by David Safier
It's a huge swing. Courtesy of yesterday's landslide recall election, Sunnyside School District has gone from a 3-2 majority supporting Superintendent Manuel Isquierdo to a 4-1 majority which is likely to scrutinize his every move, and maybe get rid of him early. But after the much-deserved victory celebrations are over, it'll be time for people to take the stars out of their eyes and realize change is going to be a long, slow, expensive haul. Let's have high hopes for the new board, but let's also have reasonable expectations.
Isquierdo has little credibility left in the district or the community. The new board would probably be wise to get rid of him and look for someone who is less of a self-aggrandizing salesman and district bully and more of a solid educator with vision and integrity. But getting rid of Isquierdo won't come cheap. It's going to cost over half a million dollars for the district to buy out the remainder of his contract.
Is it worth it? He's got two years left on his contract. That's two years of board-superintendent pitched battles and gridlock. And it's probably two more years of voters denying the district a much-needed bond override. It's going to be hard to make positive change when the district has to cut millions from its budget. Should they give Isquierdo a half million dollar check to get the district back on track sooner rather than later? It's a tough call. The new board will take flak no matter what it decides.
As a side note, Isquierdo has long touted one accomplishment: that he's raised the district graduation rate. That's not nothing, right? Well, it may actually be nothing if he cooked the numbers as board member Buck Crouch insists. And it's very likely Crouch is right.
On his Three Sonorans blog, David Morales has a strong analysis of the actual Sunnyside graduation stats compared to the numbers Isquierdo trumpets. Anyone who likes number stuff (I do) will probably enjoy plowing through Morales' analysis, but here's a short summary for the rest of you. Morales says Isquierdo low-balled the 2007 graduation numbers to make it look like grad numbers grew after that. Then he added people who graduated in 5 or 6 years to his 4-year graduation numbers and compared them to grad numbers for other districts which don't include the late grads in the count. Finally, he cited the actual number of graduates rather than the percentage of students who graduated. Since the district grew during his tenure, the number of grads went up significantly, but the percentage of students graduating just inched up a little. If Crouch and Morales are right, it's just one more reason to get rid of Isquierdo.