|San Diego Education Report
San Ysidro School District was wise to make a peremptory challenge
against Judge Judith Hayes.
San Ysidro Schools lawsuit (taken from the San Diego Superior Court Register of Actions July
03/30/2015 Case reassigned from Judge Hayes, Judith F. to Richard
Strauss effective 03/30/2015 Notice of Case Reassignment SD
03/30/2015 Civil Case Management Conference scheduled for 10/30/2015 at 09:30:00 AM at
Central in C-68 Judith F. Hayes was vacated.
03/30/2015 Peremptory Challenge (Granted) filed by San Ysidro School
District. San Ysidro School District (Plaintiff)
03/19/2015 Civil Case Management Conference scheduled for 10/30/2015 at 09:30:00 AM at
Central in C-68 Judith F. Hayes.
03/17/2015 Case assigned to Judicial Officer Hayes, Judith.
03/17/2015 Complaint filed by San Ysidro School District.
Refers to: Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz; Shinoff, Daniel San Ysidro School District (Plaintiff)
Case Number: 37-2015-00009253-CU-PN-CTL
Date Filed: 03/17/2015
Case Title: San Ysidro School District vs. Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
Case Status: All Proceedings Stayed
Case Category: Civil - Unlimited Location: Central
Case Type: Professional Negligence
Judicial Officer: Richard E. L. Strauss
11/06/2015 10:30 AM C-75 Civil Case Management Conference
San Ysidro School District Plaintiff Vess, Bryan CVESS,
BRYAN C 402 W BROADWAY 29th Floor SAN DIEGO CA 92101
Shinoff, Daniel R Defendant BERTSCHE, CORINNE C
Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz Defendant BERTSCHE, CORINNE C
BERTSCHE, CORINNE C SCHONFELD & BERTSCHE LLP 110 West A Street 615 SAN DIEGO CA 92101 (619) 544-8300
Partial Register of Actions:
06/17/2015 Order After Hearing (Order Granting Motion to compel
Arbitration and Stay of Action) filed by Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz.
Refers to: San Ysidro School District
Ulloa vs. San Ysidro School District
Case Type: Other employment
Judicial Officer: Ronald S. Prager
Name Role Representation
Brown, Jennifer Defendant Shinoff, Daniel R
Madera, Gloria Defendant Shinoff, Daniel R
Paul, Manuel Defendant Shinoff, Daniel R
San Ysidro Schools Defendant Coady, Patrice M; Shinoff, Daniel R
Former Stutz attorney Lee Patajo, who worked on the Ulloa
case, now works at Liebert Cassidy Whitmore. His bio at LCW
"Before joining Liebert Cassidy Whitmore's
Los Angeles office, Lee was an associate
attorney for a San Diego-based firm where
he handled several matters for public-sector clients,
including employment and property-liability claims."]
I found the following on the Superior Court
Registrar of Actions in this case:
Disassociation of Attorney (Lee T. Patajo)
filed by San Ysidro School District; Madera, Gloria;
Paul, Manuel; Brown, Jennifer.
Here are the lawyers for Carlos Ulloa:
Ulloa, Carlos Plaintiff Gardiner, Michael A;
Simpson, Sean Dntity
Familiar issues in
school board race
7 are vying for 3 seats in
San Ysidro district
By Chris Moran
October 4, 2006
SAN YSIDRO – The issues
haven't changed much in
recent years in San Ysidro
schools – unsatisfactory test
scores, children who don't
speak English, old schools
relations among school
Seven candidates for
three seats on the
board – incumbents
Sandy Lopez and Jean
Canillas, Tim Gomez,
Carol Guadiana and
Sonia Romero – differ
primarily on whether they
believe incumbents or new
faces are the ones to fix
eighth-grade district has
seven schools and a budget
of $40 million. The chief
spending debate is over
how to allocate building
money, which is not part of
the annual budget.
Although Jean Romero said
she has no problem with her
fellow incumbents, she has
bought into the movement
for new blood by agreeing to
run as a teachers-union-
endorsed slate with Sonia
Romero (no relation to Jean
Romero) and Carol
Jean Romero, 63, a
representative, also has the
Hernandez, Lopez, San
Ysidro schools trustee
Raquel Márquez-Maden, San
Diego Councilman Ben
Hueso and U.S. Rep.
What's at stake
Seven candidates are
running for three seats on
the five-member San Ysidro
School District board. The
top three vote-getters will
win four-year terms. The
board oversees an annual
budget of $40 million plus
the spending on school
construction of $250 million
raised through the sale of
bonds authorized by voters
who approved a 1997 ballot
measure. The district has
eighth-grade students at
Romero had announced
that after 13 years on the
board she would not run for
an additional term, but
changed her mind in part to
oversee the rebuilding of
Willow Elementary School.
She said she recognizes the
need to build a new school
for the neighborhoods east
of Interstate 805, but, “my
No. 1 priority is rebuilding
Willow (Elementary School)
The school is more than 50
years old. It has a leaky
roof, rust on buildings,
termites and a small
cafeteria that forces the
school to have lunch in
Hernandez, who also
considered not running for a
fourth four-year term after
the recent death of her
daughter, said the
conditions she found at
Willow during a recent tour
brought her to tears. She
said her eyes stung from the
smell and humidity in some
“We need to fix the old ones
before we build new
schools,” said Hernandez,
57, a retired school
She has endorsements
from the AFL-CIO, state
Vargas, Filner, challenger
Gomez and Casa
director, Andrea Skorepa.
Incumbent Lopez said, “The
rebuilding of Willow School
is something that I'm anxious
to be part of.”
Lopez, a 62-year-old
medical transcriber, is
endorsed by Hernandez, the
AFL-CIO and Skorepa in her
quest for a second
consecutive term. She also
served a term in the 1990s.
Guadiana, 26, a substitute
teacher who attended Willow
Elementary and other San
Ysidro schools, also said
her priority is to rebuild old
schools. In fact, providing
better facilities in San
Ysidro's older communities
will slow the cross-freeway
migration of students that's
crowding Ocean View Hills
School, she argued.
Guadiana said she was
“mortified” by Willow's
Gomez also mentioned
facilities as a problem.
“We have a lot of old
schools in our district, and
those need to be brought up
to standard,” he said. “A
good, positive environment
does a lot for our students.”
Sonia Romero, 35, an
couldn't be reached for an
interview. Canillas, a former
South Bay Union School
District board member, was
invited by the teachers
union to run for the board
but didn't receive its
“Technically, I guess, I'd be
withdrawing from the race
because I'm not
campaigning,” said Canillas,
39, an account manager for
an educational software
In a district where two-thirds
of the 5,100 students
between kindergarten and
eighth grade don't speak
generally center on teaching
Jean Romero said the
current three-year timeline
for students to learn English
must be accelerated. She
also supports consideration
of a program that would put
native English speakers
learning Spanish and native
Spanish speakers learning
English together in the same
Lopez said she believes the
current timeline is
reasonable and that the
district leaders need to
promote a greater respect
for children's native
“It's a matter of self-
respect,” she said. “You
have to instill in any child in
any culture respect for
themselves and their
Hernandez said San Ysidro
schools are doing an
excellent job teaching and
that there's proof of it in
high student scores on
“I'm the only real
Mexican – 100 percent
– on the board,” she
said, adding that as an
immigrant she knows how
difficult it is to learn English.
She doesn't recommend
major changes to teaching
Guadiana, who entered San
Ysidro schools not speaking
accelerating the learning of
English by making it the
language of instruction 80
percent of the time by
second grade. That's the
first year that students take
state tests that determine
Gomez, 41, a notary public
who lives in Ocean View
Hills, talks more about
leadership than literacy. He
ran for the San Diego City
Council last year and in
2005, and said the
resignation in disgrace of
Councilman Ralph Inzunza
was indicative of a lack of
leadership in South County.
