In 2014, the board of the San Ysidro School District told the teachers it was nearly broke and asked them to swallow a pay cut of 8 percent. The teachers went on strike, then settled for 1 percent, but now they are demanding money back.
In a claim filed July 1, they say that the board hid deep in a books and supplies account some $4 million that would have covered a decent pay hike. Moreover, the county office of education, overseer then of the district's chaotic finances, failed to take notice. In fact, the teachers allege, two top county education officials "purposely hid" the money to make the district financial picture look "more dire than it was."
Such "misleading and deceitful actions," according to the claim filed with the county board of education, forced the strike "when there were funds available to prevent" it.
As they press for their losses to be restored, members of the teachers' bargaining unit, the San Ysidro Education Association, are calling for the resignations of county school superintendent Randolph E. Ward and a top aide, Lora Duzyk, whom allegedly was directly involved in overseeing district finances. The teachers' association president, Guillermina Sandez, told the school board the two county officials' actions amounted to "institutionalized racism" against poor Latino youth.
Meanwhile, a call for the resignations of Ward and Duzyk came July 7 from another quarter, the California Taxpayers Action Network. As reported in La Prensa, the network filed a lawsuit alleging that superintendent Ward set things up so that he and Duzyk could receive pay raises without performance reviews.
The complaint alleges that the superintendent tied his salary hikes to those of county office of education teachers and, since he negotiated the teachers' contracts, had an inherent conflict of interest. Duzyk, the court filings note, was paid by the San Ysidro district as its overseer from 2013 to 2015 and saw her salary jump 6 percent while she advocated cuts for the San Ysidro teachers.
And a report issued May 24 by the San Diego County Grand Jury calls for an "independent forensic audit" of the San Ysidro School District, noting that hundreds of millions in long-term debt had been amassed "with little to show for it." The grand jury report said the district has ignored citizens' requests made as far back as 1998 to form a bond-oversight panel. Voters in 1997 had approved a $250 million bond issue, and it would not be until three years later before a state law took effect requiring citizen oversight.
Among other irregularities noted by the grand jury:
— The district borrowed $18 million from the proceeds of bond sales to cover payroll and transfers to various accounts, but failed to return some $6.1 million back into the bond fund.
— Despite a call from the board in July 2013 to investigate the destruction of records by employees, there is no record that any follow-up took place.
— The board bought 20 acres of property for a new school, but much of the land was environmentally protected and unusable, resulting in significant expense for mitigation. "The decision to purchase this property is suspect and should be further investigated," the grand jury reported.
The county board of education has until mid-August to decide to make up for the San Ysidro teachers' lost pay. If it declines, the teachers can then take the matter to court. San Ysidro superintendent Julio Fonseca said employees who destroyed records are gone now and the district, with a new board and leadership, has “turned a corner” from its troubled, mismanaged past. He wrote the grand jury and said the district is hiring an experienced accounting firm to conduct a forensic examination of the finances.
According to a July 14 report by Wendy Fry of NBC/7, Ward has been placed on administrative leave (with pay).