By Mario A. Cortez
Teachers in the San Ysidro School District are calling for the resignation of San Diego County Board of Education (SDCOE) Superintendent Randy Ward and Assistant Superintendent Lora Duzyk, and asking for them to repay teachers’ lost wages.
This Wednesday, a group of San Ysidro teachers gathered at the San Diego County Office of Education to send a message to SDCOE’s board members that Randy Ward and Lora Duzyk have engaged in fraudulent activity at their expense. Teachers held signs demanding money back from the SDCOE.
Grievances from San Ysidro teachers stem from occurrences dating back to 2013, when negotiations for a teacher’s raise were being worked out. At the time, the San Ysidro district was under the fiscal control of the SDCOE, and Ms. Duzyk had complete oversight of their budget.
During those negotiations in 2013, the San Ysidro School District Board at the time alleged the District was near insolvency. The SYSD Board demanded that teachers take an eight percent pay cut. During that time, SYSD’s finances were being supervised directly by the SDCOE. Teachers ended up with a one percent pay increase as a compromise.
“We’ve had this complaint ever since,” said San Ysidro board member Rodolfo Linares. “In the negotiation process, it came to light that the money was being hidden away. A recent Grand Jury report concluded we were right about this. The SDCOE did a poor job in monitoring the District’s finances.”
In March of 2013, the SDCOE assigned Duzyk to oversee San Ysidro’s District budget. Duzyk had the power to rescind any action of the Board that was not fiscally prudent, and she reviewed all financial documents. Under Duzyk’s supervision, the District remained in “negative certification”, the designation given when a district is at risk of running out of funds within the current or next fiscal year.
During that time, however, teachers and community members, including Linares, before he was elected to the Board, argued that the finances were being purposely misstated to drive the District into insolvency.
When Linares and Marcos Diaz were elected to SYSD’s Board in November 2014, George Cameron, the then Interim Superintendent, was asked to step down by the new Board. The Board immediately hired Interim Superintendent Edward Velasquez to help review the finances and put the District on a path to a stable budget.
Two months after Cameron’s dismissal, SYSD’s budget was balanced and the Board found over $6 million dollars stashed away in a books and supplies fund. By the end of last year, the District had negotiated a raise for the teachers and also increased spending on programs and supplies.
“This was deliberately orchestrated,” Linares said about the doctored finances.
Teachers have approached Mike Aguirre, former San Diego City Attorney, to represent them in filing a class action lawsuit demanding reparations for income lost by the teachers in their negotiations. This legal complaint will most likely be filed within weeks.
The San Ysidro teachers are also seeking Superintendent Randy Ward’s and Duzyk’s dismissals.
“We would like Randy Ward and Lora Duzyk to be fired,” demanded Martin Galante, a kindergarten teacher at San Ysidro’s Willow Elementary School. “We feel that they are behind this fraud and they don’t deserve to keep their jobs after they threatened ours,” Galante added.