An increase in graduation rates, a focus on technology and such a profound loss of confidence from stakeholders that it has plunged the district into a spiral of denied overrides and painful budget cuts.
Those are the accomplishments of Sunnyside Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo.
While his supporters — Governing Board members Bobby Garcia, Luis Gonzales and Eva Carrillo Dong — extended Isquierdo’s contract until 2016, two of them will have to answer for that support much sooner.
As reported in the Star, a group seeking the recall of Gonzales and Garcia collected the required signatures to trigger an election, to be conducted by mail, with all ballots received by May 20. Carrillo Dong was not targeted by the recall effort because her seat is up for re-election this year.
But as the board’s critics gather to discuss who will try to unseat the current members, they should recognize that although the contentious debate over the superintendent’s leadership is what led to the recall, being anti-Isquierdo should not be the defining qualification for potential candidates.
Granted, the litany of the superintendent’s questionable decisions almost makes it impossible to take anything else into consideration. Isquierdo overcharged the district for more than $12,000 in expenses, had his driver’s license suspended for failing to pay traffic tickets, defaulted on the loan for his Oro Valley home after losing a previous home in California to foreclosure, fired a teacher who alleged cheating on standardized tests and owes $57,000 in federal taxes — all while collecting a salary of more than $300,000.
It is obvious why many in the community are angry and frustrated with the Governing Board, and every denied budget override — three in the last three years — has been a vote of no confidence in Isquierdo and his leadership.
But the people of Sunnyside are a tight-knit group.
Residents can say it’s time for board members to go while in the same breath recalling the good they’ve done for the district. They can speak of the fine job a board member’s relative is doing while decrying the specter of nepotism. They may object to board members’ actions but give them the benefit of the doubt.
Qualified applicants should step up and be prepared to fight in a contest that will pit neighbor against neighbor and put entrenched interests on the offensive. Simply being against Isquierdo is not enough. Prospective candidates must have a vision for the district and a plan to help students and teachers achieve their goals.
Sunnyside is not a wealthy district. Most students qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program, and a third of them are classified as English-language learners. A quality education is vital to their future success.
Candidates have the opportunity to bring about real change — to take the advancements the district has made and continue to improve. Removing the superintendent would only be the beginning.