Bullying, Threats, & Intimidation: Administrative Thuggery or Schoolyard Bad Behavior?

15

letters to the editor

By: Brooks Hamby

e3 stands for three simple principles: community engagement, enhancing the quality and focus of education, and the empowerment of students, parents, and teachers in the providing of a strong  education.

These values are about encouraging the democratization, greater inclusion and access, and the free sharing of ideas for educational improvement in Brawley schools. Finding new and creative ways of thinking and doing, to maximize the benefit of an education and resources for some of California’s most underserved children.

While e3’s goals seek to foster inclusion, creativity, interest, volunteerism, and the freedom to promote of new and innovative ideas, the current administrative rule at Brawley Elementary School District seems counter to these goals for simple enhancement  and engagement.

The catalyst for e3 entering into the BESD election was the personal letter sent from BESD Superintendent Ronald Garcia addressed to Board Candidate Kathy Prior, and cc’d to BESD Board Members and Candidate Ramon Castro.  In the  letter, the appointed superintendent demanded Prior, “You will not  disrespect me…” and stating “…I will not let you and other candidates threaten my position…” It should go without saying that Garcia overstepped his bounds and acted in away utterly inappropriate for a school superintendent. However, the letter begged questions about the situation at BESD that revealed certain unsettling truths and allegations far worse than the letter itself.

In a discussion with a group of teachers, they shared a number of alarming facts about what is occurring in their schools and classrooms. For the record, none of these elementary teachers allowed themselves to be named for the purpose of this piece, to be explained a little later in the article.

In one teacher’s 4th grade class, only 8/33 students are able to read at a 4th grade level, meaning 75% of the class is beneath reading proficiency upon entry into the next grade.

In a 3rd grade teacher’s class, she explained that 5/28 students are reading at a 3rd grade level. The class includes 9 advanced GATE   students.

Another teacher stated that a child in her 4th grade class does not have the ability to speak English. To alleviate this, the district has saw fit to place the child in front of a language software computer program. Meaning, for about 5 hours daily the child had no ability to comprehend his class conducted in English, and was provided an impersonal 1 hour computer program at the end of the day.

Simply put, these stories are  appalling.

This is especially baffling when compared to the district resources allocated to other programs.

To many of the teachers, there is a general sense of confusion about the rapidly growing number of high level district administrators during Garcia’s tenure,  with one teacher mentioning, “We still don’t know what they do…” This stands in stark contrast to what many feel is an alarming disregard for the proper education of illiterate students, despite a mandated LCAP provision for an english as a second language type teaching position which has continually remained unfilled.

Teachers sense that there is a greater interest in growing highly paid district level administration positions and remodeling administrative offices, rather than a sense of  urgency in serving kids who are unable to read properly, if at all.

It would seem reasonable that no student be able to advance a grade, or even  pass first grade without the ability to read. Not to do so would frankly be immoral and is tantamount to child abuse.

Additionally, there seems to be a deeply worrying lack of dialogue between the teachers, administration, and the board largely viewed as resulting from fear of retaliation. Garcia has also inserted himself as a filter between the Board and the public by insisting that the Board may not respond to the public’s comments in questions in meeting, instead that all responses must flow through the Superintendent at a later time. This is wrong, and also begs the question on why a Board would place themselves under the self appointed power of an employee.

Instead, there is an apparent culture of fear of retaliation manifest in Brawley’s elementary schools stemming from Superintendent Ronald A. Garcia. Best summarizing the current situation, one teacher stated, “I have had to keep my mouth shut in order to protect my position” in regard to asking questions or engaging with Garcia. Teachers have noted that there is a severe lack of humility   in taking questions or criticism, leading many not to engage in fear of retaliation from “sticking their neck out”. This includes the Superintendent’s alleged monitoring of social media for posts and online content critical of his actions or behavior. Unfortunately, what seems to be occurring is the instilling of a culture of fear, intimidation, and conformity to the increasingly brazen demands by the superintendent.

These traits of an aggressive and belligerent Superintendent are corroborated when looking into Garcia’s previous employment and termination as Superintendent of Delano School District in Kern County. Culminating his “tumultuous relationship with the board”, Garcia instigated a near physical fight with a board member in closed session according to police and court documents. This was apparently due to Garcia repeatedly making decisions without board approval stating he was not a “rubber stamp”. This near brawl lead to his teacher and board supported firing.

