Sunnyside schools chief Isquierdo will lead San Antonio district

Sunnyside's Isquierdo will lead San Antonio district
2013-04-06T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:47:33Z Sunnyside schools chief Isquierdo will lead San Antonio districtAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The superintendent in charge of Tucson's second-largest school district is resigning to take over a district in San Antonio.

Sunnyside Unified Superintendent Manuel L. Isquierdo on Friday notified his cabinet, school principals and the district Governing Board of his departure, according to multiple sources, who would speak only anonymously since there has been no public announcement. They said Isquierdo will likely remain through the end of the school year.

He is the third Tucson-area superintendent to step down this school year.

John Pedicone, head of Tucson's largest district, TUSD, announced his resignation last month, effective June 30. And Flowing Wells Unified School District Superintendent Nicholas Clement announced his retirement earlier this year, also effective at the end of June.

Isquierdo, whose contract expires next year, declined to comment. An announcement is expected early next week.

The San Antonio Independent School District - the third-largest public school system in the Bexar County area - offered Isquierdo the job Thursday after interviewing him twice over the last two weeks.

The San Antonio district, which has been searching for a superintendent for some time, declined to confirm anything about Isquierdo, even whether he had applied. As of Friday, they had not announced his selection.

Isquierdo joined the Sunnyside Unified School District in 2007. He has a Texas connection by way of family and of having served as an area superintendent in the Dallas Independent School District.

During his time at Sunnyside, Isquierdo has been lauded as a tech-savvy superintendent, transforming the district through his Digital Advantage laptop program.

The program is said to have increased graduation numbers; brought dropouts back to school; motivated thousands of students to keep up in academics, extracurriculars and attendance; and expanded computer instruction in the classroom.

Isquierdo, however, has come under fire after an audit showed he made $12,545 in credit-card charges that were disallowed.

His charges to a district credit card included restaurant meals, car rentals and a hotel stay in which he took his family along on a business trip to McAllen, Texas, in 2008.

The Governing Board backed Isquierdo, who later repaid the money, saying it did not find any intention on Isquierdo's part to defraud the district.

And last year, the Arizona Attorney General's Office ordered Isquierdo and other district officials to undergo training on state election laws after it found violations of state law.

It was reported that student athletes were directed to canvass neighborhoods and pass out literature in support of bonds and a budget override in the 2011 general election. Isquierdo contended the district hadn't done anything wrong.

Isquierdo's contract was last renewed in 2011, when he was given a three-year extension and a total annual compensation of about $305,000.

The Sunnyside School District was most recently given a grade of C by the Arizona Department of Education. The district has only one A-rated school, five B schools, eight C schools and six D schools.

His biography on the Sunnyside website calls Isquierdo a "visionary who is making a difference in the lives of thousands of students" and says he is often called upon to share best practices with professional technology and educational organizations.

According to sources, Isquierdo was approached by an agency that is assisting the San Antonio district with its superintendent search, and was identified as a top-tier candidate before being named the lone finalist.

The San Antonio district is three times larger than Sunnyside, serving more than 54,000 students.

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

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea

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

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