Madera Unified fired Superintendent Edward González Wednesday night, offering no reason to residents who showed up to the meeting.
The school district’s board of trustees voted in closed session before announcing the unanimous 7-0 vote. “During closed session, the governing board took action to terminate the superintendent without cause,” announced board President Al Gálvez.
Before the meeting began, more than 100 people packed the small meeting room to capacity with more spilling into the adjoining hallway, and the majority were supporters of González. They wore pieces of paper pinned to their shirts that read “Support Super Ed!”
When the vote was announced, one supporter of González yelled “recount” while several others began exiting the room, visibly upset.
The termination had been anticipated. González last week told The Bee that Gálvez and trustee Ricardo Arredondo had met with him and told him the “board had decided to go in another direction.”
González took over as superintendent in 2013 and had a contract running through June 2018.
In a February 2015 meeting of the board, González was the subject of an investigative report by an outside law firm that recommended he and associate superintendent Victor Villar participate in anti-harassment and anti-bullying training. The board took no action then.
But Wednesday night’s decision to fire Gonzalez came as a shock to Eileen Gutknecht, 36, who was an eighth-grade student of González’s when she attended Dixieland Elementary School. Gutknecht said the decision by the board was unfair and emotional.
“It’s something you can’t believe that this could happen to somebody who’s done so much for students,” Gutknecht said. She added that when she read the newspaper report about González’s situation, she had little hope he would stay.
“Honestly, what I was reading, you could tell (the board) had their minds made up,” Gutknecht said.
González walked around inside the meeting room as board members met in the closed session but exited the building before the vote was announced. Around 7:15 p.m., just as the vote was told, Erica Perez, 32, said she saw González and his wife walk to their vehicle outside the district headquarters.
A screen had been set up outside the meeting room with chairs for the overflow crowd who wanted to hear the vote. The chairs were removed once the vote was reported and people decided to leave.
Perez, who lives in Fresno but grew up in Madera, said she only met González once but does not understand why the board fired him. She arrived late to hear the board’s decision, and said she had hoped the vote would go in his favor.
“I just hope that whatever information led them to this decision, that it supports it fully,” Perez said. “It’s unsettling because not one person let him finish out his contract.”
Junia Painter, 50, was also shocked when she heard the unanimous vote, saying she actually expected the vote to go something like 4-3. She wore a piece of paper pinned on her shirt in support of González. Painter, who has a son at Madera High School, said the board owes the community an explanation.
“We would like to know what happened, and they kept this all under the hood and they came out and fired him,” Painter said. “The community is just stunned.”
Painter walked two blocks to get to the meeting since the available parking spaces were filled. She said she attended the meeting because she heard from friends and family that the board was considering removing González. She added that during González’s tenure, she had only seen the district improve in positive ways.
“If the board members would be clear … the community would support them, but right now we are angry,” Painter said.