State schools chief urges Sunnyside officials to get along

2013-09-25T00:00:00Z State schools chief urges Sunnyside officials to get alongBy Carmen Duarte Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The state’s top leader of public instruction offered mediation to the Sunnyside Governing Board in hopes of unifying district officials and halting a recall effort.

During Tuesday’s regular board meeting, state schools superintendent John Huppenthal — who grew up in the Sunnyside district — addressed the board during public comments, saying it was time for the board to unify and move forward.

He also presented two $5,000 personal checks to the board. One, in honor of his mother, was for scholarships, and the other was for student incentives in a special digital math project.

He said he hopes for an end to a recall effort against four of five Sunnyside Unified School District board members. The board needs to return to working for the good of students, Huppenthal said.

A citizens group wants to recall Daniel Hernandez Jr. and Buck Crouch, saying they don’t vote with the board majority. The pair has been among Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo’s biggest critics.

Louie Gonzales and Bobby Garcia are targets of another recall because they and Eva Carrillo Dong approved a two-year contract extension for Isquierdo without public input.

In other matters, the district’s chief financial officer, Hector Encinas, reported that he sent a Sept. 20 letter to the state auditor general requesting an investigation into board member Hernandez’s allegations of “corruption in the district.”

Earlier this month, Hernandez sent out a recall-election fundraising letter accusing others in the district of corruption. “I’m facing a potential recall not because I’ve been ineffective but because a small and vocal minority is unhappy that I’ve tackled the big issues of corruption in the district,” he wrote.

Hernandez implied nepotism and said there are board members who have relatives working for the district and the board votes to approve hiring and firing. Hernandez did not identify the board members or go into specifics, but Gonzales and Dong are known to have relatives working for the district.

Last week at a special board meeting, the Governing Board voted that Hernandez should provide proof or retract his accusations.

The district wrote to Hernandez that there is no record of his calling for an investigation or inquiry regarding corruption in the district. It asked that Hernandez provide proof of his claims by Oct. 4 or publish a retraction of the allegations.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at cduarte@azstarnet.com or 573-4104.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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