditation. What he does not get is the fact that demoralized teachers do not teach as well in the classroom, no matter how "professional" they are. The culture he is fostering will lead to lower test scores over time. We have teachers that are dedicated and students that are conscientious and most of them are not the rebellious type. What we really need is an assault on the big district so that it realizes how an exemplary school is being turned inside out by a power-hungry career-minded principal who figured out that if he surrounded himself with yes-people he could manipulate the data to make himself look good on paper. If you have ever heard him speak about Eagle Rock it is all about numbers... the things he and his minions can manipulate to make him look competent. We need to expose the ruse! This principal is not fit to lead and is an insult to education.
Rene Diedrich May 15, 2012 at 02:45 AM
What does papi chulo mean?
Rene Diedrich May 15, 2012 at 02:49 AM
What??? Thats insane. You guys cant stand for that , that man is unfit.
Andy Rivera May 15, 2012 at 10:51 PM
I agree with Kato. It is disheartening to see the school and town I love in this mess. Action needs to be taken to ensure everyone is on the same page again. There is a tremendous amount of alumni and community support that needs to be tapped into to make sure ERHS stays on top the way we are all accustomed to. There is a long list of reasons why there are so many championship banners in the gym and academic accolades in the main office. Great teachers, coaches, students and families make up the bulk. I doubt LAUSD administrators make the cut. Students, enjoy this time and experiences in your life for once your are out of the flawed reach of LAUSD, your success lies squarely on your shoulders. I was once told by the administration not to apply to the UC schools. I am glad I saw the potential they didn't bother to. - UCSB Alumni, Class of 2002.
mariamom May 16, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Now that Steven Jovanelly has confessed to the Patch that everything Principal Velasco said was true and that he, Steven Jovenelly, would have had his coaching position back in the fall if he just stayed off campus, are all the people here slinging terrible accusations at the ERHS principal and staff going to admit they are wrong? Seems only fair that, since Coach Jovanelly said everything Velasco said was true, someone should be apologizing.
ERHS Moms May 16, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Here we go again mariamom: Please clean out your ears or get a hearing aid. It's presumed you were at the meeting. Velasco said, ON TAPE, that he was holding him responsible for a letter anonymously written to the district. He said that in front of his supervisor. It's not only illegal it's unintelligent, spiteful, and stupid! Coach didn't say anything Velasco said was true b/c nothing he said was true. It was all a lie from start to end. He wasn't getting his coaching job back because he was unwilling to track down the letter writer and request that they retract their statement because the writer is guaranteed freedom of speech by the constitution. Now Einstein ask yourself WHY Velasco wanted that? Perhaps whatever was said was so bad showing his negligence regarding "papi chulo" that he NEEDED it retracted to not have his head on the block! Call the Patch and maybe they will take pity on you and give you a tutorial on the points that are public record. Comprendes a hora? Capisce adesso? Comprenez vous maintenant?
Rene Diedrich May 16, 2012 at 09:51 AM
It really is. But these weakmleaders are ther to mke sure we fail. Think about it. The feds throw more money at schools when they fail. The problem is schools dont get $ . They throw ta'll a bone cause you can raise hell. But inthe hood my kidsnever go on field trips , lost everything they love m even college centers and libraries. Theu are treated like cattle. Our princioal meanced us to vote his cronies in, we had a grabt and he bked it dry, the cut it off baecause of test scores and they wiol put yet another guy in there . Theres grea admin, but they get driven out. Ifbyou have ingriyand care about your students . I will tip the times snd huff post but i assure you deasy stops stories in their tracks . Ine came out about his poor effect on scores in the Daily aline, and it as acrchived 5 housrs later. You could have a shot atbtomorrows whatever it is, the media looks for intersting stuff. But can they get by editors?
Rene Diedrich May 16, 2012 at 10:19 AM
Teacher, it has a pattern, be aware and document everything. My principal alked around with what we thought was a blue tooth in his ear.but i t was an amplifier .spies were everywhere. Stressful for all of us
Rene Diedrich May 16, 2012 at 10:28 AM
Whats the big deal? Why cant he use the gym ? He teaches there with his family its a school, a community. Even if he was not supposed to be there it seems it was not a problem until Cisernros made it one, the guy cant hit a colleague . It is totally normal for victims of violence to need a few days to decide what to do. These are men. Thy don't cry to cops on cue.i feel as if Eagle has an agenda that fails to serve the greater good.
Rene Diedrich May 16, 2012 at 10:31 AM
Please spread that message. And hurry. Every day we have this is a day we lose a kid. Congratulations on your sons.
