Financial Troubles, Suicide of Former Superintendent Upend Tiny Lennox School District

Local News
Lennox Middle School is shown in an undated file photo (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Lennox Middle School is shown in an undated file photo (Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Word reverberated through the Lennox School District in early June that former Supt. Kent Taylor was found dead in his home — shocking news that followed the popular leader’s abrupt resignation in April without public explanation.

Taylor had recently certified the financial good health of the Lennox district, which he promoted as a model of innovative programs in engineering, dentistry and online studies. Viewed as bold and charismatic, he was well known where he lived in Colton — winning five local school board elections. A product of Inglewood public schools, Taylor, 54, was seen by his supporters as the hometown boy made good.

But in the months since his death, later ruled a suicide, deep troubles have been unmasked in this tiny school district that serves mostly low-income Latino students, 93% of whom qualify for free lunches and whose academic achievement is below state standards. The rapid-fire revelations have included the near financial insolvency of the district, allegations against Taylor of sexual misconduct, possible credit card misuse by at least four current and former district officials and an internal investigation of costly contracts.

The turmoil has taken a toll on this system of five elementary, one middle and three charter schools in the shadow of LAX flight paths. The district’s troubles have forced more than $5.4 million in budget cuts, leading to reductions in staff, services and education programs — and the fallout from ongoing investigations is not yet known. A state official last week indicated that a further review of questionable activity in Lennox could result in funds being withheld.

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