“I think we need to start
sending a message in the
Hispanic community that
we're not all like that,” he
Gomez also criticized the
board for its fractured
relationships. He said
divisions on the board trickle
down and ultimately impede
classroom learning. He
pledged to not just attend
monthly meetings but to visit
schools to build
relationships with employees.
The board has had several
high-profile conflicts in
recent years. Romero
tearfully tried to resign the
board presidency last year
over frustration with
infighting. The board didn't
accept her resignation.
In 2004, Hernandez
distributed a news release
accusing fellow board
members of violating the
state's open-meeting law.
Later that year, the board
publicly discussed possible
against Hernandez because
the bus company she owns,
which is run by her sons,
transported district children
on a field trip. The board
refused to pay the $3,990
This year Hernandez, Lopez
and Romero, over the
objections of the other two
trustees and against the
recommendation of district
Superintendent Tim Allen,
added a job to the payroll and
transferred Sweetwater Union
High School District board
member Pearl Quiñones from
her job at Willow to Smythe
All candidates were invited
to the Union-Tribune offices
to be photographed.
Chris Moran: (619) 498-
"...This year Hernandez, Lopez and Romero, over
the objections of the other two trustees and against
the recommendation of district Superintendent Tim
Allen, added a job to the payroll and transferred
Sweetwater Union High School District board
member Pearl Quiñones from her job at Willow to
Smythe Elementary School..."
Questions emerge about prospective chief of
By Chris Moran
August 16, 2007
The man who may be hired as San Ysidro's superintendent today has presided
over large test-score gains for the past five years in another border district
where two-thirds of students don't speak English fluently.
He also was paid to leave two previous superintendent jobs and left early from
a third. He nearly lost his current superintendent job in October when the
Calexico Unified School District board split 3-2 on whether to extend his
The San Ysidro School District board announced Aug. 1 that it intends to hire
David Alvarez as its next superintendent. The decision is contingent on the
results of a visit two board members made this month to Calexico Unified
School District, where Alvarez has been superintendent since 2002, and
agreement on salary.
Since Alvarez has led the 9,400-student Calexico district, its schools have
shown substantial and steady growth in their state academic ratings. Nearly
every school has improved its rating every year of Alvarez's tenure.
There has been some controversy, too. Alvarez used a district credit card to
make $1,400 in personal purchases in 2005. He repaid the district months later.
Calexico board President Enrique Alvarado said Alvarez did nothing illegal.
“If he would have done anything wrong and violated anything with his credit
cards, he'd be in jail,” Alvarado said. The board president praised Alvarez for
his leadership and said he'd bring “a wealth of information” about educating
Alvarez left his previous superintendent job in Gilroy under circumstances that
remain unclear. Newspaper accounts report that board members raised
questions about his management of district finances, including a $641,000
bookkeeping error by a district clerk.
Alvarez said he asked the board not to extend his contract, and he left the
district a month early. Former Gilroy board members contacted this week
refused to comment on the circumstances surrounding his departure.
Before Gilroy, Alvarez was bought out of a contract at Chino Unified School
District. He was also bought out of a contract as superintendent of Coachella
Unified School District in 1990.
“The San Ysidro School District has since come to understand Mr. Alvarez's
record since our initial selection and is continuing to look into it further prior to
making any final decisions,” board President Paul Randolph said yesterday.
Alvarez said his departures have been caused by politics, not performance.
“When you walk into a superintendent's position, the board that hires you may
not be the same board you'll be working with in three to five years,” Alvarez
said. “They have a right as a public stakeholder to hire the superintendent they
want to work with.”
Zenaida Rosario, a teacher at La Mirada Elementary School who was the
state's teacher of the year in 2004, has written to the San Ysidro board that the
accounts of Alvarez's itinerant career she has read on Internet blogs worry her.
“San Ysidro deserves better. I am tired of reading all the negative press about
the superintendents that come and go and who gets cheated? Our children,”
Rosario wrote in an e-mail to the board.
Randolph said he received “multiple” letters from teachers concerning Alvarez's
candidacy, all of them raising concerns.
The board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. today at the district headquarters,
4350 Otay Mesa Road, in San Ysidro.
School district stays local in picking superintendent
By Chris Moran
November 10, 2007
SAN YSIDRO – Manuel Paul is the new San Ysidro School
The school board voted unanimously late Thursday to appoint
Paul, who has served as interim superintendent since August.
Paul, 56, attended San Ysidro schools as a child and has
worked for the district for 33 years.
“It's a dream come true for me,” he said. “I started my
education in this district. I started my professional life as a
teacher here. I want to retire from here.”
The board has spent nine months in search of a leader for the
district, which serves 5,200 students in kindergarten through
eighth grade. San Ysidro's seven schools have been
without a permanent leader since January, when
then-Superintendent Tim Allen accepted another job.
San Ysidro's board brought back former Superintendent
Gilbert Anzaldua to run the district, then hired the executive
search firm for which Anzaldua worked to help find a
Paul applied for the superintendent job in the spring but was
not granted an interview. The board announced in August that
it intended to hire Calexico schools chief David Alvarez. Two
weeks later, it reversed course after learning that Alvarez left
other superintendent jobs before his contract had expired.
At a closed-session meeting in August, the board decided to
withdraw its offer to Alvarez, then announced that it had named
a surprised Paul interim superintendent.
Paul said he and the board agreed Thursday night to a three-
year contract that would pay him $160,000 a year.
By also appointing Jennifer Brown as assistant superintendent
for human resources, the board has filled every top leadership
position for the first time in a year. Later this month, Gloria
Madera, principal at John A. Otis School in National City, will
join the San Ysidro district as assistant superintendent for
Chris Moran: (619) 498-6637; email@example.com
"...San Ysidro's seven schools have been
without a permanent leader since January,
when then- Superintendent Tim Allen
accepted another job..." Nov. 2007
|San Diego Education Report
|San Diego Education Report
San Ysidro School District
05/06/11 01:45PM C-73
Denton, Steven R.
Civil Case Mana
D)San Ysidro School Distric
Daniel R Shinoff
Martha Gomez vs. San
Ysidro School District
County of San Diego (D)
Julie R Dann
Martha Gomez (P)
Lorraine M Nisbet
Maxim Healthcare Services Inc
San Ysidro School District (D)
Daniel R Shinoff
12/02/11 08:35AM S-04
Cannon, William S.
R)San Ysidro School Distric
Daniel R Shinoff
08/24/12 10:30AM C-73
Denton, Steven R.
Motion to Quash
D)San Ysidro School Distric
Daniel R Shinoff
09/21/12 01:45PM C-73
Civil Case Mana
Ysidro School Distric Daniel R Shinoff
Ubaldo Gutierrez vs. City of
San Diego, San Ysidro
12/21/12 10:00AM C-65
Lewis, Joan M.
D)San Ysidro School Distric
Daniel R Shinoff
PLAINTIFF represented by
Solar Power Company Sues San Ysidro School District
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
June 19, 2012
President Obama’s 2008 election brought money and emphasis to alternative
energy in the United States. For some former lobbyists and politicians, this
emphasis became an entrepreneurial opportunity.
A 2009 article in the Sacramento Business Journal reported that former lieutenant
governor Cruz Bustamante and a former San Diego port commissioner joined Go
Green Consultants LLC to partner with solar-panel installers to “reduce school
districts’ and other municipalities’ energy bills and dependence on the power grid.”
Political consultant and lobbyist Art Castañares also went into the solar-panel
business. Castañares was a former aide to Steve Peace and the consultant
behind Cheryl Cox’s 2006 election to mayor of Chula Vista.
In 2008, the San Ysidro School District signed a contract with Castañares’s
business, Manzana Energy, which allowed the company to build solar panels on the
school sites and sell the electricity generated by the panels.
According to a 2008 Union-Tribune article, the district agreed to buy “all the power
the panels generate over 25 years for a flat fee of $18.9 million. Manzana will pay
$16 million to buy and install the panels.”
