HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD SCANDAL | A Hayward school board member alleged to be having an affair with another member admitted in a deposition last May that she does not read agenda materials given to her before each board meeting and relies upon a colleague to for advice.
The May 18 deposition obtained by The Citizen is one of the most damning piece yet showing a consistent rubber stamping of the school board staff’s agenda was indeed occurring in the past. Critics have long claimed the board’s past inattention to detail has greatly contributed to the overspending and mismanagement that has placed the moribund school district in the lowest tiers of education in the state. It also bolsters suspicions that the secret love affair between school board members Jesus Armas and Maribel Heredia may have spilled into discussions of board-related items.
In the deposition taken in Hayward pertaining to the Heredia’s custody fight with her ex-fiance, she seemingly offers the evidence of her inaction as a board member to the attorney without pause. The context of the questioning involved the attorney asking Heredia about an income and expenses declaration she had previously filled out. When she could not recall specifics about a particular entry, she told the attorney she could not concentrate and suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. “I get overwhelmed with reading a lot of material.”
Attorney: Do you read a lot of materials as a School Board member?
Heredia: I have to.
Attorney: Does it overwhelm you?
Heredia: I don’t do it.
Attorney: You don’t do the reading?
Heredia: Not everything that is—comes to me, no. It’s overwhelming.
When further pressed on the issue, Heredia says she relies on another unnamed board member for advice and discloses she relies upon school board staff to read and direct her votes.
Attorney: Does somebody read it to you?
Heredia: I call another board member to talk about some of the issues that are coming up. And the packets we get are very large. And sometimes a lot of stuff is a formality that we need to approve. We don’t need to read.
But there are some issues that I care about. That those are the things I look into. And then there is other stuff that I will conference with another board member. For instance, business stuff. I’m not very familiar with that. So I’ll just conference with a board member who has more expertise on that to let me know what the document…
Attorney: What kind of things are you interested in so you do read all the documents?
Heredia: I really don’t need to read all the documents because we have staff that does it. And if I have questions—for instance, it will have a cover page saying something like “Approve after-school programs.”
Heredia: And I will—they are usually bold, the different companies, like Sylvan or Tutor Works.
Attorney: These are vendors to the District?
Heredia: Yes. And if I had a question, I would call staff and ask them.
The breathtaking exchange of a sitting school board member admitting dereliction of her duties then ended abruptly. A copy of deposition shows a discussion was held of record. Once they returned on the record and the clock was nearing 3 p.m., Heredia claimed her time was up. She then rescheduled for another day, and left.
The revelation comes a day after news of an affair between Armas, one of Hayward’s most powerful political figures and Heredia, a first-term school member up for re-election this fall. During a school board meeting Wednesday night, neither specifically denied the charges. “If you have school-related questions, I would be happy to answer them,” Armas said at the conclusion of the meeting.
School board member William McGee said he had heard rumors here and there about an affair between Armas and Heredia and reacted badly to the news Wednesday afternoon. “It put me in a bad mood. I was pretty sad at the news,” he said. McGee, who nearly felt compelled to comment on the affair during Wednesday’s meeting, said afterwards, the potential for collusion among other board members was forcing him rethink the outcomes of some of the board’s previous votes. “I’m starting to understand why some votes were going the same ways,” McGee said. “Now it’s got me wondering.”
Luis Reynoso, one of the school board’s most ardent opponents of Armas, repeatedly referred to the article published in The Citizen during the four hour meeting and continued the lambasting afterwards. Within earshot of Armas, he said, “I’m deeply embarrassed. He didn’t even apologize. I can’t believe this. I would just apologize and move on.” Armas smiled, picked up his things and walked away.