Sunnyside boardmember: Say 'no' to Isquierdo contract
The Sunnyside School Board will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to consider and vote on a contract extension for the superintendent, Dr. Manuel Isquierdo. He has one more year on his current contract, but wants to extend it by an additional two years to 2016. He wants to retire here.
Sunnyside Unified School District Superintendent Isquierdo should leave immediately. The district needs new leadership now.
Isquierdo gets his way by being a bully; he governs with fear and intimidation. He does not have the best interests of the district at heart; he is greedy and is only interested in building his own wealth on the backs of the teachers, students, staff, and the taxpayers of Sunnyside.
We deserve better. He showed that he is willing to turn his back on this community when he sees a bigger payday on the horizon. He applied and was rejected by San Antonio; why should Sunnyside be his fallback?
If I don't come forward now, I would regret that decision the rest of my life.
I would like to have a good working relationship with my fellow board members, but if I have to sacrifice that for what I see as the best interests of the district, I will gladly do so.
I am concerned about the future of our community. To extend this man's contract will negatively affect the district for the next decade, harming our children, the teachers, the staff, the taxpayers and the whole community.
The existing — and extremely one-sided — contract was written by the school district attorney at the direction of the superintendent. As it is written, the interests of the school district are not represented, only those interests of the superintendent.
Increasing the benefits and extending Isquierdo's contract is inconsistent with the needs and resources of the district. A golden parachute is inappropriate for a superintendent in a district that is struggling just to keep afloat. A new contract will ensure that we will not pass an override and will doom us to losing programs and staff that are critical to the future of our students. To extend the contract now would serve as a slap in the face to the hardworking staff of the district who have struggled for years.
Teachers and staff are reluctant to meet with me anywhere within the district out of fear of reprisal. Many of them ask to meet me in other parts of town.
The superintendent has a reputation of using fear and intimidation to keep the cabinet and staff in line. Employees of the district that speak up are admonished and told to mend their ways or they will find themselves out of a job.
Previous board members have claimed that he used intimidation to get his way with them. I personally have experienced the threats and intimidation. I have also observed the use of it on other board members.
Executive session is used to prevent board members from discussing issues with the public, as once they are discussed in the executive session, they are under the veil of secrecy and board members may face legal sanctions if they reveal them. Executive session should be used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. Everything else should be discussed in open public meeting with full transparency.
The existing contract is one of personal greed. While the base salary of $150,000 may not be unreasonable for a superintendent, check out the add-ons that make it extravagant:
- Tax Sheltered Annuity: $40,000
- Additional life insurance policy: $300,000
- Automobile allowance: over $20,000
- Business activity allowance: over $20,000
- Professional organizations: $5,000
- Because he has a doctorate: $1,000
Isquierdo's contract provides him 30 days of vacation, 20 days personal leave, 13 days professional/consulting leave, 25 holidays and break days.
It adds up to 88 work days, out of 260 work days on the calendar, that Sunnyside's superintendent is not at work.
The problem that looms larger than his high pay is that his leadership style of intimidation and the use of fear is harming our community. It affects his cabinet, the staff, the administration, the principals, the teachers, the councilors, the librarians, the nurses, the parents, and most of all the students.
This leadership style is bad for our district, for our schools, for our taxpayers, and for our overall community.
The superintendent attempts to convert any criticism about him into an attack on the district, which is a very clever diversionary technique.
I implore my fellow board members to NOT extend his contract, to NOT improve his golden parachute, but instead to buy out his remaining contract at $150,000 and start the healing process in the Sunnyside School District. We owe it to our community and to our students.
I think his plan is to get the contract extension, go for an override at a cost to the district of $120,000, then if the override fails, which it will, have the board release him with his golden parachute of three quarters of a million dollars.
If you have any stake in the Sunnyside community, let the board members know what you think. Show up at the board meeting, but be prepared to wait until the board returns from executive session to vote on this critical issue. Stand up for the students, the teachers and the future!
Buck Crouch is a member of the Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board. He has an MBA from the University of Arizona, is a business professor at NAU, a Sunnyside alumnus and a native of the community. He is a business owner and an expert on operations, supply chain and logistics management.