But, no panels have been installed and no power generated. Why not? And why
has Manzana (also known as EcoBusiness) filed a lawsuit against the San Ysidro
School District for “compensatory damages” that may exceed $17 million?
Castañares says there have been unanticipated problems in getting the panels in
place. During a June 18 interview, Castañares said the initial idea was to put
Manzana’s panels on school building roofs. However, the company found the roofs
would not support the weight of the panels and began to work on designs for
But, by October 2011, the district had had enough. San Ysidro’s attorney, Dan
Shinoff, commented, "Since 2008, when the district entered into a contract with the
company, the only thing done was to clear a lot for a photo op."
Referring to the same lot, Castañares argues that it rained shortly after his
company cleared the four-acre site in 2010. The rain revealed a drainage problem,
which delayed the project further.
Castañares said his company has maintained an office in the district since 2009.
He can’t understand why the district didn’t come to them to resolve the problems
rather than abruptly terminating the contract.
Castañares believes Manzana/Ecobusiness has a strong suit because they were
not terminated according to contract language and because, Castañares says, “We
have a good law firm that has successfully sued a lot of public agencies.”
Castañares added, “We begged them to arbitrate; it makes me sick to have to do
this to a school district.”
When asked if Manzana has any solar-generating projects up and running,
Castañares said “not yet,” though he is working on one with the YMCA.
[Maura Larkins' note: A deposition in this lawsuit led to Superintendent Manuel
Paul's admission that he had taken $2,500 from another contractor.]
The story below is very sympathetic to San Ysidro School District, but keep in mind
that the superintendent and one board member have been indicted for taking
$2,500 cash in an envelope from a contractor.
TIMELINE: Former San Ysidro
Superintendent Emails To Staff
By Wendy Fry
NBC 7 San Diego
Jul 29, 2013 Manuel Paul in a still image captured
from a deposition he made in a
separate federal investigation.
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013: San Ysidro school board places Paul on paid
Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013: San Ysidro Middle School Principal David Torres emails
Paul the day after the superintendent was placed on paid administrative leave.
Torres offers support to Paul.
Torres to Paul: “Thanks for being so strong last night. We all know things will work
out in the end and all those naysayers will have to deal with their flawed judgment
and uncalled for ‘plebe’ comments at a later time.”
Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013: Former San Ysidro Superintendent Manuel Paul emails his
former administrative assistant and asks her to forward information on
a class-action lawsuit to the district’s outside counsel. She
writes back on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2013 the task is “done.”
[Maura Larkins' comment: I believe that all attorneys representing the district are
"outside counsel" since San Ysidro School District does not have in-house lawyers.
In addition to Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Hotlz, the district has a contract with Best, Best
& Krieger, and probably other law firms.]
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013: Paul emails the personnel department to instruct them to
allow a new hire to start work the next day.
Friday, Jan. 25, 2013: Paul emails San Ysidro trustee Antonio Martinez to discuss
Liam Dillon’s article in Voice of San Diego about an incomplete sidewalk along Otay
Mesa Road creating safety concerns for students.
Monday, Jan. 28, 2013: Paul emails his administrative assistant to tell her he is
attending a community planning meeting and will stop by his district office after
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013: Paul emails then-Human Resources Director Jason
Romero instructing him to check with legal counsel if information on a San
Ysidro Education Vanguard Foundation could be added to the district’s
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013: Paul emails the district’s Finance Director Dena
Whittington instructing her to “look into” a request for information by the San Diego
County Taxpayer’s Association
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013: Board President Jason Wells emails Paul,
asking him to stop issuing directives to staff and refrain
from visiting district offices.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013: Paul emails Architect Paul Bunton to
discuss a proposed redesign of Beyer Elementary school.
"They totally redesigned the project. Beyer school will have a mission flavor, but
totally different from your original design," Paul wrote.
In a South County corruption case, Bunton, 54, pleaded guilty in
March 2012 to aiding in the commission of a misdemeanor
because school officials did not list the meals and gifts he
provided on state-mandated reporting forms.
Saturday, February 16, 2013: Paul emails Interim Superintendent Gloria Madera
and then-Human Resources Director Jason Romero instructing them to have
principals and department heads conduct training on child abuse reporting
Tuesday, February 26, 2013: Paul emails Interim Superintendent Gloria Madera
instructing her to ask the area principals if any students attended a field trip to Old
Saturday, March 2, 2013: Paul emails outside legal counsel Dan Shinoff about a
translated statement from Studio K printer shop in Tijuana. The store sent a
statement, which appears to have been translated and forwarded along by
private investigator Bob Price.
Studio K’s translated statement says:
“Manuel Paul first requested an estimate dated 8/19/2010 in the name of Gareth
Maden for posters $1401.
Manuel Paul returned and added the extra posters for Jason
Wells $2301 in the name of Hugo Alonso Inc. Manuel Paul
said that the donation was anonymous but the anonymous
person wanted the receipt in the name of Hugo Alonso Inc.”
Paul emails Shinoff to state the translation is fair but it leaves some information out.
Thursday, March 7, 2013: Paul writes to his former administrative assistant
instructing her to send him agendas and minutes.
“Thank you, please keep sending me agendas and minutes as you have them
ready,” Paul writes.
Friday, March 8, 2013: Paul writes to Director of Business Support Services Cesar
Vega that he will be sending him a “letter of recommendation” soon.
“You always conducted yourself very honorably, and worked like a true
team-player and that goes very high in my book,” Paul writes.
Vega wrote to Paul earlier that same day stating if Paul was not returning to the
district, he did not want to work in San Ysidro either:
“On the other hand, in the event that you decide not to comeback, personally, I feel
that it would be time for me to move on as well. In fact, the reason I have stayed
here in San Ysidro for six years now is because I believe in you and your leadership
to guide us in the right direction,” Vega wrote.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013: Paul writes Director of Business Support Services Cesar
Vega in Spanish.
“Te mande la carta con mi hija Alexandra. Ella trabaja en la Escuela Smythe en el
salón #7. Si quieres pasa por allí y ella te la da. Si necesitas que la haga algún
cambio me dices y con mucho gusto. Suerte!!,” Paul writes.
A rough translation is: “I sent the letter with my daughter Alexandra. She teaches at
Smythe Elementary in Room 7. If you want to stop by there, she’ll give it to you. If
you need any changes just tell me and I gladly will. Good luck!”
Wednesday, March 13, 2013: Paul emails San Ysidro Middle School Principal David
Torres stating his disapproval of a recent budget decision.
“I am beyond being disappointed of Gloria,” Paul writes of Interim Superintendent
Gloria Madera. “And to give these excuses for cutting Aps, pleeeease! (sic) I’ll have
a letter for you in a few days. Send me some bullet points to include on the letter.
Hang in there (for now.)
Monday, March 18, 2013: Paul hands in his letter of resignation.
Monday, April 1, 2013: Paul offers positive reinforcement for a video circulating
about a turnaround student at San Ysidro Middle School. “Wow great work,” he
writes. “Please congratulate the entire staff for their focus and accomplishments and
kudos to Lorena and Veronica for sharing your story with the rest of the county.”
Thursday, April 4, 2013: Paul accepts an invitation to attend a June 20 breakfast
event put on by the San Diego Army Advisory Council for area superintendents.
Thursday, April 4, 2013: The San Ysidro School Board votes to accept Paul's
Monday, April 8, 2013: Paul emails his former administrative assistant to say he was
sending $2 in with his daughter, who works at Smythe Elementary in the district. The
money is to participate in the office lottery pool.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013: Paul emails district coordinator Kim Nisson to say he is
very proud her and that she's doing a good job.
Friday, April 19, 2013: Paul emails more than 20 San Ysidro School District staff
congratulating them on student math achievement.
