Parlier school recall rebuffed

Notices given to school board are invalid, county says.

March 10, 2011 

A move to recall four Parlier Unified School District board members must go "back to square one" because the notices of recall presented to the board this week are invalid, Fresno County Clerk Victor Salazar said Thursday.

The notice of recall request filed by a group of Parlier residents was rejected because the document did not state that those being recalled have the right to file an answer with the clerk's office within seven days, Salazar said.

The recall is aimed at trustees David Torrez, Melissa Cano and Mary Helen Villanueva, who were elected in November, and board president Rick Maldonado.

Three school board members who were ousted in November, Benjamin Tamez, Trinidad Pimentel and Sam Rodriguez, say they and others in the community are angered by decisions the board made since the new trustees took office in early December. The three former board members are apparently not part of the group that filed the recall papers.

The recall group is especially incensed over the board's vote Tuesday to place Parlier Unified School District superintendent Rick Rodriguez on paid administrative leave.

Because the recall notices were given out before the board went into closed session to discuss the superintendent, Tamez said, Rick Rodriguez's leave was not the basis of the recall. But it has been added to the list of issues, he said. Rick Rodriguez declined to comment on his job suspension.

Tamez credited Rick Rodriguez's leadership with improving the district's Academic Performance Index -- a state measure of student achievement based on standardized testing.

"He turned our district around," Tamez said. Parlier Unified, located in a predominantly farmworker community, climbed 50 points on the API in 2010, one of the biggest increases in the Valley, according to state figures.

"What the members of the board are doing is disastrous to the Parlier district," Tamez said.

Another recall issue is the board's hiring of deputy superintendent Juan Lopez, "when we already got the best superintendent around," Pimentel said.

Recall organizers are also upset that the board approved layoff notices for 29 teachers and 11 other employees and hired a part-time financial consultant when the district already has a business officer.

Maldonado, who has served on the board for seven years, said the trustees' controversial decisions will help the district. "Change is good," he said.

"Our community has been hit with recalls before," Maldonado said. "... I'm not worried about it."

Fresno County Superintendent of School Larry Powell hopes cooler heads will prevail soon and wants the board to "make decisions that will bring the community together rather than foster division. Don't let emotion drive what you do."


Editor's note: The original story incorrectly identified former Parlier school board members Benjamin Tamez, Trinidad Pimentel and Sam Rodriguez as having filed the notice of recall. The recall proponents are 10 Parlier residents who don’t include Tamez, Pimentel and Rodriguez.

Bee staff writer Tracy Correa contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at plloyd@fresnobee.com or at (559) 441-6756.

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