Rene Diedrich May 16, 2012 at 10:36 AM
The new contract give principals total control and teachers really have no union , what good is a union that cant strike. We always did it for the wrong reasons now we defer to the admon, deasy says teacher autonomy but all it means is they'll blame is when it falls apart
mariamom May 16, 2012 at 02:34 PM
I am sorry but Steven Jovanelly admitted that EVERYTHING the principal said at the meeting about his not being allowed on campus and Jovanelly's opportunity to return as a coach next season if he had enough sense to stay away seems to be true, according to Jovanelly's own statements to the Patch. Perhaps it is time for the hateful agitators to admit that Steven Jovanelly was completely responsible for what happened to him in May and also that Steven Jovanelly is NOT someone who should be coaching children as he has little or no common sense, respect for authority or ability to follow directions and keep his temper. Sorry to have to tell you this, but Steven Jovanelly is not fit to be a coach, based on what I have read by his own statements here.
ERHS Moms May 16, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Au contraire, mariamom, au contraire. Yes, Ikeda said to not return in a letter that was the ONLY response to an assault report. The letter from Ikeda states no reason for him not to return and is not a legal document. You don't have to obey dictators, dear, just because they are dictators. For three months Coach tried to appease Velasco, but then (under anonymous LAUSD) you will see that the anonymous letter is the reason he was given for not being returned to coaching. You don't have a problem with Velasco holding him accountable for an ANONYMOUS letter? He needed to find the writer and get it retracted? You don't hear the threat there? You don't see that that is basically un-American? You don't think the football players/parents had a right to know what was going on? What is he responsible for regarding what happened on May 2nd. That Cisneros ran to Cunday and said he was "threatened" and Cunday ran to do his bidding? Cunday the one who didn't want to file an assault charge? A biased cop being told what to do? Only police states use the law to intimidate private citizens. You never said what it is you want "the haters' to apologize for? Reporting abuse? Seeking action because the principal has failed in is obligation to report? ? You think Coach shouldn't be coaching because he is intelligent enough to know he need not obey a dictator? The only one not fit to do his job, based on his statements (written and video) is Velasco. Your reading comprehension needs work!
maggie lombardo May 16, 2012 at 04:02 PM
It looks like mariamom has gotten the exact administration she deserves! Three cheers for you, MM, three cheers for you!
janet e May 16, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Regardless if he was told no NOT return, it still does not PERMIT someone to assault another!!!! And there is no result when one does file a complaint because Velasco will get rid of that person too, it is called SAVE YOUR A$$, but the time has come now where Velasco went to far and he needs to be dealt with with the LAUSD, if this is not taken care of my child WILL go to a local CHARTER school, if the LAUSD does not stand up for our kids, nieces and nephews they will not return to ERHS, this is testing the district 4 to see what they will do to PROTECT our kids and communtiy. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR ASSAULT OR BACKING AN ASSAULT, especially by someone in Velasco's position. Velasco has a history of this, i had heard stories of his behavior from years ago, but shame on me that because it didnt directly effect my family I said nothing, the KIDS of EAGLE ROCK are ALL of our kids and we need to help them and protect them from the characteristics of these two individuals, Velasco, and his buddy, Cisneros. These two individuals need to be setting examples for our youth and they are NOT living up to that promise. DONT get side tracked by this one incident in particular, the real issue is that this is a CONSISTENT behavior between these two individuals AND THAT IS WHY WE ARE ALL HERE IN THE FORUM AND WE CANT LET THIS GO AWAY, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and if LAUSD does not deal with this quickly the situation will go to the MEDIA!
janet e May 16, 2012 at 04:24 PM
It is still no reason to ASSAULT someone!! Right or wrong, keep your hand and broom sticks, mop sticks or your WORDS to yourself!
janet e May 16, 2012 at 04:31 PM
And who is VELASCO to hold one accountable for anothers actions, you dont say "if the true author of this letter comes forward then i will let you off the hook", who are you VELASCO, i will tell you , YOU ARE THE MOST HATED MAN IN E.R. NOW, no one wants you around or you Cisneros, you are a distraction and if you truly cared about he kids you would leave willingly and let the kids go to school with no turmoil, but you are a control freak, a dictator and you love the CHISMES
James P. May 17, 2012 at 04:59 PM
As I said yesterday on another thread: let's start a new drinking game. How about we take a shot, drink, beer or glass of wine every time we recognize that different screen names here are actually the same person posting over and over again? You take two shots if the screen name's real name starts with the letter J. We'd all be too drunk to type and Aetosian2012 would have her wish to have ERHS left alone.
janet e May 17, 2012 at 05:26 PM
So sad to hear you feel this way, but I understand. I want to thank you for continuing to teach are kids under such a horrible administration. Management is a vital part in any workforce and I am proud you fight and get up every morning....I would hate to see this man continue as admin of our schools,if so many teachers just bear down and stand up, how can he POSSIBLY fire everyone??? I truly think, if you are comfortable enough, we should get a list of teachers together and call Anet Draghi and scan these to her, I spoke to her last week for a good 20-25 minutes and she PROMISED all would be CONFIDENTIAL, she just needs something in hand. I am NOT a teacher, but I am a parent and my child soes not carry my last name, so WHO CARES if someone knows who I am, it is in my career that I deal with similar situations liek this....

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