The Tale of Two Armenian Schools in Los Angeles: TCA Dickranian School and AGBU Manoukian HS

Posted on November. 9. 2019


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In 2011, sensing that TCA Arshag Dickranian Armenian School in Los Angeles was being purposely mismanaged by the school’s parent organization Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) leaders, especially George Mandossian and his group, Dr. Petros Taglyan, a major benefactor of the school, warned TCA leaders saying “the way you’re managing, you’re bound to endanger the school’s future.”
It was during a meeting with TCA top leaders including Edmond Azadian, that Dr. Taglyan voiced his concerns about the school’s mismanagement.
Up until that point, over the years, Dr. Taglyan had made a series of donations to the TCA Dickranian School amounting close to $1.5 million.
In 2015, proving Dr. Taglyan’s ominous predictions true, news broke out that TCA was purposefully expelling many students and was firing qualified, beloved and respected teachers without any justification. The good teachers were being systematically axed to be replaced by unqualified people who would become accessories to artificially driving down the student population.
The school which profitable suddenly started losing money under mysterious circumstances.
Before the low enrollment had occurred, several supporters already knew that the school was being mismanaged. TCA leaders systematically brought in unqualified and inexperienced individuals to work as principles. They knew full well, by doing so, they would ‘succeed’ in driving down the quality of education causing massive exodus by students.
After shuttering the school, TCA gave a lavish party honoring the culpable TCA trio – Edmond Azadian, Haroutiun Arzoumanian and George Mandossian for “a job well-done” in “successfully” closing the school and selling off its real estate assets. Later, their official party newspaper wrote that “TCA’s mission is accomplished.” What ‘mission’? Closing a vibrant school and liquidating its assets?