These statements and claims against Garcia are even more troubling when taking into account the financial issues raised since his appointment as Superintendent. In 2012, Garcia collected a total $172,026.77 in total pay and benefits. In just two years, his total pay and benefits skyrocketed to $223,797.34. In just two years, Garcia received a $51,770.57 raise.

Garcia also rakes in the largest sum of benefits, valued at $35,446. In comparison, the next highest district employee takes in $18,867, and the average benefits for a teacher is $12,206.

For further reference, the average base pay for teachers in the district is  $67,200, $84,412 including total pay and benefits. Imperial County as the most impoverished county in the state with a per capita income at $16,593 annually.

While many in our community struggle with providing enough food for their families, Superintendent Garcia certainly seems not to face that problem. In addition to the $220,000 + package, the district has engaged in repeatedly reimbursing his morning coffees at Starbucks, Togo’s sandwiches, clothing, even down to a sharpie pen for signing  diplomas.

What becomes clear in this situation is a bloated bureaucracy has taken shape that absorbs funds and resources that hardly manage to trickle down to the largely underprivileged students they were meant to  serve.

e3 is all about improvement. Schools are about kids, and should not be focused on administration. Solutions to these problems are not difficult, they just take engagement and determination to creatively correct these problems. By engaging in these issues and taking an active role in seeking to enhance the use of funds   and improvement of current education based on resources available or those that may be freed up, parents, teachers, candidates, and the community have a golden opportunity at empowering students as the next generations of   citizens.

Here are some ways get involved:

Engage:

 Educate yourself on the current situations in our schools. Talk to teachers.

Learn about the candidates.

Share your feelings and thoughts in public and on social media. Vote.

Get your friends and family to vote. Volunteer to help e3.

BESD Candidate Survey Statements (These 12 statements were sent to all 7 candidates for the Brawley Elementary School District Board election, asking them to indicate if they strongly disagreed, disagreed, had no opinion, agreed, or strongly agreed with each statement. Sent to Candidates on the afternoon of Sunday, October 18th)

 1.  I believe that 21st century skills including computer coding should be welcomed and available at BESD, and are accessible for students as courses for free or low cost via internet classes.

  1. I believe that early access to and immersion in bilingual language education provides a competitive advantage and valuable skills for students in the future.
  2. I believe that a great board member actively strives for input, discussion, and guidance primarily with students, parents, and teachers. The administration and superintendent also have a role.
  3. I believe that the highest priority for BESD is to ensure that all students are literate, and should should spare no expense in ensuring that students are able to read.
  4. I believe that as a school district, BESD has a responsibility to ensure that all students are able to read at grade level.
  5. I believe that I as a candidate possess the ability to say “No.” to proposals that would deprive students of opportunity or be wasteful of school funds.
  6. I support the practice of prioritized budgeting where non-essential items to the direct education of a student are second to tangible academic opportunites.
  7. I believe a school culture of apathy and low expectations is harmful to students.
  8. I believe a superintendent should solicit and encourage the sharing of all points of view, ideas, and creative solutions.
  9. I believe that transparency is not just a buzzword, it should be the way our schools conduct themselves. No student, parent, or teacher should be denied or have access delayed to public information. Providing the public public information without revision or delay is the responsibility of the school.
  10. I believe that the superintendent serves the Board, not the other way around.
  11. As a socioeconomically disadvantaged area, BUHS has a moral obligation to provide education and opportunities that are not currently offered.

15 COMMENTS

  1. People that are in the know are speaking up……finally! Now let’s get rid of these 2 Carpetbaggers and their protector’s.

  2. The damage is done at BWJH! While Panduro was principal at Barbara Worth, the lies, intimidation, and threats were out of control! Panduro’s administrative method was to divide and conqueror. He would use data without merit to try and brainwash the staff to support his devious plans. If someone whether it be Certificated or Classified member would question his ideas or plans for BW, members were labeled as negative, not team players and signaled out. It is time that BESD is managed by educated community members that can understand the needs of our Brawley community. Our schools are not administrative “learning grounds” where an administrator learns how to maneuver the job as Mr. Panduro once stated about Barbara Worth, that it was his “learning” ground! Both Garcia and Panduro need to be questioned extensively, their pompous attitude, lack of regard towards staff, and pretentious behavior speaks loudly of their character!

