The Escondido Union School District (EUSD) Needs New Leadership

By Don Greene

While teachers and school administrators are fighting on a daily basis to educate their students with diminishing resources, top-level administration seems to be completely oblivious to the detrimental role they have played by wasting district resources, namely money, on a witch hunt against one member of the Board of Trustees.

Trustee Jose Fragozo, the sole Latino on the board and the sole Democrat, has been the target of the ire of his fellow board members, along with Superintendent Luis Ibarra and his four Assistant Superintendents. Last year, the Superintendent and three other assistants filed for a Restraining Order against Fragozo. Ibarra claimed that he was frightened of Fragozo and feared for his safety and the safety of other staff members. The judge in the case dismissed the request citing a lack of evidence to support their claims that Fragozo was potentially dangerous.

Fragozo continues to face charges filed by DA Bonnie Dumanis against him for Election Code violations. These charges stem from a letter sent three years ago by Trustee Joan Gardner to the Secretary of State’s Office requesting an investigation into Fragozo’s residency. Gardner claimed that the address listed on Fragozo’s election affidavit is not actually his residence. The Secretary of State’s office found no wrongdoing at the time of their investigation. But, more recently, Dumanis has decided there was something to investigate.

While the top members of EUSD have pursued Fragozo, they have dedicated and wasted taxpayer dollars. To file and argue the Restraining Order case in court, the district hired Dan Shinoff, legal counsel for the district. Shinoff’s team of lawyers cost the district untold amounts of money only to come out on the losing side. The DA investigation is costing the people of San Diego County money to investigate a case which has already been investigated. The Board and top administration should be embarrassed by their actions.

But they’re not.

And not so surprisingly, former President of the Board of Trustees, Paulette Donnellon, is running for a position on the County Board of Education (BOE). She joins a list of other candidates who are clearly running in opposition to the majority Democratic members of the BOE. These candidates are being supported by groups like the California Charter School Association and are meant to make it easier for charter schools to begin to populate the County and destroy our public schools.

If successful, Donnellon would join the BOE and bring her brand of administration to a county organization that is currently running very smoothly. According to their website, the Office of Education currently serves 780 schools and more than 500,000 students in the county, including nearly 10,000 students that are educated through the Juvenile Court system and through other Community Schools. It is a stretch to think that Mrs. Donnellon’s sole 4 years of experience on the EUSD Board – with no other educational background – would qualify her for this position.

Of concern is more than her background; Mrs. Donnellon’s actions during the Fragozo trial were highly questionable. Mrs. Donnellon, acting as President of the Board of Trustees, authorized the issuance of a letter to over 20,000 people, which included District parents, teachers, and administrators, “informing” them of the restraining order against Trustee Fragozo. This is suspicious because it has never been the policy of EUSD to mail communication to its parents; they always send notes home with the students. But to achieve the desired effect, in this case, the letters needed to be mailed.

In the letter there was no mention that the issue was going to be heard by a court. In the letter there was no mention that the restraining order was only temporary. The language in the letter tried and judged Fragozo and caused upset among the parents, students, and teachers in the district.

Fragozo’s wife is a teacher for the District. She has reported that after the letter was sent to parents within the district, her students questioned her about it. There was no possible justification for sending the letter except to create a negative public perception of Fragozo and garner support for their position.

This is not the kind of administration we need on a county-wide level.

It is time that the Board and top administration at EUSD work to fix the problems that exist within their schools: better English language learning, better preparation for higher education, better life skills. Instead it seems that Mrs. Donnellon wishes to export her brand of administration – intimidation and wasteful spending – to the rest of the County. It’s time to say “No more!”

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