San Ysidro superintendent resigns; board member wants DA probe of finances
San Ysidro School District's formerm interim superintendent, Jose Arturo Sanchez-Macias, listens to public comments during an October school board meeting. (Leonardo Castañeda/inewsource)

San Ysidro superintendent resigns; board member wants DA probe of finances

UPDATE at 10:45 a.m. Monday, Nov. 6, 2017: The San Ysidro School District will hold a special board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday to appoint an interim superintendent, following Friday night’s resignation of the district’s top administrator. Candidates will be given 30 minutes to address the board during the open meeting before trustees move to a closed session to choose a top administrator.

San Ysidro School District’s interim superintendent resigned late Friday night, just two months after his predecessor departed with a controversial separation package that made him the highest paid superintendent in the county.

The school board announced the resignation of Jose Arturo Sanchez-Macias after more than five hours in a specially-called closed session, but it offered no details on the terms of his departure.

The action came amid escalating troubles at the small district. A recall effort against two district trustees was launched, and two days ago a trustee accused both Sanchez-Macias and former superintendent Julio Fonseca of financial misdeeds.

The board also announced it had voted to send “information involving allegation of misappropriation of district monies by a former administrator to the appropriate agency.” Again, the announcement contained no details.

Fonseca, who resigned on Sept. 1, received a $376,000 separation package from the district. An inewsource investigation last month found that that payout, plus his salary and other little-known financial benefits meant the district paid Fonseca at least $1 million for the 26 months he worked there. That averaged out to make him the highest paid superintendent in San Diego County and the second highest paid in the state.

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San Ysidro, one of the poorest school districts in the county, serves about 4,800 students in south San Diego. Just a few years ago, the elementary and middle school district narrowly avoided bankruptcy and a state takeover by stabilizing its finances. However, a year after Fonseca was hired, the district had a nearly $1 million budget shortfall and projects a roughly $925,000 shortfall for fiscal 2018.

Trustee Antonio Martinez said in an email evidence of wrongdoing would go to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

“I am also calling on the district attorney to conduct a full and comprehensive investigation into any, and all, people … who may have played a role in the abuses perpetrated by our former superintendents,” he said.

On Nov. 1, board member Rodolfo Linares accused Sanchez-Macias and Fonseca of misleading the school board about payouts they received for deferred term life insurance and of cashing out more vacation days than allowed in their contracts. Sanchez-Macias served as deputy superintendent and oversaw district finances before taking the top job.

Linares wants them to return the money, and called for a forensic audit of the district’s finances.

The district did not announce whether a new interim superintendent had been appointed or the exact terms of Sanchez-Macias’ departure. District spokesman Francisco Mata declined to comment on the board’s actions, saying San Ysidro remains focused on educating its students.

Attempts to reach Sanchez-Macias were unsuccessful.

Martinez called for a nationwide search for a new district superintendent. The district has had five superintendents, four of them interim, since former top administrator Manuel Paul resigned in 2013 during a pay-to-play scandal.

The district’s next regular meeting is scheduled for this Thursday, Nov. 9.

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About Leonardo Castañeda:

Leonardo Castañeda
Leonardo Castañeda is a reporter and economic analyst for inewsource. To contact him with tips, suggestions or corrections, please email leocastaneda [at] inewsource [dot] org.