San Ysidro School District
wants no mention of
or criminal charges
in San Ysidro Schools case
Interestingly, reporter Aaron Bergin, who wrote about the burned records, has been
laid-off from the San Diego Union-Tribune. In addition, the teacher who blew the
whistle about the burned documents was placed on administrative leave.
Our tax dollars for schools are hard at work in San Ysidro School District. The
District is telling the Superior Court that the burning of district records had nothing to
do with a pending $18 million lawsuit about San Ysidro School District's decision to
drop a contractor.
The District also claims that a cash handout from a contractor to Superintendent
Manuel Paul sheds no light on how San Ysidro officials make decisions about
Both Mr. Shinoff's law firm, Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz, and the California Bar
Association agree that public entity lawyers are only beholden to the public officials
School lawyers are paid tax dollars to keep events in schools secret from the courts
and the voters, helping board members and administrators retain power and keeping
voters clueless at election time.
I think a school district belongs to the people who pay for it and the people for whose
benefit it was created, not to the officials and others who have obtained power in its
P.S. I am wondering why the San Diego Union-Tribune laid off Watchdog reporter
Aaron Bergin right after he exposed Fagen Friedman Fulfrost's shenanigans at
Carlsbad School District. SDUT owner Doug Manchester doesn't want his Watchdogs
to actually cause changes in schools, it appears.
San Ysidro tries to limit testimony
District wants cash handoff, criminal charges excluded from civil matter
By Jeff McDonald
Nov. 17, 2013
Manuel Paul, 61, San Ysidro schools superintendent, is accused of filing false
documents, perjury, and accepting gifts above state limits Manuel Paul, 61, San
Ysidro schools superintendent, is accused of filing false documents, perjury, and
accepting gifts above state limits.
Lawyers for the San Ysidro School District filed several motions last week in an $18
million lawsuit over solar installations, attempting to exclude any mention of cash
handoffs, burning of district records or criminal charges against officials...
Did Manuel Paul illegally burn San Ysidro School District
Whistleblower placed on
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
Aug. 4, 2013
Curious reports continue regarding
burned papers retrieved from a burn
barrel in the maintenance yard of the San Ysidro School District...
A new twist to the story, however, is that the district has placed the
whistleblower on administrative leave.
The sequence of events on July 3 began when a San Ysidro school teacher
got a call from his union president who informed him of the possible
burning of documents. He called his acquaintance, Art Castanares, one
of the owners of EcoAlliance, a solar-power company. EcoAlliance has filed a
breach-of-contract suit against the district.
The teacher and Castanares showed up at district headquarters at about the
same time and found the burn barrel. They called the FBI and the San Diego
“I can’t even have an open burn in my backyard," said the teacher in a
recent interview. "It doesn’t look right for someone in the district to be
doing this.” The teacher said what appeared to be legal documents were
visible among the ashes.
Though the teacher declined to release his name until he meets with his
attorney, he worries he is already suffering the consequences of being a
whistleblower. The district placed him on administrative leave on Tuesday, July
Why was former Superintendent Manuel Paul discussing a
cash handoff from a contractor with district private eye Bob
Price? (See timeline below.)
This happened AFTER Paul had been specifically asked by Board President Jason
Wells to stop issuing directives to staff and refrain from visiting district offices.
The Paul communication (see yellow section of timeline below)
appears to involve signs bought with cash passed to Paul in an
envelope in a parking lot.
Out-of-control political games have been rampant for
decades at the San Ysidro school board
San Ysidro Schools Agree to Pay Settlement to Ex-Superintendent
July 25, 1986
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
The San Ysidro Elementary School District and former Supt. Thomas Murray have
reached an out-of-court settlement "in the very, very, high six-figure range" in his
$5-million wrongful termination lawsuit filed against the district more than four years
ago, according to Murray's attorney.
Murray, who now lives in the Northern California city of Arroyo Grande, refused to
comment. His attorney, Deborah Anderson of the Corona Del Mar law firm of Carman
& Mansfield, said Murray believed the settlement, reached Friday, was "a long time in
"He was pleased to have his name cleared and be compensated for the tremendous
injustice he has been forced to live with the last five years," Anderson said.
Murray was appointed to the $37,000-a-year superintendent post in June, 1979, after
a recall election of district trustees resulted in then-Supt. Robert Colgrove losing the
majority of support and Murray being offered the position of superintendent. He had
been a principal with the district since 1976.
Murray signed a two-year contract with the district in October, 1979. In November,
another recall election resulted in the balance of support on the trustees board going
back to Colgrove. The new board reached an agreement with Colgrove, who had
also sued the district for wrongful termination, and reinstated him as superintendent.
Murray was assigned as a principal-at-large.
In February, 1980, the trustees in an executive session voted to demote Murray to a
teaching position for allegedly "failing to provide adequate leadership" and other
charges. Murray refused to accept the demotion and left the district.
"The board had accused him (Murray) of driving the district's car for personal use,
formally called misappropriation of district property, as well as other charges,"
Anderson said. "Instead of allowing him to respond to the charges, they were
published in The San Diego Union, and he found out about them after they were
published and after he had been terminated.
"The basis of the lawsuit was lack of due process. Everyone is guaranteed the
chance to be heard before their rights are taken away from them, but this was totally
lacking in this case."
Anderson said the case finally went to trial in October, and the judge was emphatic in
his ruling in favor of Murray.
A transcript of Superior Court Judge Franklin Orfield's opinion, dated Oct. 17, 1985,
said the trustees' allegations against Murray were unfounded and unfair.
"I have never seen such a series of such serious charges of wrongdoing and even
criminal conduct so cavalierly made with so little evidence to back them up," the
transcript read. "In this case the district set itself up as the prosecutor, the judge, the
jury and the executioner."
The case was to have returned to court next month to determine the amount of
Greg Ryan, an attorney for Rhoades Hollywood & Neil, the San Diego law firm that
represented the district, said the district considers the issue closed with the
settlement and will not seek a reversal of the judge's ruling.
"We had a good settlement offer (from the district)," Anderson said. "Sometimes
you're better accepting it and going on with your life. He's never had a decent job
since these acts occurred in 1980. . . . He had been an administrator for 13 years,
and it is foolish to ask a man to start over at the age of 50. The lawsuit shows he was
not in the wrong, but the humiliation and the personal distress, as well as the lost
wages both past and future, cannot be made up ever in full."
Anderson and Ryan both declined to disclose the exact settlement.
04/18/14 08:30AM C-62 CV
Styn, Ronald L. Motion
Daniel R Shinoff
D)San Ysidro School
Daniel R Shinoff
|Updated May 2014
San Ysidro officials were remarkably lucky to get Judge
Styn for the Ecobusiness case; Styn has a history of going
beyond the call of duty to protect the powerful. See Scott
Dauenhauer and Elizabeth Schulman cases.
Of course, Judge Styn wasn't able to stop the Ecobusiness
jury from awarding $12 million in damages.
Motion hearing in this case at the central courthouse
D)San Ysidro School District
Daniel R Shinoff
Judge Styn, Ronald L.
$12 million verdict against San Ysidro schools in
EcoBusiness case, despite (or because of?) extreme
efforts of Stutz Artiano Shinoff Hotlz
Premier school attorney Dan Shinoff was not able to pull off a win for the school
district in the Ecobusiness case--even with the help of his partner James Holtz.
The jury had little reason to trust the school district officials.
My guess is that this jury wants to see the law upheld in San Ysidro School District.
Usually jurors can be talked out of finding any school district liable for anything by
telling them that it will hurt students if the district has to pay those it has wronged.
Yes, in the short run, that is true. But the benefits start to accrue immediately if
corrupt administrators, board members and teachers are forced out of schools
and replaced by people who can do their jobs right, and if schools are forced to
operate in a more transparent manner, preventing the flow of tax dollars to lawyers
who are hired by school officials to cover up wrongdoing.
