The Lennox School District has placed a high-ranking administrator on paid leave in connection with an investigation into possible misuse or mismanagement of funds set aside for the construction of a new elementary campus.

The Lennox school board will hold a special public meeting Monday evening to discuss the matter.

District officials declined to release the employee's name, citing confidentiality laws. But school sources confirmed that it is Brian Johnson, who as the district's assistant superintendent of administrative services is the organization's second in command.

Johnson has been an employee of the K-8 school district - which sits in the shadow of Los Angeles International Airport - for more than 25 years. One longtime teacher said he is widely respected.

"There is a lot of support for him in Lennox," said the teacher. "We all know he does his best. It's a tough pill for a lot of people to swallow. But nobody really knows what the situation is until the audit is complete."

Johnson could not be reached for comment Friday.

In an email sent to district employees Friday, Barbara Flores, the district's new superintendent, said the district is in danger of losing state construction dollars due to a possible lack of administrative oversight and supervision.

"If it is found that there was a misuse of construction monies because of a lack of oversight and supervision, the district may be held responsible for reimbursing those misused monies," she said in the letter.


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"The district is resolved to ensure that any parties found to have misused or mismanaged district funds will be subject to legal action and that the district will pursue restitution to the maximum extent allowed under the law."

The project in question involves the construction of a new campus for Jefferson Elementary, to be built adjacent to the current campus at 10322 Condon Ave. The project is in the beginning phases, and the new campus originally was slated to open next fall, Flores said.

Flores declined to discuss the specifics that led to the investigation, but said red flags have been discovered and the project could be in jeopardy.

The superintendent said the investigation would likely take a couple of months.

"We hope that all actions involving the construction of our schools by the district and its employees, agents and representatives were in accordance with the law," she said in the email. "However, for those who did not act in accordance with the law, they will be subject to any applicable legal penalties.

Flores told the Daily Breeze the district has received "tens of millions of dollars" for the construction at Jefferson Elementary and other pending projects. Some of the money has come from the state, which provides capital improvement funds for districts in high-poverty areas.

Another huge stream is coming from the federal government.

The district has been in line to receive up to $110 million in federal funds to soundproof the schools against the whine of low-flying passenger jets landing at LAX.

Largely due to outdated methods of mitigating the noise, classrooms in all but one of the district's eight schools are completely windowless. Flores said the district is slated to receive $10 million for 10 years to make the upgrades.

Flores, who succeeds Fred Navarro as the district's top administrator, said one of the first things she did upon her arrival in July was hire a consultant to review all the construction contracts and other matters, such as whether deadlines have been met.

"If you don't meet your deadlines, you are penalized," she said.

Before taking the job in Lennox, Flores was an education professor at California State University, San Bernardino.

The meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the board room at 10319 Firmona Ave. in Lennox.


rob.kuznia@dailybreeze.com
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