The longstanding conflict among the Sunnyside Unified School District governing board members reached another stage after a citizens group launched a recall effort against board members Buck Crouch and Daniel Hernandez Jr.
The group, led by resident Marcos A. Castro, filed the petition with the Pima County School Superintendent’s office on Friday, almost a month after another group started a recall effort against board members Louie Gonzales and Bobby Garcia.
The two recall drives have pitted those who support Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo against community members who oppose his leadership.
Crouch and Hernandez have been among Isquierdo’s biggest critics, citing what they describe as unethical behavior, including: filing for bankruptcy 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.
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Isquierdo also has 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.
Garcia and Gonzales, along with board member Eva Carrillo Dong, have supported Isquierdo, citing the district’s increased graduation rates and student access to technology.
Last week, Crouch filed an open-meetings complaint with the Pima County Attorney’s Office and Arizona Attorney General, saying Gonzales, Garcia and Dong attended a district event without notifying the public.
Crouch also claimed he and Hernandez were purposefully not invited because they do not support Isquierdo.
The division within the governing board began in April after Isquierdo was named the lone finalist for the superintendent’s job in San Antonio.
However, Isquierdo withdrew from the position because of the negative media attention stemming from his personal and legal issues. He faced more backlash from parents, teachers and community members in Sunnyside, who questioned his leadership.
The outrage intensified after the governing board approved in June a two-year contract extension for Isquierdo .
Gonzales, Garcia and Dong approved the extension, while Crouch and Hernandez opposed the contract.
The extension prompted the first recall drive against Gonzales and Garcia, which was filed July 17 with the county school superintendent’s office by a group called Sunnyside Recall 2013.
However, some of Gonzales’ and Garcia’s supporters began to voice their opposition to Crouch and Hernandez, which culminated in the recall petition filed Friday.
Castro, who was Gonzales’ campaign manager, questioned the ethics of Crouch and Hernandez, as well as their opposition to most of the board’s votes.
“Every time the school board makes a decision, they always have a comment,” said Castro, who described himself as a Sunnyside resident for the last 50 years. “If the board approved it, why are they against it?”
Castro’s group had its first meeting Sunday, with about 50 people in attendance, he said.
The group has already collected about 200 signatures, he said.
The Sunnyside Recall 2013 group has collected at least 500 signatures, said Beki Quintero, a south side community leader who has helped lead the effort.
That group, which began meeting in July, gathered Saturday to collect signatures, Quintero said.
Quintero criticized the school board for what she called infighting and a lack of integrity.
“All they’re doing is confusing the community,” she said.
Both groups have to collect 1,345 signatures for a recall election to be called.
The Sunnyside Recall group has until Nov. 14, while Castro’s group has until Dec. 14.
Contact reporter Jamar Younger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4242. On Twitter: @JamarYounger