Questions About Lawsuit Arise
By Barbara Zaragoza
Edward Velasquez became San Ysidro’s fourth superintendent in less than two years when the San Ysidro School Board voted 3-2 to hire him on Tuesday, January 27th. The audience cheered after the vote and many people waved posters that said, “SYSD Needs Velasquez.”
Former interim superintendent, Dr. George Cameron, resigned in December. Trustee Jose Barajas explained that he did not want to accept the resignation. “I feel that there was really no need for an interim for an interim at this time, again especially since we are going to get everybody involved in a permanent superintendent and get the best one because this district just needs some stability in a leadership position.”
In an interview after the meeting, Martin Galante, member of the San Ysidro Education Association (SYEA) and a kindergarten teacher at Willow Elementary, disagreed. “Dr. Cameron was responsible for every teacher in this district losing between 1,000 and 1,700 dollars during the strike. He was a crucial part of that strike. He refused to negotiate with us, so every time we see him at the district, we see a man who cost money from our families. He is completely against teachers. He doesn’t have our best interest. We want him gone immediately.”
Galante went on to say that he believed newly elected trustee Rodolfo Linares met Edward Velas-quez at a CSBA Annual Education Conference and Trade Show in San Francisco. The board then brought him to the attention of the San Ysidro teacher’s union.
During the board meeting, however, questions arose regarding Velasquez’s appointment due to a past lawsuit filed with Los Angeles County Superior Court. Velasquez was a superintendent for Montebello Unified School District and then for the Lynwood Unified School District.
But Zenaid Rosario, a dual-language kindergarten teacher at Smythe Elementary, stood before the board and said, “It has come to the attention of many in this community that there is a shadow of concern over the head of the person you want to recommend for employment in this position. And though they may just be allegations or false accusations, we don’t need that kind of attention.”
She was referring to a complaint filed in March 2010 against Velasquez, demanding a jury trial and alleging employment discrimination (hostile work environment and retaliation), sexual battery and wrongful termination. The plaintiff, a male employee of the Montebello Unified School District, worked under several titles and roles, including Special Education Specialist.
The complaint alleges that Velasquez made many unwanted sexual comments to the plaintiff and also asked a female colleague to spread a rumor that the plaintiff and Velasquez were involved in a sexual relationship. At the same time, the complaint maintained that Velasquez was “circumventing established hiring procedures for the purpose of hiring females with whom he is having a sexual relationship…” and additionally alleged he was having an affair with one of the Board of Trustees.
The complaint said that Velasquez’s personal divorce lawyer replaced the plaintiff in his district office position.
Although the complaint is public record, the plaintiff’s deposition under oath is marked confidential with most parts taken out and not available to the public. The complaint itself, however, does acknowledge that the plaintiff had sought out medical treatment for emotional distress.
The case never went to trial. Instead, the plaintiff asked to dismiss in November 2011 with prejudice (meaning, he cannot bring the lawsuit to court again) and the plaintiff recovered zero dollars.
Galante said, “All these comments that you’re hearing, all these rumors are from people who are afraid in this district because this man that is coming in is an investigator and he’s going to find out some wrongdoing that has happened here and if he finds it, they are going to be prosecuted. So I think a lot of people are scared.”
Galante also explained that the teacher’s union had vetted Velasquez thoroughly. “We met with him for two hours at the union offices. We had a great conversation. He explained his entire life, his entire career, he explained the lawsuit. We felt comfortable with him, that we vetted him. We made phone calls. Everything checked out and really we need someone to get us out of negative certification and he’s the only person that can do it. The last district he was in, two months and they were out.”