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Former Elliott-Pope teachers argue their contract violated
By Loren Fleckenstein
The Press-Enterprise

Wednesday, February 20, 1991

Fifteen teachers who lost their jobs when Elliott-Pope Preparatory School closed because of financial troubles have retained an attorney to explore possible legal action, a spokesman said yesterday.

The 60-year-old private secondary school, which includes an 85-acre campus, classrooms, housing, multi-purpose hall and gymnasium, closed its doors in December. A total of 24 full-time faculty members were laid off, said Kyle Tong, former Elliott-Pope director of studies and history instructor.

Officials at the 60-year-old boarding school and Guided Discoveries, the Upland-based non-profit firm that is taking over the campus, were unavailable for comment.

Tong said faculty members retained Palm Springs attorney John E. Fitzgerald to determine whether their contract was violated when they were terminated last year.

The new owners of the campus "are liable to meet our contractual obligations or to reach an amenable settlement," Tong said.

Tong declined further comment, but said the faculty contract was to run through June 30. So far, faculty members have received checks for the month of January, Tong said.

Most of the teachers have not found gainful employment since Elliott-Pope closed, Tong said.

"The hiring season is once a year, and you start teaching in September. So it's very difficult to find employment in mid-year," Tong said.

With its mountain setting and a live-in student body composed of the children of well-heeled parents throughout in the world, Elliott-Pope was a unique fixture in the Riverside County educational community.

The program stressed preparation of students for college. In addition to traditional academic and physical education courses, the school offered a horseback riding program and a wilderness class that included backpacking and rock climbing.

In the late 1980s, despite substantial tuition charges -- $16,800 a year for live-in students -- the school fell on hard times. An attempt to raise some quick cash through an appeal to past benefactors and alumni to cover budget shortfalls in 1990 failed.

Faced with an accumulating debt and no relief in sight, the board of trustees November 24 made the decision to close the school at the end of the semester.

The board February 8 approved an agreement to turn over the campus to Guided Discoveries, which provides outdoor science programs for secondary-school students.

All the board members except one later resigned, and a new board composed of Guided Discoveries executives and remaining Elliott-Pope board member Toby Westbrook was seated.

Copyright: The Press-Enterprise

Copyright 1998 David Gotfredson