Lewis Griswold

Griswold: Stone Corral school board faces recall effort

Two Stone Corral Elementary School District board members in Tulare County are facing a recall election April 9.

Rebecca Quintana, 56, a 10-year board member, and Reynold Esquivel, 41, who has served on and off for about six years, are the targets.

Stone Corral is a rural, one-school, K-8 district northeast of Visalia that has about 130 students. The board has three members; the district, which includes tiny Seville, has 190 voters.

An angry parent launched the recall campaign after the board agreed to install a water-vending machine in front of the school to supply less-expensive drinking water for the school and for local residents to buy clean water, a project still in the works.

"We need more staff. We need sports," said parent Lisa Barraza Soto. "Don't use the school to build the community. I want the kids to be put first."

Soto can't vote in the recall, however, because her home is outside the district.

The ballot being mailed Monday contain two questions -- should the two trustees be recalled, and if so, who should be elected to replace them -- and includes a "statement of grounds" for the recall election.

It alleges that Quintana and Esquivel don't live in the district, aren't working on behalf of the people or children, won't answer questions about firing employees, make false statements damaging employees' reputations, get personally embroiled with community members, ignore parents who aren't registered voters, usurp the role of the superintendent and won't allow him to make decisions, are not evaluating employees and ignore the superintendent's recommendations.

Quintana, a school bus driver for students with disabilities, said she was born and raised in Seville and lives in the district.

She said her activism for a new water system for Seville, where the water tests high for nitrates, angered her enemies, so they're trying to push her out.

"It's retaliation," she said.

Last year, someone pulled a gun on her husband and said she "better watch out," she said. They reported it to authorities.

School board members can't talk publicly about personnel issues, the board sets policy and the superintendent, who also serves as the principal and a teacher, runs the school, she said.

Esquivel, a weatherization installation instructor for a nonprofit group, said his mobile home was removed from the property, so people think he doesn't live there anymore, but he lives in another dwelling on the property.

He said he's being targeted because he usually votes with Quintana.

"You can't make everybody happy," Esquivel said.

The latest rumor is that school money is being misspent, he said. But Tulare County Schools Superintendent Jim Vidak said last week an audit found no problems.

Seeking to replace Esquivel is Erik Gonzalez, 31, an energy savings specialist, and Tom Redemer, 44, a graphics designer.

Gonzalez served on the school board from 2007 until 2011 but lost his bid for re-election.

He said he lost because people complained that his children don't attend Stone Corral. His wife works for Woodlake schools, so they go there, he said.

Current trustees "need to focus on the education," Gonzalez said, noting that he convinced Woodlake to donate textbooks during his tenure. "Do they have textbooks? Do they have material?"

Redemer, who grew up in the area, said school board meetings have become "uncivilized" as a result of bickering. He said he's on the ballot because "I wanted the people to have an option."

If Quintana is recalled, Deborah Roberts, 52, a bilingual educator, will automatically be elected because she's the only person on the ballot for that seat.

"The board's real job is to serve the children," Roberts said. "It's not about fighting and arguing."