In the long run, it will benefit schools financially and improve the services provided
to the public by schools if we refuse to immunize schools for their criminal, illegal
and/or abusive actions.
Lee Patajo went to
work for Liebert
San Ysidro School District Interim Superintendent Resigns
By Candice Nguyen and R. Stickney
NBC 7 San Diego
Mar 20, 2014
San Ysidro School District Interim Superintendent Gloria Madera abruptly
stepped down Wednesday saying the district recently received a "negative
certificate," meaning it cannot meet its financial obligations.
"In hindsight I really have no regrets. I think it was a learning opportunity We
really hope negotiations would go better but I gave it my best and that's all you
can do," Madera told NBC 7.
According to her contract, she had two options: remain interim superintendent or
go back to her other job as Asst. Superintendent of Educational Services, which
Her resignation will be effective on April 1.
Board member Jean Romero also resigned recently and the board approved a
draft timeline of the process to fill that spot.
On May 13, if no action is taken to replace Romero, the county will call an
election to fill the seat.
The announcement was made in front of at least a hundred angry teachers and
parents who say they have lost all confidence in the school board.
The district's reputation has been tainted by serious budget problems and the
indictment of former superintendent Manuel Paul on allegations in connection
with a bribery and corruption scandal.
The San Ysidro Education Association President Carole Wallace said she does
not trust the board to help find qualified candidates.
"A child doesn't bring his homework in. If he says 'Tomorrow' of course you don't
believe it. You have to show me to believe it," Wallace said.
As for who will replace Madera, she suspects there will be another interim
The school board says it'll seek the county's help.
May 01, 2014
San Ysidro Schools trustee steps down after all; judge may not have known
about section 1770 when ruling that Yolanda Hernandez could stay in office
...“We haven’t received any information from the DA’s office with regard to
(Hernandez) having to resign or received anything from them in writing regarding
any plea,” said George Cameron, interim superintendent. “What we want to
do is get access to the court’s decision and we’ll have it reviewed by our legal
San Ysidro settles Ecobusiness
$12 million judgment
Following mediation, school officials and the solar company said they will
develop a new plan to supply San Ysidro schools with solar energy.
Interim superintendent has district looking up
San Ysidro is seeing a financial turnaround.
By Christine Huard
.March 3, 2015
SAN YSIDRO — Edward Velasquez seems out to put the super in superintendent.
Since taking charge of the San Ysidro School District last month, the new interim
superintendent has balanced the budget, brokered a deal to set aside
a $12 million judgment against the district, and put in place
hiring practices he said can’t be manipulated.
And if pulling the district back from the edge of insolvency, undoing a massive
legal loss and combating long-standing complaints of favoritism and nepotism
weren’t enough, he also directed the school board in refinancing Proposition C
school bonds at a potential savings of $50 million to property taxpayers.
It’s a drastic turnaround for a district that has been in negative certification — a
classification a school district falls under when it can’t meet its financial
obligations in the current and following fiscal years. The classification puts a
district at risk of the state taking over. Velasquez said money was found by taking
a hard look at the state’s new funding formula that allocates additional money to
targeted student populations through the Local Control Accountability Plan, or
LCAP. A balanced budget will be presented to trustees at the March 12 board
“(The money) has always been there,” he said. “Someone didn’t understand how
to utilize the money. Someone didn’t allow people to do their job. And I’ll leave it
One of the first tasks board members gave Velasquez was
to reopen talks with EcoBusiness Alliance, the solar
company that won a $12 million judgment last year after
the district broke its contract to build a solar project on
Following mediation, school officials and the solar
company said they will develop a new plan to supply San
Ysidro schools with solar energy.
Details of the memorandum of understanding are still being hashed out, but
Velasquez expects it to be ready for trustees to consider approving March 12.
The district signed a solar energy deal with EcoBusiness Alliance in 2008, but
former Superintendent Manuel Paul axed the deal before a system was built. The
company sued, and it was while being deposed in the lawsuit that Paul revealed
he had taken $2,500 cash in 2010 from a contractor who wanted to do business
with the district. Paul eventually pleaded guilty to state and federal corruption
charges in the “pay-to-play” scandal, and is serving a two-month prison sentence
in the federal case...
District accuses lawyer of malpractice
San Ysidro is one of 40-plus school boards that employ firm
By Christine Huard and Jeff McDonald
March 13, 2015
Trustees of the San Ysidro School District have unanimously voted
to file a malpractice lawsuit against their former attorneys, and to
file a complaint with the California State Bar against the firm, Stutz
Artiano Shinoff & Holtz.
The firm, which called the action baseless, does legal work for more than 40
school districts across the region.
The decision to sue was announced after a closed session meeting late
Thursday. It follows a $12 million jury verdict against the district in a breach-
of-contract lawsuit filed by a solar panel installation company.
The malpractice lawsuit has not yet been filed, according to William Trejo,
the district’s new lawyer.
In explaining the lawsuit, board President Antonio Martinez cited a board
accusation that was the subject of a U-T Watchdog story in November —
that attorney Dan Shinoff ... from EcoBusiness Alliance, the solar energy
firm that won the multimillion-dollar jury award...[see Ecobusiness stories
San Ysidro has a new superintendent
By Christine Huard
June 11, 2015
Dr. Julio Fonseca has been named
the new superintendent of the San Ysidro School District.
Fonseca, who serves as associate superintendent of the
Bassett Unified School District in La Puente, will replace
interim Superintendent Edward Velasquez starting July 1.
...The district hired Ray & Associates to conduct its superintendent search, which launched
just two months ago.
The new schools chief has been with Bassett Unified, a K-12 and adult education district that
has seven schools serving about 4,500 students, since last year. His base salary there is
Previously, he was assistant superintendent of human resources for the Temple City School
District for three years, and principal of Coronado High School in the West Covina Unified
School District for two years. He worked as a teacher, in counseling, and in an office that
created curriculum for disenfranchised students in the Los Angeles Unified School District for
Fonseca, 39, earned a master’s degree in social work with an emphasis on family and schools
in 2001 and a doctorate of education in 2008 from the University of Southern California. He is
a 1999 graduate of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and holds a degree in
sociology. He is a single father with two young children, and speaks Spanish fluently...