  3. The damage is done at BWJH- Panduro’s favorite method to use at BWJH was by dividing and conquering! The distrust among colleagues is still apparent and disloyalty obvious at the scool sites- The lies, threats, and intimidation tactics used by Panduro have affected both Certificated and Classified staff aND many retired staff, juse ask anone of the retired BWJH teachers – let’s please take these two men and their devious behavior seriously! Lets stop these devils-Garcia & Panduro allowed to go about their “business” spending BESD money without being questioned- It’s time Garcia and Panduro are accountable for their actions! We need locals to take command of our School District, people that care about our Brawley Community.

  4. I have looked straight in Garcia’s and Panduro’s eyes while they spat out lie after lie. They have bullied so much young worker’s. Panduro came in as Jehovah Witness and turned out be the devil. Money, Women and attention is all these clowns care about. Seems like Garcia is related to half of Brawley, and he employs and good number of them. You a couple of Rubio’s who practically get a free check at BWJH. Look into that.

  5. It’s funny how when a superintendent defends himself againt a teacher or board member it’s called bullying.
    When a parent goes and complains a teacher belittles students it just doesn’t matter or they look the other way. Yes i agree we should look at how funds are spent but i as a parent would like board members that are looking out for the best intrest of our students not the teachers. So if the union is backing these board members guess where their best intrest will be ask yourself with your student or the teacher.

    • its funny the teachers union backed the new ones 4 years ago.. its just that the shoe is on the other foot.. they are backing the new ones this time.i think they call it KARMA!!!

  6. Garcia & Panduro need to go & so does any board member supporting them. They’re scavangers after the wounded BESD & are picking BESD dry. Low morals is in their agenda. Take, take,take.

  7. Hey John,

    The BUHS Board had no need to spend a dime on any speech. A meeting that would have cost $0 and an honest assurance that no student would be prevented from speaking their heart, no matter their belief, in the future was all that was asked for, yet unfortunately denied on both counts.

    Also, I would not contend that First Amendment protections are “rubbish”.

    The problems that occur in Brawley’s education stem from Boards with unfocused priorities. A lack of connection with both the widely held and diverse viewpoints of the public, and the usurpation of power by unchecked administrators. This is a problem taking place in the current situations in BESD and BUHS, as well as other past events.

    I am thankful for your interest and attention in the improvement of education for the students of Brawley.

    Brooks

    • Mr. Hamby,

      The USSC has ruled that prayer at school sponsored events violate the establishment clause of the first amendment, hence my use of the term “rubbish.”

      Although I can see your perspective, I respectfully disagree. I believe that it was you attempting to bully the BUHS district with the threat of litigation. What would the district do? If the BUHS administration conceded to your demands they would open themselves up to litigation for violating the establishment clause.

      I am willing to conceded that their is a difference in your case and Garcia’s financial compensation. Religion has been an instrumental tool in your life and celebrating your achievement by sharing it. However, if we are focusing on fiscal responsibility for the community tax payers, their is no substantial difference. It appears you have doubled down and defended this waste of taxpayer money. This is the only area where I disagree with you. I would like to reiterate that it is refreshing to see you utilize your talents by writing this article.

      Respectfully,

      John

      “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” – Thomas Jefferson

  8. It’s nice to see this bright young man put his talents to focus on a real issue, not some rubbish about his first amendment rights being violated and the faux war on Christianity.

    It is a little ironic for Mr. Hamby to focus on the misallocation tax payer dollars when he forced BUHS to acquire attorneys to face the conservative Liberty Institute and piss district funds away.

  9. The BESD Board employed the Superintendent. He works for them not them for him. I’m amazed at how what was once a good school district has fallen into such a sad state of affairs. It’s like the Board is afraid of him.

    • Not sure how this joker got the job. This was a well devised coup. Garcia and Panduro need to go. I believe Panduro is more dangerous than Garcia. They do not care about the community. We need locals running the show.

      • Agreed. If there’s any success dealing with Garcia, do not let Panduro pick up where he left off. There’s a reason this year he added to his title ‘assistant superintendent’. Any more obvious, and they would have had a passing of the torch party at stockmen’s!

      • of course you know how. they got rid of the old board that had fired him and the new board brought him back with a very large bonus!!!! how can anyone forget that…

Comments are closed.