Sunnyside chief could get longer contract

Board's focus is on performance; detractors cite personal problems
2013-06-10T00:00:00Z 2013-06-10T22:39:53Z Sunnyside chief could get longer contractJamar Younger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The embattled leader of Tucson's second-largest school district could have his contract extended tonight.

The Sunnyside Unified School District's Governing Board will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. to discuss Manuel Isquierdo's performance and accomplishments as superintendent.

The board will go into executive session to discuss Isquierdo's performance, but one of the subsequent agenda items calls for the possible approval of the superintendent's contract.

Isquierdo's current contract expires in 2014. He makes about $313,000 per year.

The board will meet at the district headquarters, 2238 E. Ginter Road.

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.

More problems were revealed in April after he was named the lone finalist for the head job with the San Antonio Independent School District.

He withdrew his candidacy for the position after a stream of damning media reports.

Sunnyside board President Louie Gonzales said the purpose of the meeting is to see if Isquierdo has met the board's goals and objectives for the district.

"We will discuss future goals," Gonzales said. "The contract can be brought up and discussed at the meeting."

Isquierdo has indicated to the district in the past that he wants an extension that would take him to his retirement, said board member Buck Crouch.

If Isquierdo's contract is extended, it would likely be greeted with a backlash from many people who live in the district's south-side boundaries.

Parents, community leaders, and current and former employees have packed board meetings within the last two months, calling for Isquierdo's resignation.

The superintendent's problems 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.

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.

In addition, current and former employees have accused the district of pressuring teachers to change grades so students could graduate. Other employees have complained of deplorable working conditions.

Isquierdo's supporters, who include Gonzales, have pointed to the district's increased graduation rates and student access to laptops since he took helm in 2007.

However, there hasn't been enough improvement to sway Isquierdo's detractors.

"He's not good at budgeting his own money. How is he going to budget our tax money?" asked Beki Quintero, a south-side community leader.

Quintero said the community won't pass a district budget override if Sunnyside extends Isquierdo's contract.

Regarding a possible contract extension, she said, "It's unbelievable to me that they could even consider it."

On StarNet: Find education-related resources and special reports at azstarnet.com/education

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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