San Diego Superior Court central courthouse cases filed
by San Ysidro School District since 1974
37-2015-00009253-CU-PN-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
STUTZ ARTIANO SHINOFF & HOLTZ San Diego Civil
Case Title: SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT VS. STUTZ ARTIANO
SHINOFF & HOLTZ [IMAGED]
Case Number: 37-2015-00009253-CU-PN-CTL Case
Location: San Diego
Case Type: Civil Date Filed: 03/17/2015
Category: CU-PN Professional Negligence
Last Name or Business Name First Name Primary (P)
SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT P
Last Name or Business Name First Name Primary (P)
STUTZ ARTIANO SHINOFF & HOLTZ P
SHINOFF DANIEL R
37-2015-00003840-CU-NP-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
PAUL, MANUEL San Diego Civil 02/03/2015
37-2013-00030460-CU-PO-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
LANDMARK MECHANICAL San Diego Civil 01/16/2013
37-2011-00086195-CU-WM-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
COMMISSION ON PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE San Diego
37-2011-00078094-CU-OR-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
ALL PERSONS INTERESTED IN THE MATTER OF THE PROCEEDINGS
APPROVING AND CONFIRMING THE EXECUTION OF A San Diego
37-2010-00090787-CU-WM-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
ROTHSTEIN, ALAN San Diego Civil 04/27/201
Cases filed in central courthouse against San Ysidro School District since 1974
Superior Court of California, County of San Diego
Court Index Home Previous Page New Party Name Search
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Last Name requested: SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT First Name requested:
Search Result Page: 1
Case Number Party Name Matches Opposing Party Case
Location Case Type Date Filed
IC816366 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ALCALA COMPANY
INC San Diego Civil 08/18/2003
GIC820150 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ARMENTA,
SYLVIA San Diego Civil 10/30/2003
GIC814013 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT VIZCARRA, MARTHA
I San Diego Civil 07/09/2003
GIC803605 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT LOPEZ, MANUEL
RIOS San Diego Civil 01/14/2003
GIC796056 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT MARTINEZ,
JOSUE San Diego Civil 09/16/2002
GIC790586 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ARMAS JR, BERNARD
N San Diego Civil 06/14/2002
GIC765696 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ACCENT
ELECTRONICS INC San Diego Civil 04/13/2001
GIC762148 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT MENDOZA, LUZ
MELINDA San Diego Civil 02/09/2001
GIC733660 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT SORIA, SERGIO
San Diego Civil 08/13/1999
703464 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ARMAS, CAROL San
Diego Civil 09/06/1996
702996 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ESPINOSA, DANIEL
E. San Diego Civil 08/21/1996
702172 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ESPINOSA, DANIEL E
San Diego Civil 07/23/1996
696396 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT FLORES, BERTHA
San Diego Civil 01/17/1996
694206 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ESPINOSA, DANIEL E
San Diego Civil 11/06/1995
673066-1 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT CITY OF SAN
DIEGO San Diego Civil 01/25/1994
673065-1 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT CITY OF SAN
DIEGO San Diego Civil 01/25/1994
672652-1 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT CITY OF SAN
DIEGO San Diego Civil 01/12/1994
669567 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT MATARAZZO,
LUCINDA San Diego Civil 10/07/1993
656689 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT GARCIA, LUIS V. San
Diego Civil 09/25/1992
643083 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT CHAVEZ, MARIO San
Diego Civil 09/26/1991
619047 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT USHER, JAMES San
Diego Civil 12/08/1989
616920 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT VREELAND, DANNY
W. San Diego Civil 10/05/1989
GIC852677 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT CEJA, EFREN
San Diego Civil 08/19/2005
GIC846629 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ARMAS JR, BERNARD
N San Diego Civil 04/29/2005
GIC837339 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT ARMAS JR, BERNARD
N San Diego Civil 10/19/2004
673066 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT CITY OF SAN DIEGO
San Diego Civil 01/25/1994
673065 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT CITY OF SAN DIEGO
San Diego Civil 01/25/1994
37-2014-00006777-CU-OE-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
PAREDES, FRANCISCO A San Diego Civil 03/13/2014
37-2013-00069261-CU-OE-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
ULLOA, CARLOS San Diego Civil 10/01/2013
37-2013-00068976-CU-PT-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
ULLOA, CARLOS San Diego Civil 09/27/2013
37-2012-00095758-CU-BC-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL
DISTRICT ECOBUSINESS ALLIANCE LLC San
Diego Civil 04/05/2012
37-2012-00075315-CU-WM-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
RUIZ, CYNTHIA San Diego Civil 02/27/2012
37-2011-00097687-CU-PO-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
GUTIERREZ, UBALDO San Diego Civil 09/09/2011
37-2011-00079046-CU-WM-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
HAMADA, STEVE San Diego Civil 09/30/2011
37-2010-00104942-CU-PO-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
GOMEZ, MARTHA San Diego Civil 11/29/2010
37-2009-00100437-CL-PO-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT V,
GEORGE San Diego Civil 10/15/2009
37-2007-00084350-CU-MC-CTL SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT
STAMPER, SANDRA San Diego Civil 12/21/2007
702996 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT GOVERNING BOARD
ESPINOSA, DANIEL E. San Diego Civil 08/21/1996
694206 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT GOVERNING BOARD
ESPINOSA, DANIEL E San Diego Civil 11/06/1995
638623 SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT, BOARD OF TRUSTEES
RAUCH, JERRY San Diego Civil 06/07/1991
San Ysidro School District collects $1.8
million from Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz
to settle district's malpractice lawsuit
against its former lawyers
School Lawyers Under Increasing Scrutiny
By Eduardo Rueda, Investigative Reporter
December 11, 2015
...Earlier this year, the firm was sued for malpractice by the San
Ysidro School District for allegedly failing to inform that school
board of potential settlement offers during a case and for breach
of its fiduciary duty to the district.
The law firm settled the case for $2 million at the first mediation
between the parties, before any depositions were taken or
binding arbitration sessions started.
The District received a net payout of over $1.8 million after
paying outside legal fees. The District also filed a State Bar
complaint against the firm.
“This law firm charged our district more than $1.3 million in legal
fees in a case that resulted in a huge judgment against us,” said
Marcos Diaz, President of the San Ysidro School District Board.
“The law firm settled with us for their entire malpractice insurance
limit before we were able to hold a single deposition of the
partners,” Mr. Diaz added.
[William Trejo represented the district in the case.]
The Stutz Artiano law firm has also faced criticism in San Ysidro
for its handling of a payout to Superintendent Manual Paul. Mr.
Paul was indicted in January 2013 in a wide-ranging corruption
scandal that included San Ysidro School Board Member Yolanda
Hernandez and 11 others connected with Sweetwater Union High
School District. The San Ysidro district suspended Mr. Paul and
later voted to buy out his contract.
Daniel Shinoff, the senior partner of the Stutz law firm, handled
the buyout negotiations which netted Mr. Paul over $220,000.
Earlier this year, the District filed a lawsuit against Mr. Paul to
recover the payout claiming it was negotiated in bad faith and
was an illegal use of public funds...
[Here are the case numbers for the two lawsuits discussed above:
SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT v. STUTZ ARTIANO
SHINOFF & HOLTZ
San Diego Civil 03/17/2015
SAN YSIDRO SCHOOL DISTRICT v. PAUL, MANUEL
San Diego Civil 02/03/2015]
Trial set in case against former
San Ysidro School District seeks return of severance pay
By Christine Huard
The San Diego Union-Tribune
A trial date has been set in the case the San Ysidro School District
brought against its former superintendent to recover more than
$200,000 in severance paid out to him when he stepped down in
2013 amid allegations of corruption.
San Ysidro sued Manuel Paul a year ago accusing the former
schools boss of violating the public trust, breaching his fiduciary
duty, fraud and government waste related to the separation
agreement he negotiated with the district when they parted ways.
State law requires the reimbursement of any severance money
paid out by the district to an employee who is convicted of a crime
involving an abuse of office.
When Paul left San Ysidro, he had been indicted on a
misdemeanor charge related to the “pay-to-play” scandal that
swept through three South Bay school districts two years ago. He
later became the target of a federal investigation that ultimately
charged him with deprivation of benefit for political contribution.
The former superintendent ended up pleading guilty to the
state and federal charges, and was sentenced to two
months in prison, a $5,000 fine and a year of probation in
the federal case.
Paul admitted to taking $2,500 from a contractor who wanted a
shot at the district’s lucrative construction work. Paul framed the
bribe as a campaign donation for a board member. He later said it
was for three board members whose seats were up for election in
2010, and who two years later amended their campaign filings to
show the money paid for campaign signs.
The lawsuit against Paul also alleges the district’s lawyer at the
time, Daniel Shinoff, was present while the deal was being worked
out between the schools chief and board members Jean Romero,
Yolanda Hernandez, and Jason Wells.
The lawsuit cites laws that address abuse of office, cap the
“golden parachute” paid out to public officials when a contract is
terminated, and require severance payments to be returned “upon
conviction of a crime involving office or position.”
San Ysidro is seeking the return of the $211,347.42 paid out in
Paul’s separation agreement, salary he was paid while he was on
administrative leave for six months, and other damages, as well as
attorney’s fees... See more here
Grand Jury Report Eviscerates San Ysidro School Bond
By Ashly McGlone
Voice of San Diego
May 24, 2016
The San Ysidro School District’s dark days were even darker than previously
known and compromised the school bond program, according to a new
County Grand Jury report.
