A controversial school board meeting Tuesday night put Madera Unified School District Superintendent Edward González in the hot seat over allegations of poor management and bullying of some district employees — and board president Maria Garcia.
After nearly 21/2 hours of closed-session discussion, Madera Unified’s board announced it “is not taking action tonight.”
An investigation report — conducted by an outside law firm and presented to Madera Unified’s board during Tuesday’s public hearing — recommended that González and associate superintendent Victor Villar participate in anti-harassment and anti-bullying training in the next three months.
Trustee Ed McIntyre called the allegations a case of “he-said, she-said.”
McIntyre said the report did not investigate the “full scope of what we asked for” and should have been presented to the board before the hearing.
“I apologize to two of our employees for putting you through this,” he said.
His comments were met with booming applause from more than 100 people who attended the overflow meeting, with dozens left to watch the live meeting on a projector screen.
González told the crowd he was informed he was under investigation on Jan. 7 but was not told why.
“I would need to know what the allegations are so that I can defend myself against that,” González told the crowd before the investigation report was read during public session, with his permission. “If I’ve done something wrong, tell me and I will fix it.”
González said associate superintendent Villar was not even told he was under investigation.
This month, school boards in Selma and Golden Valley — each with its own set of newly elected members — fired their superintendents. Madera Unified’s board also was reshuffled in 2014, with three new trustees joining the seven-member board.
Before going into closed session Tuesday night, Madera Unified Trustee Brent Fernandes said, “I do not want a Golden Valley situation; I do not want a Selma situation — that would be political suicide for every person on this board.”
“Yep!” called out many in the heated crowd.
During the public comment period, much of the criticism was against board members. About a dozen people spoke in González’s defense, including Joe Vived, retired principal of Thomas Jefferson Middle School who worked for Madera Unified for 37 years.
“There’s been plenty of focus on Ed tonight, but I’m worried about you as a school board,” Vived said. “We don’t need to have the kind of conflict that has been created over so many ridiculous things. You know, if anyone needs some training, it’s you guys.”
Added Vived, “And I feel very guilty; I had three of you in civics” — a comment met with roaring laughter.
Carles Beckett, retired principal of Lincoln and Dixieland elementary schools who worked for Madera Unified for 48 years, said González “touches lives,” holds high expectations, connects with people and facilitates a positive atmosphere.
The investigation report presented Tuesday painted another picture.
“The perception of the board president, as well as many longtime employees of MUSD, is that the superintendent and his new regime have no respect for those who have been with the district for many years,” read the report written by S. Brett Sutton with Sutton Hague Law Corporation. “This appears to result from a history of serious challenges and problems in MUSD and apparently the superintendent’s feeling that these long-term employees are at fault.”
The report states that nine witnesses were interviewed, including Garcia, González and associate superintendent Villar.
On Tuesday night, the board did not specify when — or what — action may be taken against González or Villar.