San Ysidro School District teachers ripped off?

County education board superintendent suspected of malfeasance

A San Ysidro School District teacher and her students
  • A San Ysidro School District teacher and her students

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.

Randolph E. Ward

Randolph E. Ward

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).

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Clearly from the article the district had financial problems and mismanagement. Borrowing from a bond for payroll and failing to return it? So the county is brought in to rein the financial problems in and is now blamed for hiding money to make the problem worse? A little reading reveals the county office is responsible for monitoring the school districts financial health. The charge that the county office wants a district that it is responsible to financially monitor to look bad makes no sense. It only makes the county office look bad when a district it is responsible for is struggling financially. Why would this be their agenda?

In any decent public entity financial system you can't hide money. It's either at the treasury (which provides monthly cash statements) or in a bank account )which provides statements. It's only being hidden if no one bothers to look.

This whole things seems really centered over government employees not getting a raise they wanted. If the district can truly afford to give them a raise (since “the money was there all along”) why not ask the school district board for it? Why in the world should the county office “make up for the San Ysidro teachers' lost pay”? It's not even alleged the county office took the money only that they “purposely hid" it. So if there is a raise due to San Ysidro staff the district should pay it from these “hidden” funds that have been found.

So the San Ysidro teachers want money that is in an account set aside for books and supplies. Huh.

There really shouldn't be a San Ysidro school district anyway. It needs to go the way of the old city and be subsumed by another entity. The ineptness and corruption in SY is systemic and apparently non-curable.

And when they claim the County superintendent is racist, they really lose all credibility.

Well, it is about time someone at the SD County Board of Education notices something being quite wrong with its top staff.

One wonders why the San Diego County Board of Education did not also place Assistant Superintendent Duzyk on Administrative Leave. She was the person who should have helped the San Ysidro District in its time of need, but apparently instead let personal greed guide her actions.

Consider that the CBOE is responsible for oversight, especially fiscal, of the school districts in its jurisdiction. However, the CBOE, with Ward and Duzyk at the helm, seem to have 'look the other way' syndrome when it comes to actually providing such oversight.

For example, a group of very concerned South County citizens actually pleaded with the CBOE to intervene when the Sweetwater Union High School District became mired in corruption and quite smelly and questionable fiscal practices. The CBOE did NOTHING, and actually said, 'we can't help you'. WHAT????

The elected representative on the CBOE from South County never returned phone calls about the serious matters. Further, the Joint Powers function overseen by the CBOE, has given the lion's share of school districts' legal business to one Dan Shinoff...yes, the same guy who was sued by San Ysidro for failing to relay offer of settlement of a pending lawsuit to his then client, the San Ysidro district board. The same guy who is now also implicated in the mess at the Poway School District.

The tentacles go deep and the San Diego County Board of Education has seemingly been happy to ignore its fiduciary responsibility to the tax payers of so many local districts. It is about time. I hope the forensic audit isn't overseen by Lora Duzyk. That would indeed be the fox guarding the hen house!

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