Former district officials misspent school bond funds, double paid vendors,
spent $45 million on an ill-advised land purchase and fulfilled few promises
made to voters who approved a $250 million bond measure in 1997,
according to the report released Tuesday. About $376,900 removed from the
bond fund may still be unaccounted for.
“Prior SYSD boards did not perform due diligence and disregarded their
fiduciary duty, approving expenditures from bond proceeds for purposes
other than those listed in the ballot measure,” the Grand Jury wrote. “The
district has amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term debt with little
to show for it.”
San Ysidro’s superintendent Manuel Paul and board member Yolanda
Hernandez were among 18 people convicted in a wide-reaching corruption
probe by the San Diego County district attorney that concluded in 2014.
Hernandez was one of five public officials forced from office in the South Bay,
and Paul spent time in prison for a separate federal corruption charge.
While the criminal charges focused on gifts from contractors, the Grand Jury
report highlights lapses in San Ysidro’s bond spending and record-keeping...
“There was poor fiscal management by former district leadership,” San Ysidro
School District Superintendent Julio Fonseca said in a statement...
Fonseca said the employees who wrongfully destroyed records are
no longer employed by the district.
The Grand Jury’s findings – made with the help of county auditors – take aim
at former administrators, like longtime business chief Dena
Whittington, saying she approved contract amendments and change
orders without board approval. Whittington, who resigned in August
2015, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In addition to San Ysidro officials, the Grand Jury lobbed criticism at
County Office of Education staff brought in to oversee the
beleaguered border district after it earned a negative budget
rating in 2012. The jury concluded officials – like fiscal adviser
Lora Duzyk – “did not take an aggressive enough role in correcting
problems” while fending off a state takeover. Duzyk declined to comment...
Grand jury finds much to criticize at San Ysidro
by Leo Castaneda
May 27, 2016
Down the street from the San Ysidro School District offices sits
empty land that was once home to Beyer Elementary. The school
was torn down to make room for brand new facilities, and almost
four years later, the land is still vacant.
A scathing but flawed report adds credence to long-standing
complaints of financial mismanagement at the San Ysidro School
That’s only one criticism in a scathing new report from the San
Diego County Grand Jury that hammers San Ysidro for
mismanagement. It cites missteps that include buying unusable
land, scheduling “questionable” bond payments and burning
documents. All that occurred, the report said, as the district
“amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in long-term debt with
little to show for it.”
The report was also critical of the San Diego County Office of
Education, which had financial oversight of the district during some
of its most trying financial times. The county agency didn’t provide
“adequate guidance and oversight” to the district, the report said.
However, the report seems to make errors about the chronology of
some financial decisions. It holds the county responsible for school
district actions more than a year before Office of Education
advisers had direct oversight.
Failure to plan
San Ysidro, according to the report, “has no strategic plan for
While Beyer waits to be rebuilt, the district did open the $23.7
million Vista Del Mar Elementary in 2012.
The school in the Ocean View Hills neighborhood was paid for, at
least in part, with one of the most expensive capital appreciation
bonds in California. Most of that bond has since been refinanced,
except for one particularly painful payment. In 2041, the district
faces a $14.2 million bill to pay back $581,000 in principal. That
comes out to $24 for every $1 borrowed.
An inewsource analysis shows the district still has more than $430
million in bond debt.
To make matters worse, the report said part of the 20 acres
purchased for Vista Del Mar are “environmentally protected and
unusable,” a fact the district didn’t know until after the purchase.
San Ysidro is also not sure where all of its bond money is. The
report states the district didn’t pay back about $6.1 million in bond
money it had borrowed. It also found “inadequate record keeping”
for about $367,900 in bond money moved around with wire
In other districts, these bond questions might have been flagged
early on by a bond oversight committee. San Ysidro is not legally
required to have such a committee thanks to a decades old bond
authorization, but in 1998 the district PTA asked the district to form
one. To date, no such oversight exists.
Forming an oversight committee is one of the Grand Jury’s
recommendations to San Ysidro. It also suggested strengthening
internal financial controls and training, and making the district’s
long-term debt more transparent. The grand jury also
recommended conducting an independent, forensic audit of the
Too much oversight, or too little?
According to the report, the San Diego County Office of Education
had placed a “financial officer to monitor” San Ysidro in 2012,
following concerns about its solvency. That same year, the district
used an opaque financing tool — called certificates of participation
— that allowed it to circumvent voter approval and debt limits.
With the district in this dire financial situation, the report said, it’s
unclear why the county “did not strongly advise against (San
Ysidro) incurring additional debt.” The report argued the county
had “special fiscal oversight powers” over the district.
In an online statement, County Office of Education spokeswoman
Music Watson said the “Grand Jury misunderstood the laws
governing the role of county offices in providing financial oversight
to school districts.”
“We strongly disagree with the characterization of our fiscal
oversight as anything other than rigorous and active,” Watson said
in the statement.
That friction over whether the county had the power to stop the
district from taking on new debt appears to be based on conflicting
The report says the financial overseer came to the district in 2012.
However, a letter from the County Superintendent of Schools
Randolph Ward placing a fiscal adviser with the district is dated
March 20, 2013.
Official documents for the debt in question were published on Jan.
25, 2012, a full 15 months before there was a fiscal adviser. The
certificates of participation were also not the only new debt the
district took on in 2012. In May of that year, it issued a $29 million
bond that was supposed to pay, at least in part, for the
modernization of Beyer Elementary.
Office of Education spokeswoman Watson said in an email the
county can only comment on nonvoter approved debt — such as
the certificates of participation. It did that in late 2011.
Questions about the Office of Education’s oversight of San Ysidro
are not new. In interviews with inewsource last year, two trustees
criticized the budgeting at the district, which they said the county
should have been watching closely.
As far as whether the County Office of Education could stop the
district from issuing additional debt as the grand jury report
seemed to imply, it did so in February 2015.
Lora Duzyk, the country adviser, said in a letter hand delivered to
the district’s interim superintendent that she intended to “stay and
rescind any action related to indebtedness” of the district until her
office reviewed any plans and found them “consistent with the
district’s fiscal recovery.”
The bond decisions must also be made clearly “contingent on
receiving the approval” of the county, the letter said.
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The bond in question, eventually issued in May, was $45.6 million
intended to refinance some of the district’s most expensive capital
appreciation bonds. The grand jury described two of the bond’s
payments as “questionable.”
In a 2015 interview, Duzyk said the county’s job was to provide
guidance, not direct orders.
“We can’t tell them what to do, that’s not our role and we don’t
have the ability to make them do anything,” Duzyk said then. “What
we can prevent them from doing things that are not in their best
To do that, the district appointed Duzyk and Brent Watson, the
executive director of the Office of Education’s district financial
services office. It also appointed an outside consultant, G. Wayne
Oetken, whose fees were paid 75 percent by the district and 25
percent by the county.
Oetken was a former interim chief financial officer at San Diego
Unified. His company, G. Wayne Oetken and Associates, has also
contracted with Bonsall Unified and districts in Contra Costa
The office of education billed San Ysidro for a “financial advisor”
for a total of $56,925 between in July 2013 and August 2014.
Oetken’s job was to keep an eye on the ongoing negotiations
between the district and its union, Duzyk said last year.
“He would sit in on negotiations, not to be part of the negotiating
team but to observe. And see what they were doing,” she said.
When there were specific proposals for deals, the county would
review them to make sure they meshed with the district’s finances.
In early October 2014 negotiations broke down and the union went
on a three-day strike that ended with a deal giving teachers 1
percent raises and one-time 1 percent bonuses.
Emails between the interim superintendent at the time, George
Cameron, and Duzyk reviewed by inewsource discussing ongoing
negotiations with the union do not mention or include Oetken.
The Office of Education said in an email Oetken was still working
with and monitoring contract negotiations, in the months leading up
to the teacher strike.
