Sunnyside board decision on leader's contract pending

2014-06-03T00:00:00Z 2014-06-03T10:02:33Z Sunnyside board decision on leader's contract pendingBy Veronica Cruz Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Sunnyside Governing Board remained behind closed doors late Monday in a marathon executive session to consider buying out the contract of controversial Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo.

By 10 p.m., board members still had not brought a motion to the floor from the meeting, which began at 4:30 p.m. (Check azstarnet.com for updates to this story.)

About two weeks ago, Isquierdo asked the board to consider buying him out of his contract at a special meeting held to address accusations made by board member Buck Crouch that Isquierdo lied about the district’s graduation numbers.

Monday’s meeting was posted Friday and set for the last day Isquierdo has majority support of the board, as two newly elected members, who are among Isquierdo’s critics, are to be sworn in today

Board members Louie Gonzales and Bobby Garcia were ousted in a recall election May 20 by Beki Quintero and Eric Giffin.

All current board members were at Monday’s meeting.

At the closed-door session, the board was to consider a possible termination of Isquierdo’s contract and a settlement agreement.

With two years left on his contract, early termination could cost the financially troubled district more than $526,000, which includes Isquierdo’s base salary, auto and business allowances, sick leave and vacation buyback and compensation to buy tax-sheltered annuities for the remainder of his term.

His contract states the board could terminate his contract at any time with orwithout reason and he would be paid the remainder of the contract.

Isquierdo’s critics said they are disappointed with the management of the district under his leadership, including a decline in school ratings and what they describe as wasteful spending.

Three consecutive budget overrides have failed in public votes, causing the district to make budget cuts. The latest of those resulted in the district having to seek ways to save $6 million, including cutting arts teachers and closing schools.

Supporters credit Isquierdo with increasing graduation numbers and for his technology initiatives — including a laptop program for students — as ways he’s improved the district.

A recall campaign to unseat Gonzales and Garcia, two of Isquierdo’s supporters, was launched last summer after they, along with board President Eva Carrillo Dong, voted to extend Isquierdo’s contract for two years after he withdrew as the lone finalist for a superintendent position in San Antonio when his personal financial and legal troubles were reported in the media.

After Quintero and Giffin are sworn in at today’s special board meeting, the board could vote to appoint a new superintendent if a settlement agreement was reached Monday with Isquierdo.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.

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

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