CALLS FOR SUPERINTENDENT'S RESIGNATION

Crowd packs Sunnyside meeting, questions Isquierdo's leadership

2013-04-24T00:00:00Z 2013-04-24T17:22:34Z Crowd packs Sunnyside meeting, questions Isquierdo's leadershipJamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Dozens of parents, current and former employees, and community members packed into the Sunnyside Unified School District boardroom Tuesday night calling for Manuel Isquierdo's resignation.

The group voiced its displeasure with Sunnyside's superintendent during the first Governing Board meeting held since Isquierdo's latest legal issues were made public. Speakers questioned Isquierdo's leadership while telling tales of inflated graduation rates, low teacher pay and a lack of supplies in certain departments.

About 150 people packed the meeting - double the room's capacity, forcing the crowd to spill into the lobby.

Following the parade of speakers, Isquierdo tried to tout the district's accomplishments by showing the increased graduation rates, but was greeted with sarcastic moans and jeers.

Isquierdo's problems began after he was named the lone finalist to become superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District.

The San Antonio Express-News reported Isquierdo owes more than $150,000 in back taxes and had his driver's license suspended because of unpaid fines and failure to appear in court.

Isquierdo later withdrew his candidacy for the San Antonio job.

Isquierdo, who makes $305,000, is facing foreclosure on his Oro Valley home and faces eviction on May 21 unless he can work out a deal with his lenders, according to the Pima County Recorder's Office.

He has also faced criticism for making improper charges on his district credit card and for the district's use of athletes to pass out literature in support of a bond election in past years.

Cathy Monroe, who taught in the district for 20 years before retiring last May, said the graduation rates were inflated because failing students could take a 15-hour English class to make up the credit, even if they had numerous absences.

Monroe said the district pressured teachers to change grades so students could graduate, telling teachers they were not allowed to give zeros.

Isquierdo later countered by saying students couldn't graduate without passing the AIMS test.

Beki Quintero, a south-side community leader, said Sunnyside has become the "laughingstock" of the community.

Quintero also blamed the Governing Board for covering for Isquierdo's mistakes.

"The damage he's created is irreparable," she said. "He's using the district to line his pockets."

A group of transportation workers complained about a lack of supplies, saying employees have to work without hot water and buy their own soap and toilet paper.

The lack of hot water prevents the workers from properly washing the buses, they said.

The wireless Internet on the buses rarely works, according to the workers.

Some speakers showed their support for the board while criticizing the detractors, but those people also faced moans and jeers.

After the call to the audience, Isquierdo pointed to a PowerPoint slide that showed graduation rates increased from 505 in 2007 to 887 in 2012.

Despite the crowd's disagreement, he said he was going to remain resilient because "this community is worth fighting for."

"The graduation is real. The technology is real," he said. "Think about the opportunity that we have. We need to move forward."

Contact Jamar Younger at 573-4242 or JYounger@azstarnet.com

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