ESCONDIDO — In an open letter to the Escondido Union School District and parents, Superintendent Luis Rankins-Ibarra disclosed he petitioned the California Superior Court for a restraining order against school board Vice President Jose Fragozo.
The order accuses Fragozo of intimidating, harassing, bullying and making credible threats of violence directed toward district staff.
The order, which was filed on Dec. 2 and granted by the court, is effective through Dec. 18. It protects Rankins-Ibarra, Deputy Superintendent Leila Sackfield and Assisatant Superintendents Kelly Prins and Kevin Rubow from Fragozo, who must stay beyond 100 yards and cannot enter the premises of any district building including the main office at 2310 Aldergrove Ave.
EUSD Board President Paulette Donnellon also released a statement in support of Rankins-Ibarra to “ensure a safe and secure working environment.”
Fragozo, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, denied the accusations. He said administrators are attacking him for pursuing accountability for the elementary schools and students.
Fragozo, a Latino, also said race may be a factor, although Rankins-Ibarra is Latino and Donnellon said “it has nothing to do with discrimination,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
According to the filing, Prins details how Fragozo’s behavior began about five years ago and included aggressive actions toward former Superintendent Jennifer Walters.
In one instance in the 2013-14 school year, Prins describes how Fragozo’s actions were so “hostile” one community member asked Walters for security guards to be present at board meetings.
According to Prins statement, Rankins-Ibarra, who is in his second year as superintendent, said, “things got bad for Dr. Ibarra once he made it clear that he supported the cabinet.”
Rubow, who is in his third year as assistant superintendent of human resources, said Fragozo was so angry he was “one foot away with his finger pointed in my face.” Rubow continued saying it “looked like he wanted to fight.”
Rankins-Ibarra, meanwhile, described a pattern of bad behavior from Fragozo including several incidents with Sackfield. Rankins-Ibarra said the tide turned on Aug. 1, 2014, when he made a hire for the director of curriculum and assessment position, a job he alleges Fragozo was pushing for his own selection.
On Aug. 4, 2014, a tense two-hour meeting was held and months later Fragozo threatened to sue Rankins-Ibarra.
The situation came to a head on Sept. 18, according to the order, when Fragozo demanded a meeting in which Rankins-Ibarra said no. The superintendent called Donnellon and the district attorney for assistance, fearing for his and his staff’s safety. Rankins-Ibarra and Sackfield left the office.
In his statement, Rankins-Ibarra said school district administrators, school board members and staff witnessed the incidents, which have been documented.
In addition, Rankins-Ibarra said Fragozo’s behavior “compromised the safety” of the district and is “clearly inconsistent with the civility policy.
“This policy promotes mutual respect, civility, and orderly conduct among district employees, parents, and the public,” Rankins-Ibarra’s statement reads. “This policy is not intended to deprive any person or his/her right to freedom of expression, but only to maintain, to the extent possible and reasonable, a safe, harassment-free work place for our students and staff. In the interest of presenting district employees as positive role models to the children of this district as well as the community, EUSD encourages positive communication, and discourages volatile, hostile, or aggressive actions.”
He added his responsibility is to provide a safe and positive environment for students to learn and achieve and for teachers to excel.
In a question-and-answer link on the district’s website, it states the matter should not interfere with teachers’ day-to-day job and interaction with students and parents. In addition, the statement calls the issues a “matter for the board and senior management to manage.”