In reality they celebrated cashing in $15 million which had originally been donated by well-meaning benefactors for the exclusive purpose of establishing and maintaining an Armenian school in Hollywood. The supporters had not given any money to TCA to be eventually siphoned off or be misused by individuals like Azadian and co. Whatever is left of the funds — if any, and before they completely vanish, TCA leaders must return them to all the benefactors since the funds are no longer serving the original purpose of maintaining The Dickranian School.
TCA Dickranian school had enough classrooms to admit around 400-500 students. But the Mandossian-led school Board of Trustees kept the enrollment down to justify its closure.
In order to avert the closure of TCA Dickranian school, Dr Taglyan had come up with a plan to restructure the school management. Additionally, he had pledged to make new annual contributions to help the school meet its financial obligations and continue its mission without interruption.
During a meeting between Dr. Taglyan, Mr. Azadian and other leaders of TCA Central Board, Azadian expressed “surprise” and “lack of awareness about the existing mismanagement issues” and he promised to “fix the problem” by appointing a new management team upon his return to the TCA headquarters in Boston. But he never came through.
At that stage, it became clear that TCA leadership was hellbent on closing the school in order to sell-off the school’s real estate property at all cost for about $15 million dollars.
When Dr. Taglyan expressed willingness to put up millions of dollars to help the Western Diocese purchase the school property in order to keep the school open under its original name TCA Dickranian School, the perpetual opportunist and self-proclaimed so-called ‘savior’ of Armenians, Arch. Hovnan Derderian of Western Diocese jumped right in. At that stage Dr. Taglyan didn’t know the true persona of Derderian.
Derderian boasted that he can “save the school” but in fact he made a mediocre offer on behalf of the Western Diocese. That offer was understandable rejected outright by TCA.
Upon learning of Derderian’s offer and its rejection, Dr. Taglyan offered to structure the purchase of the property at TCA’s asking price of $15 million in order to keep the school open. According to his offer TCA would not hire a RE broker in order to save $1 million in broker’s fees; and TCA would give a credit of $1.5 million dollars to Dr. Taglyan in return for Dr. Taglyan’s previously donated funds of close to $1.5, leaving a balance of $12.5 million which would be paid to TCA by Dr. Taglyan.
While two TCA leading members – Vartan Nazerian and a school board member-real estate broker Panos Keshishian were feigning ‘constructive negotiations’ with Dr. Taglyan to avert the school’s closure, TCA’s Keshishian and Mandossian had already secretly opened an escrow behind Dr. Taglyan’s back to sell the property to a non-Armenian entity. For no valid reasons, TCA leaders Nazerian and Keshishian broke off the negotiations with Dr. Taglyan. Two days later they announced that school was already sold to a non-Armenian entity. This is blatant fraud.
Interestingly TCA leaders insisted on Keshishian to be the selling broker and kept on rejecting a well-meaning RE broker Angine Garibyan’s offer. A fellow school board member Garibyan had stated that “if the board’s decision to sell becomes final, she would volunteer to sell the buildings without charging any commissions.” Astonishingly Keshishian was brought on to the school board about a year before the sell-off. What a coincidence!
Apparently, Azadian and company preferred to sell the property to an outside entity as they may have been blinded by the prospect of making personal profits of $1 million under the guise of “broker’s commission.” By selling to a non-Armenian party, TCA leaders would also avoid the fulfillment of their obligation to the restricted usage of the original $1.5 million Taglyan donation which was earmarked to be used strictly for the enhancement of Armenian education at TCA Dikranian School.
To date, the end result remains disastrous for the Armenian American community in Hollywood where hundreds of Armenian students are left without a school and the existing Armenian schools in the area are at their full capacity and are unable to admit new students. The existing Armenian school about a mile away from now demised Dickranian school has more than one thousand students, has a long waiting-list.
Many members of the community insist that Dickranian School’s mismanagement was intentional and the so-called low student enrollment was used to camouflage corrupted TCA leaders’ real motive to sell off the school buildings to either pocket or mismanage millions of dollars of the community’s money.
To begin with, it doesn’t make sense to close down a functioning school in a vibrant community and start the long process of building a new school from scratch under the same impotent management. Were they planning to siphon off money during the construction process just like their allies Arch. Derderian and his lackeys who are also prone to misappropriate funds from new church construction projects? (Western Diocese’s St. Leon Cathedral was supposed to cost around $12-14 million dollars. But for some unknown reasons ended ‘costing’ over $25 million under general contractor Sinan Sinanian who’s a leading member at Western Diocese, AGBU and a host of other Armenian American organizations).
And now no one knows of the Dickranian school’s multi-million-dollar funds’ whereabouts. Adding insult to injury, none of the culprits have been brought to justice and none was personally held responsible.
Now, in 2019, AGBU Manoukian HS leaders have been keeping the student enrollment at around 150. Why would a school the size of AGBU MHS that can easily accommodate hundreds more, has been keeping its student population at no more than 150?
Since late Oct., upon learning of AGBU oligarchs Berj Setrakian’s and Sinan Sinanian’s unilateral decision to shut down the school, hundreds of students, parents and community members staged a number of protests demanding the reversal of their ill-vised decision.
The parents and supporters claim that the AGBU leaders’ decision caught them by surprise and that they were not given an opportunity to save the school. Additionally, they were barred from raising funds to help keep the school open even though the parents and the community were ready.
A perennial opportunist and a dishonest broker, Western Diocese’s Arch. Derderian again jumped on the protesters’ bandwagon and feigned ‘supporting’ the Save AGBU MHS movement.
On Sunday Nov. 3, protesters rallied in front of the Western Diocese. Derderian’s proxies tried to turn it into a political bonanza and a circus in favor of the embattled and widely discredited Derderian.
Not only his promises of helping ‘save’ the school turned out to be empty, but Derderian and his allies have failed to condemn the unjustified closure of the AGBU MHS. His silence is deafening and treasonous.
Additionally, Arch Derderian is accused for presiding over the destruction of the Western Diocese. The Diocese churches are now systematically being weakened through dwindling church attendance caused by Derderian’s wrongdoings over the years. And the community shouldn’t be surprised if Derderian and co. start shutting down churches to sell-off the real estate assets and siphon the funds away from the community.
Now Derderian and his cohorts have converted the churches into funeral homes where they peddle for donations to the church. And, of course, they carry out their deeds under total lack of transparency and accountability.
Western Diocese must be saved from Derderian and co. at all cost. Traditionally, Armenian diaspora has thrived continuously implementing an unwritten healthy policy of building and maintaining triangular Armenian fortresses throughout the Diaspora: Churches, Schools and Community Centers.
Nowadays, it seems both AGBU and TCA are using the same playbook to drive or keep student enrollment down in order to justify the shuttering of Armenian schools to facilitate the sell-off of the real estate assets.
Beware AGBU Manoogian-Demirjian school students and parents in Canoga Park. You may be the next targeted victims!
Had Tekeyan Cultural Association’s corrupted leaders Edmond Azadian, George Mandossian, and others been dealt with swiftly, today’s corrupted AGBU leaders like Sinan Sinanian and his close allies would be thinking twice before attempting to liquidate a vibrant Armenian high school – AGBU Manoukian High School in Pasadena and cause so much agony and anxiety for so many Armenian students, their families and the community as a whole.
AGBU global leadership under Setrakian and Sinanian has established a dismal record in fostering Armenian education in the Armenian Diaspora by massively shutting down AGBU Armenian schools including the Cyprus-based jewel of Armenian education Melkonian Educational Institute.
By doing so, they’re undermining the well-being of the diaspora by endangering the perpetuation of the Armenian Heritage and identity for this and coming generations. And this would become no. national security threat for the Armenian nation.
Justifiably, hundreds of disaffected AGBU MHS students, parents and community members at large are urged to maintain their determination and are encouraged to remain vigilant.
In order to avert the imminent loss of more Armenian schools, Armenian communities worldwide must raise funds and buy the targeted school properties from Armenian General Business Union (the new face of original AGBU) in order to avert more school closures.
In U.S., there are nearly Turkish charter schools. Armenians should do the same benefiting from federal and state grants and open dozens of Armenian charter schools.

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