HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD
| Consultant contracts have been controversial for Hayward school board with board member Luis Reynoso often criticizing staff and board approval of expensive contracts. He’s often pressured staff to take on the extra load to cut down on district expenses but found his voice to be the marginalized opinion on the board.
But with new board member Annette Walker, it looks like Reynoso has a new ally in his fight for fiscal responsibility.
The state has made various trigger cuts in the past year cutting millions from school district offices thus limiting program opportunities, technology upgrades and prompted potential deficit spending at the district level.
Hayward school district faces no different of a challenge and Reynoso has been leading the fight to cut down on spending through the district office by slashing away at consultant contracts for audits. For Reynoso, the use of them could be severely limited to staff. “I can help you, I can show you how to do an audit,” Reynoso has often told staff.
Reynoso chimes in from a familiar fiscally conservative perspective whose voice only was accompanied at times by the more calm and diplomatic William McGee, who took Armas’s position over as president when he decided not to run for re-election after The Citizen exposed his affair with other former board member Maribel Heredia.
But that alliance was an isolated voice on a board whose majority slate was Lisa Brunner, Armas and Heredia. Furthermore, Armas’s animosity towards Reynoso stunted Reynoso’s objectives concerning fiscal responsibility and stricter regulations regarding board trustee behavior.
Since Armas was appointed president Reynoso sought to have him removed or defeated in election by some means. The Citizen ended up being the hammer that nailed the coffin shut by exposing Armas’s affair but Reynoso at almost every board meeting since the article ran reminded Armas and Heredia of their potential sunshine law violation. McGee was critical as well but without the firebrand attitude that Reynoso commonly espoused.
However, a new board with a different perspective is taking shape. Enter Walker: a passionate voice with political swagger. During the new board’s first meeting she joined with Reynoso in extra harsh criticisms of staff’s recommendation for more consultant contracts. It was surprising given former tension between Reynoso and herself.
She clashed with Reynoso during the campaign once during a candidate forum when Reynoso said that he only saw new board member, candidate at the time, John Taylor and former candidate, Heather Reyes, were attending board meetings. Walker was furious; she stormed to the front of the audience after Reynoso’s insult. It was obvious; she wanted to give him piece of her mind, “There is something called a T.V. We can watch it from home!” Afterwards Walker said she was greatly insulted by Reynoso and even then, both Reynoso and Taylor believed that she was not familiar enough with the education code.
But after January, 16 meeting Reynoso couldn’t have been happier with Walker who showed a fervor to crack down on expensive consultant contracts.
But Taylor, whose been critical about Reynoso during the election season for his abrasive attitude, but also supportive of his crusade against Armas and Heredia, was far less enthusiastic in making the “staff dance,” as Reynoso called it, on consultant contracts.
The SI&A contract was up for a vote to conduct an audit on special education with the district to help implement methods to save the district funds. SI&A said the district spends $400,000 a year on non-public agencies and that it could help the district cut down on those costs. Staff claimed that with SI&A they could later conduct the audit themselves. However, Reynoso said “that it just didn’t make any sense.” Walker later added that “It frustrates me to hear that it takes another consultant to tell us what a consultant has already told us and when it comes time for us to take that responsibility we end up outsourcing again.” Reynoso called Walker’s comment a “fresh voice,” to hear on contracts. “She sees the light!” exclaimed Reynoso after the meeting.
Taylor wasn’t convinced in the slightest. “We have to stop this bickering over consultant contracts, its about the kids and these are kids with special needs!” said Taylor. “We need to be professionals and need to be able to help them on every level and we need to provide staff with the right resources. I’m not moved with saving money here and saving money here, we need to save money in the right areas but for special ed we need the resources so I support you.”
But on another financial matter, Taylor supported rescinding a previous vote made by the old board concerning Measure I funds. The rescinding vote was put on the agenda by Reynoso who sought for more oversight. Taylor, who had trouble figuring out how to vote, voted no by accident. “I didn’t mean to do that,” admitted Taylor later. After the meeting Taylor said to Reynoso, “you wanted accountability, so you got it!” Brunner, formerly of the old majority, was the lone, true vote against rescinding the measure. But her questions over the rescinding vote displayed a lack of understanding on why Reynoso sought to rescind.
Taylor may be a swing vote for future financial matters but Walker, McGee and Reynoso look to be the new driving force on the board.
Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.