An audit referenced in the grand jury report found district staff
signed contracts and change orders without board approval. It also
found staff improperly used bond money, double paid vendors and
received services that didn’t match purchase orders. It’s unclear if
any of the issues listed happened during the two years the district
had a county financial adviser.
Help from the county extended beyond financial oversight. In an
email dated May 21, 2013, the interim San Ysidro superintendent
at the time, Gloria Madera, emailed the County Office of Education
spokeswoman Watson about a bond downgrade notice that had to
go out to board members.
“I urgently need some talking points for this item,” she wrote.
Watson provided the talking points, which Duzyk then reviewed.
The next day she emailed an OK.
“We’re good to go with this,” Duzyk wrote. “We’ll incorporate in the
larger district PR strategy.”
Watson confirmed in an email she provided San Ysidro with talking
points in 2013 around the bond downgrade and negative
certification. She said the Office of Education “regularly helps
districts communicate with parents and the community, particularly
those districts that don’t have communications staff.”
San Ysidro School District Superintendent Julio Fonseca sits with
his head in his hands during a district board meeting in this
undated photo. Megan Wood, inewsource
San Ysidro School District Superintendent Julio Fonseca sits with
his head in his hands during a district board meeting in this
undated photo. Megan Wood, inewsource
The San Ysidro School District serves about 5,000 students in a
stretch of San Diego hugging the Mexico border.
The district is no stranger to scandals. Since 2013 separate
corruption investigations brought down a superintendent and a
trustee. Public pressure forced out two more more trustees last
The current superintendent, Julio Fonseca, is the first permanent
hire for the job after about two years and three interims.
In a statement, Fonseca said the district agreed with the grand
jury, which he said matched findings from internal reviews.
Fonseca attributed many of the issues, including the destroyed
documents and lack of due diligence in land purchases, to
previous boards and administrative staff members.
The new board and administration are “wholeheartedly committed
to not only correcting the errors of the past, but building a strong
financial infrastructure for the future.”
To that point, he said the district is “considering” a bond oversight
committee. It was also praised by the grand jury itself for hiring
consultants to build a system to track how bond and state grant
money has been used.
About Leo Castaneda:
Leonardo Castaneda is a reporter and economic analyst for
inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections,
please email leocastaneda [at] inewsource [dot] org.
Another mess for San Ysidro School District
Hush money or severance payment?
By Dorian Hargrove
San Diego Reader
July 19, 2017
...As to why the distict kept the decision quiet until February 2017,
Sanchez-Macias says the agreement was confidential until it was
leaked to the press.
And, regarding the fact that an employee who had only worked for
two months was paid a year’s salary, Sanchez-Macias says, “This
was not the administration’s decision to do this. The decision was
made by the board. And, as I stated, the board has the authority to
enter into any settlement agreement it wishes.”
In March 2017, government watchdog group San Diegans for Open
Government sued Fonseca for misusing public funds to silence a
whistleblower. Attorney Cory Briggs, who represents the group, says,
“It is looking more and more like the superintendent, the current
board president, and Mr. Sanchez-Macias are [trying] to cover up the
superintendent’s undisclosed conflict of interest when he hired the
woman he was [dating]. ...
Superintendent Julio Fonseca resigns from San Ysidro
School District amid sexual harrassment and retaliation
by Maura Larkins
Sept. 8, 2017
The Julio Fonseca case is the tip of an iceberg. Unlike most scandals in
schools, you're allowed to read about this one in the newspaper. The
truly important stories are kept out of the newspaper.
Voters are usually allowed to find out something that is going on in a
school district only when a single individual has a problem, such as John
Collins in Poway.
But sometimes you don't even find out much even when it appears that a
single individual had a problem. For example, when Superintendent
Dennis Doyle suddenly cleared out of his office in National School
District, the reason was never revealed. The board claimed that it didn't
even know that he had emptied his office and disappeared! I'm guessing
there were more people than just Mr. Doyle who were compromised by
unknown events at that time.
News outlets are very protective of the system of secrecy and silence
that veils deeper problems in schools, or rather, that veils the actions of
powerful people at higher levels of the education establishment. Voters
are left ignorant of how school districts really work.
The Julio Fonseca case got full coverage because it only involves one
But bigger guys than Julio are still comfortably ensconced in bigger
offices, such as San Diego County Office of Education, causing much
Why is La Prensa telling this story when it keeps other education stories
under wraps? La Prensa seems to have a very personal connection to
this story. The employee fired by Julio has become COO of La Prensa.
San Ysidro Schools Superintendent Resigns Amid Harrassment Claim
September 2, 2017
By Eduardo Rueda – Investigative Reporter
San Ysidro School District Superintendent Julio Fonseca resigned abruptly on
Friday night after a four-hour closed-door Board meeting...
“The Board, by a vote of five to zero, accepted the resignation of the
Superintendent effective immediately, in exchange for 18 months of compensation
and release of all claims,” reported Board President Rosaleah Pallasigue. “Dr.
Fonseca’s departure is based on a personal situation,” Pallasigue added...
Fonseca is currently facing a civil lawsuit filed against him by San Diegans for
Open Government alleging he unlawfully approved a $114,000 settlement payout
in May 2016 to a former employee that had raised concerns about Fonseca’s
relationship with a female district employee.
The terminated employee, Jose Enrique Gonzalez, claimed Fonseca confided
in him in December 2015 that he was about to hire a woman he was dating. The
following week, the District hired Alexis Rodriguez to be the director of the District’
s before- and after-school programs.
Days later, Gonzalez raised the issue of the relationship with other District
staff, and within weeks, he was terminated from his position at the District.
Although Gonzalez never filed a tort claim or a lawsuit against the District, the
Board quickly approved a settlement agreement with him on April 15, 2016,
granting him one year’s salary plus benefits.
After his termination, Gonzalez became the COO of La Prensa San Diego...
This story notwithstanding, voters don't really know what goes on behind
closed doors at school districts.
The most important thing to districts is to present a calm, happy face to
the world. They have a strict code of silence. The thing they hate most is
publicity. Employees are ordered not to talk to the media. It's not unlike
Rick Werlin, Asst. Supt. of Chula Vists ESD refused to investigate what
happened at Castle Park Elementary in 2001 because it would have
revealed criminal behavior by himself and others. He demanded that I be
silent. He said I "needed to forget the past." He then demanded that I
come back to work. I refused because I feared more harassment and
intimidation since guilty parties were desperate to cover up wrongdoing.
About year later I filed suit and the board fired me at the next board
meeting for refusing to come to work. Why didn't they fire me during the
previous year when I wasn't coming to work? Obviously, they preferred
not to fire me. But someone apparently advised them that it was the best
response to my lawsuit.
Firing me was obviously illegal retaliation for filing suit.
The Union-Tribune and Voice of San Diego and La Prensa knew all about
this case but they kept quiet. That's how much power school districts
News outlets prefer stories about teachers or administrators who are
newsworthy but whose stories won't rock the system. When the
wrongdoing goes higher, they usually keep quiet.
I believe Emily Alpert was fired from VOSD because she was
investigating SDCOE. VOSD claimed that it let reporters write about
whatever they wanted, but that ceased to be true at some point--and the
change was not revealed to readers.
The UT and La Prensa fell all over themselves to report about the five
teachers who were transferred out of Castle Park Elementary in 2004.
The teachers at the school had gone completely rogue, in large part
thanks to the administration and school board that spent large amounts
of tax dollars covering up illegal actions by teachers and administrators.
Naturally, the rogue teachers believed themselves to be in complete
control of the school.
But the UT and La Prensa, even though they knew about the problems
caused by these teachers, pretended that the Castle Park Five were
innocent victims of administrators. In fact, the administrators were dupes
and dopes who were led by the nose by power-hungry teachers. The
instinct to cover up problems led the district to commit and cover up
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by Maura Larkins