Sunnyside board votes to keep Isquierdo

Superintendent loses $75,000 he was paid to sell laptop program
2013-06-19T00:00:00Z 2014-10-24T10:13:57Z Sunnyside board votes to keep IsquierdoJamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The leader of Tucson's second-largest school district will remain in his post for another three years.

But he'll be making $75,000 less.

The Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board voted 3-2 Tuesday night to extend Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo's contract from 2014 until 2016.

Board members Louie C. Gonzalez, Eva Carrillo Dong and Bobby Garcia voted to approve the extension. Buck Crouch and Daniel Hernandez Jr., both outspoken critics of Isquierdo, were opposed.

The contract is worth $237,500 in total compensation, with a base salary of $150,000.

Isquierdo had to give up $75,000 the district had been paying him to market its one-to-one laptop program, called Digital Advantage, which had boosted his total to $302,500.

The pay cut was not enough to satisfy Isquierdo's critics, who filled the district headquarters with signs calling for his removal.

When the extension was approved, the raucous crowd booed each board member who voted yes, and interrupted the board members when they tried to speak.

They cheered for Crouch and Hernandez.

Isquierdo has faced criticism from employees, parents and community members after a litany of personal and legal problems that have plagued him since he took over the south-side school district in 2007.

They include filing for bankruptcy last month before he was scheduled to lose his Oro Valley home to foreclosure; owing more than $150,000 in back taxes; and having his driver's license suspended because of unpaid fines and failure to appear in court.

Isquierdo also has faced criticism for: making improper charges on his district credit card; for the district's use of athletes to pass out literature supporting a bond election; and allegations that teachers were pressured to change grades so students could graduate.

Many of the problems were revealed after he was named as the lone finalist in April for the superintendent's job in San Antonio. He withdrew there because of the negative media attention.

His supporters point to increased graduation rates and implementation of the laptop program as reasons he should be retained.

Hernandez said the district rushed to offer Isquierdo a contract extension when it should have waited until this fall's budget override election.

"I'm still concerned that this doesn't represent the best interests of the district," he said.

Garcia, who voted to approve the contract, said he looked at the fact that Isquierdo had reached his performance goals.

Garcia referred to the behavior of some of Isquierdo's critics as "immature."

When he came to the board, he knew "he would not be liked by one group or the other," he said.

After the meeting, Isquierdo said he purposely asked his supporters to not come to the meeting.

He also respected Hernandez's decision to not approve the contract, but expressed displeasure at Crouch for taking his concerns to the media.

Critics were talking about a recall of some board members after the vote.

Overall, Isquierdo was confident the district is on the right path.

"I decided to stay in the community that I call home, that I'm proud of," he said.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at jyounger@azstarnet.com or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger

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

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