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Ventura County

Parents Launch Recall Bid Against 2 Trustees

Rio school board meeting turns raucous as about 50 protesters assail the suspension of Supt. Yolanda Benitez and other moves.

March 25, 2003|Steve Chawkins | Times Staff Writer

Angry parents in the Rio School District kicked off a campaign to oust two board members Monday by presenting them with notices of intent to recall them.

Ron Mosqueda and Henrietta Macias were given the documents at a special meeting called to name an interim superintendent for the embattled district outside of Oxnard.

A third member of the five-person board, Ernest J. Almanza, also has been targeted, but his term ends next year, and a spokesman for the parents said they will simply fight any reelection attempt. Macias was elected and Mosqueda reelected to four-year terms in November.

The three trustees triggered intense community opposition when they voted earlier this month to suspend Yolanda Benitez, who served the district as superintendent for eight years.

Board members also announced the possibility of demoting or firing seven principals and laying off as many as 30 teachers.

On Monday, about 50 people showed up at the district's headquarters to protest those actions. Some chanted "Re-call! Re-call!" outside the board members' meeting room as they toted picket signs with slogans like, "We Want Our Superintendent Benitez Back!"

Some signs blasted Ventura County Supervisor John Flynn, whom Benitez blamed for orchestrating her suspension. The two have been political rivals, although Flynn has denied any part in the board's action against Benitez.

Speakers at the meeting outlined a number of grievances, including an alleged lack of responsiveness to residents of the mostly Latino district. The board deliberately sets meetings at times inconvenient for most working people, and some members do not return phone calls, they contended.

"At least make some eye contact," George Perez told the board members, who appeared distracted as he opened his remarks. "That tells me you don't want to hear what the public has to say."

Martin Salinas, a leader of the group, handed Mosqueda and Macias legal documents disclosing the recall effort, telling them in both Spanish and English: "We feel you have not listened."

The group must gather signatures of 20% of the more than 10,000 residents in the district to hold a recall election.

Before the meeting, Mosqueda took a philosophical view of the recall signs that confronted him as he made his way into the building.

"It's all part of what you have to go through when you're transitioning from the old board to a new board," he said. "It's all part of the territory."

After a closed-door session, the board announced that it had selected Patrick Faverty as interim superintendent. Faverty is an interim administrative dean at the district's Rio del Valle middle school and has served as superintendent of the tiny Cold Spring School District in Montecito.

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