Rio school chief suspends 2 top
Two others resign in shakeup
The Ventura County Star, July 2, 2003
By Marjorie Hernandez,
firstname.lastname@example.org and Kathleen Wilson,
Two top Rio School District administrators were suspended with pay Monday while
two others resigned, leaving the elementary district with four key management
The move comes two weeks after a divided school board fired Yolanda Benitez as
David Lopez, assistant superintendent for educational services, and Frances
Contreras, director of special projects, were both placed on administrative
leave with pay by Superintendent Patrick Faverty.
Faverty, who was appointed to the job last week, declined to comment, saying it
was a personnel matter.
Both Lopez and Contreras declined to comment as well but said they have hired
Also, the district's personnel chief, Dorothy Penney, notified the district on
Monday that she is retiring, board member Simon Ayala said. Facilities director
John Sinutko resigned a week ago to take another job.
The shakeup leaves only one longtime administrator, finance chief Mary Anne
McCabe. She has been a strong supporter of Benitez along with the others.
Two principals, Cassandra Bautista and Rosario Villapando, were reassigned to
classroom teaching. A third, Carol Flores-Beck, accepted a position as a
principal in the Oxnard School District. The contracts of the remaining four
principals have been renewed.
County Superintendent of Schools Charles Weis said he had never seen management
changes as radical as these, but fe has no authority to investigate whether
they were warranted.
"It's rather a radical approach to trying to move the district in a different
direction," he said. "I think it's the board's desire to change the direction,
and they want new staff to do it."
The fast-growing district of 3,900 students serving El Rio and part of Oxnard
has undergone an almost complete turnover in top management since a new board
majority was elected in November.
Lopez has worked in the district for 18 years, first serving as principal and
special projects director before becoming the assistant superintendent of
educational services in 1997.
Contreras was hired as the director of special projects two years ago. Her
duties included overseeing programs for limited-English students and making
sure the district meets the requirements of President Bush's "No Child Left
Ayala said that Faverty was unhappy with Lopez's performance in improving
instruction and handling a grant program that went over budget. He said
Contreras was criticized for her management of the bilingual education program
in light of the Grand Jury's finding that students were placed in bilingual
Under administrative leave, an employee is removed with pay pending the results
of an investigation into allegations against the individual.
Faverty cast the move as necessary for a fresh start.
"What we are doing right now is reviewing the problems that we've had in the
district," Faverty said.
"We are looking at what we are doing wrong and how to make it better. The real
issue here is we need to make certain that we are not making mistakes anymore."
Board President Ron Mosqueda said Faverty will more than likely bring the issue
to the board during closed session at its next regular meeting July 16. At that
time, the board can overturn the decision with a majority vote, Mosqueda said.
Trustees Anthony Ramos and Simon Ayala, who are both supporters of Benitez,
have been on the losing end of the five-member board's decisions since the new
majority was elected in November. Mosqueda and Trustees Henrietta Macias and
Ernest Almanza have controlled many of the board's votes.
"The superintendent has already stated that all he needs to do is count to
three ... and I assume he knows which three he needs to count on," Ramos said.
The board placed Benitez on paid leave March 5 and fired her a little more than
three months later on June 13.