Members of TUSD’s governing board unknowingly approved the hiring of Adelita Grijalva’s mother-in-law last month.
TUSD Governing Board President Grijalva recused herself from voting on Olga Gómez’s appointment to principal of Myers/Ganoung Elementary School, but did not share the connection with the board as a whole, saying she wanted the hiring to be based on her mother-in-law’s merit.
“I didn’t know that she applied until she was a finalist,” Grijalva said. “She didn’t want me to know. She wanted a fair and impartial process.”
While Grijalva says she couldn’t have influenced the process even if she had known in advance, she elected not to tell her fellow board members out of fear that Gómez wouldn’t receive a “fair shot because she is my husband’s mom.”
Grijalva did not participate in the executive session discussion about the hiring and only warned Board Clerk Kristel Foster, saying she wanted Foster to understand why she was leaving the dais for that particular vote, which received unanimous approval.
Weeks later, Grijalva said she does not regret the decision, noting that she technically could have voted on the appointment as board members are only prohibited from hiring spouses and anyone who lives in their home.
“I could have voted, but I wanted it to be based on her interviewing and her record,” Grijalva said. “I figured people would find out but I hoped it would be later so she would have time to work and not be scrutinized. I didn’t want her to deal with the label of being my mother-in-law.”
TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez does not see a problem with hiring Gómez or Grijalva's decision to withhold the information.
"I didn't find any instance in which she tried to use her name as an advantage," Sanchez said of Gomez. "She went through the process as a candidate and made it to the end on her merit. That's how it should be."
The only time Gómez did mention her connection to Grijalva was in an interview with Sanchez at the end of the process.
"I told her that it wasn't my intent to reveal that to anyone because I didn't want it to be seen as an advantage for her," Sanchez said.
Sanchez also sought legal advice on the matter and was told that policy did not prohibit the hiring, and that revealing the information could have put the district in legal trouble had Gómez not gotten the job.
"If it's a non issue, to put it out there and make it an issue puts me in a position of being liable to a person who says, 'I could have had the job but you put this out there and it's a non factor and it's allowable by policy.' "
Gómez previously served as K-8 principal of Palominas Elementary School in Hereford, Ariz.