San Jose

Rally Supports San Jose's Alum Rock Schools Chief Ahead of Board Review

Parents, students, advocates, educators and local elected officials gathered Tuesday in front of the Alum Rock Unified School District offices in San Jose to support the superintendent whose job status was to be reviewed at a school board meeting Tuesday evening.

According to the school board's closed session agenda, an item is listed to consider the possible dismissal of Superintendent Hilaria Bauer.

The agenda item was submitted by school board trustee Khanh Tran, publicly called by City Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco one of the "corrupt three" among the board's five members.

The Community for Better Alum Rock Schools coalition alleges that the board majority will not "be held responsible" and named board trustees Tran, Esau Herrera and Dolores Marquez as those who have tried to "dismiss Dr. Bauer as a smoke-screen to the Del Terra controversy."

Del Terra Real Estate was the Southern California-based real estate company selected to be in charge of program and construction management for bond measures through the school district in 2013, according to the Community for Better Alum Rock Schools coalition.

An initial audit done by the Santa Clara County Office of Education showed evidence of fraud and misappropriation of funds, and the alleged "legally questionable" management of the district bond program is back in the limelight after Assemblymember Ash Kalra and state Sen. Jim Beall requested another audit of the district's funds.

The county's November 2016 audit was conducted after an anonymous tip that the district may have been fraudulently billed for construction and program management services.

The County Superintendent of Schools at the time, Jon Gundry, submitted a summary of the audit, which found that no citizens' oversight committee was overseeing the projects or expenditures because no reporting of them was done and that board members were personally involved with the bidding and contract management.

"The report is very clear that the responsibility for the lack of accountability for Del Terra lies with the governing board," Gundry said.

Leaders like Mayor Sam Liccardo feel that Bauer has served as a voice of leadership who sought to distance the school district from the contracts. Liccardo called Del Terra Real Estate a parasite on the school district.

Carrasco said community members and leaders will continue to show up to demand accountability and transparency from board trustees so that focus can be brought back to bettering schools.

"When we are facing one of the most vicious agendas of the national administration, when we are seeing some of the worst crimes ever perpetrated on our communities, when our families are in fear of being separated ... we are being distracted by these three [board trustees] and talking about whether we will again gather to save the job of Dr. Hilaria Bauer," Carrasco said.

The coalition brought a criminal complaint to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office and the Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento the same day Kalra and Beall announced their audit request, they said in their statement.

They allege that numerous violations by the board, Del Terra Real Estate and a former Del Terra employee outline clear conflicts of interest in the contracts.

The board has a chance to eliminate the contracts for good in the open session of the meeting due to the request of member Andres Quintero.

Herrera was present at the news conference Tuesday and would not comment on his thoughts about Bauer's review. He did state that this is not the first time the item has been on a board agenda and it has failed in the past.

"This board member has requested this item time and time again and has not succeeded," Herrera said. "I doubt he will succeed tonight."

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