Hayward School Board Member Claims Colleagues ‘Attacked’ Principal Over Budget

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso railed against fellow board members during last week’s meeting over what he said was an “attack” against the principal of the Hayward Adult School and for Board President William McGee holding the principal accountable for not making cuts soon enough to stave off deficit spending. School board member Annette Walker followed suit with McGee last meeting to cut expenditures to the adult program to help rein in deficit spending that she noted was of incredible importance.

Last Wednesday’s board meeting had a follow up presentation by Ryan Whetstone, the adult school’s principal over the state of the program and what he was doing to help maintain its sustainability. At the Mar. 13 board meeting a $375,000 expenditure that was allocated in the budget to help maintain fiscal solvency for the adult program until the end of the school year was cut out by McGee to help bring down overall deficit spending. McGee held the principal accountable for the budget of the adult program and said staff did not need to take the blame for the program’s inability to sustain itself after draining its reserves over the past three years. Walker said at the time she was inclined to follow McGee’s recommendation and the rest of the council passed the second interim budget without the expenditure allocated to the adult program.

At that time Reynoso left before the vote after he stirred up an argument over a previous board item and then stormed out of the board meeting. Reynoso came back this week to heavily criticize fellow board members over the tough questioning of the principal concerning the deficit. “I apologize for not being here the first time, I think it would have been done differently,” said Reynoso. “We have had people suffer for services because the district screwed up, the majority of the board screwed up, despite those problems we did nothing on that budget so for us to concentrate on one individual staff member, it’s very disrespectful.”

Reynoso later said board members were attacking and “lambasting” the principal over a deficit issue that he said the entirety of staff should be held accountable for. “We are nearly deficit spending $7 million,” said Reynoso speaking about the entirety of this year’s deficit in addition to the adult program’s $375,000 deficit that Whetstone said is more realistically at $600,000.

Walker and McGee responded to Reynoso’s harsh criticism by claiming that no attacks were ever made towards the principal. “I want to be sensitive to you as a first year principal and be sensitive to the students in the program, I support it and no doubt the board supports it,” said Walker to Whetstone, “But we are not talking about you, this isn’t about you, it’s about the students…You are not in court here, we are not here to attack you.”

McGee chimed in later with harsh rhetoric to Reynoso’s accusation that he was attacking the principal, “I guess you are fortunate that Reynoso is here to support you because I am not sure where he is getting that we are attacking folk. I’m not sure where he is going with this because his whole stance before was to shut the adult program down.” Reynoso continued to claim that they were lambasting the principal but did not refute McGee’s claim that he supported shutting adult education down before.

Board member John Taylor said he like to see the “theatrics” set aside and iterated that disability assistance in the adult program is of great importance and thus keeping the program solvent would serve a communal good. Brunner noted the importance of the program as well but also made sure to mention tackling the deficit issue. Whetstone did not have a specific plan for tackling the deficit this meeting but said he is continuing to work on a plan to do so.

Whetstone, who recently became principal, responded to a question from the board about a yearly action plan to help adult education administrators follow specific guidelines dealing with multiple variables, including finances. That he said “fell to the wayside,” by the time he joined and “was not working.”

The principal assured the board of his tough stance on deficit spending. “I am more concerned to responding to the immediate deficit and eliminating deficit spending for the future. As far as how we got here I’m not sure how but I’m here to solve it, I want to solve it. You will see information on this forthcoming,” said Whetstone.

But aside from the deficit talk, Reynoso’s clash with McGee marks a turning point in their relationship compared to when they were united against former board president, Jesus Armas who they claimed “rubber stamped,” spending and was engaged in an affair with a fellow board member. Reynoso sought the presidency shortly after winning election but when the nomination process began he did not nominate himself for either president, vice president or even clerk, his former position. McGee even nominated Reynoso for vice president but Reynoso rescinded the nomination. Now Reynoso has become critical of McGee and the new board.

After the meeting was over board members started talking about the quarrels during the board meeting. McGee said to Reynoso that he use to point out individual staff members and the amount of money they made annually and its impact on district finances. He used this as an example about Reynoso’s claim about “attacking individual personalities,” as evidence of hypocrisy. Reynoso told The Citizen later that although he supports cuts in adult education he also supports cuts in many areas in the district to help rein in deficit spending and hold staff, as a whole, accountable. He said he believes that although new leadership is on the board he thinks for the most part “nothings changed.”

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.