Taxpayers, students and employees lose big under a deal to pay roughly $500,000 to Sunnyside Unified School District Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo to go away — an arrangement that could have and should have been avoided.
Instead, the district will buy Isquierdo out of the last two years of his contract while hiring and paying a new superintendent.
It’s a final act by Louie Gonzales and Bobby Garcia, board members whose unwavering allegiance to Isquierdo, to the detriment of Sunnyside and its students, cost them their own elected positions. Both voted last June to extend his contract to 2016, votes that lit a fire of community sentiment against them.
Gonzales and Garcia were ousted in a special recall election last month, and their replacements, Beki Quintero, a longtime neighborhood activist, and Eric Giffin, who served on the board previously, were to be sworn in Tuesday night.
The decision on what to do with Isquierdo should have been left to the new board. Voters made their choice for change clear, and Gonzales and Garcia should have respected their decision. But they didn’t. A special meeting was pushed through, and Isquierdo had smooth sailing to his buyout, which was included in his employment contract, while he still had support.
Board President Eva Dong, also an Isquierdo loyalist, voted against the deal, saying that Isquierdo should stay on, but in another job. Not a perfect arrangement, but at least Sunnyside could have gotten some useful work out of the deal.
Daniel Hernandez Jr., an Isquierdo opponent, also voted against it.
Buck Crouch, a vocal Isquierdo opponent, voted for the deal, saying the district needs a clean break and that Isquierdo is too toxic to remain.
There is something to Crouch’s argument.
As long as Isquierdo lingered around Sunnyside he would be a polarizing distraction. The downside, of course, is that paying him off will take significant money away from students, teachers and schools.
The buyout gives the new board a clean slate with Isquierdo off center stage. The board can begin fresh and concentrate on finding an effective leader who can bring Sunnyside together, restore the community’s confidence and put the spotlight back on educating kids.