4 Parlier Unified trustees face recall

June 29, 2011 

Four members of the Parlier Unified School District's board will face a recall election in November.

A petition to oust board President Rick Maldonado and board members Melissa Cano, Mary Helen Villanueva and David Torrez was certified this week at the Fresno County Elections Office.

The only board member not served with recall papers – Xavier Betancourt – is part of the recall effort itself.

Supporters gathered 936 signatures for each board member to put the recall up for a vote.

The recall statement alleges the four board members violated the district's bylaws by not holding "the education of students above any partisan principle" and not recognizing that the district administration "performs essential roles and functions in support of student learning."

The effort exposes a longstanding rift within the district between supporters of former Superintendent Rick Rodriguez and the new majority on the district's board.

Rodriguez was terminated earlier this month amid allegations of wrongdoing in his handling of personnel issues.

"I was very upset when Rick was terminated," Betancourt said. "He was good for the district."

Cano, Torrez and Villanueva ran as a slate of candidates with the help of the district's former curriculum director, Juan Sandoval, who is listed in campaign filings as an officer on each of their campaigns.

Since being sworn in, the board has:

  • Fired Rodriguez and replaced him with the district's Deputy Superintendent, Juan Lopez.

  • Brought back Sandoval and former district administrator Ben Benavidez as consultants, plus made several other new hires.

  • Settled a lawsuit with Sandoval, who alleged that the district had underpaid him for his time as curriculum director.

Parlier voters will be asked to weigh in on two decisions when the election is held: Whether each member should be recalled and, if the recall is successful, to choose a replacement.

The nomination period begins July 18 for residents who want to run as replacement candidates. The election will be held Nov. 8.

The reporter can be reached at vgibbons@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6378.

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