The Coast News Group

School district, Fragozo face off in court

VISTA — The battle between the Escondido Union School District and trustee Jose Fragozo went before a judge on Dec. 18 at the San Diego County Superior Court.

Fragozo is subject to a temporary restraining order filed by Superintendent Luis Rankins-Ibarra with supplementing statements from three other EUSD administrators on Dec. 2 after the four alleged threatening and harassing behavior from Fragozo.

The district is attempting to make the order permanent.

During last week’s hearing, EUSD Board of Trustee Zesty Harper testified Fragozo’s behavior grew increasingly volatile over the last year.

The hearing lasted several hours and was continued until Dec. 23.

Trustee Zesty Harper testified as a witness for the district and Rankins-Ibarra saying Fragozo’s demeanor behind closed doors increasingly grew more aggressive, intimidating and threatening over the past year.

Harper, who was elected last year, said she saw several incidents of Fragozo violating others’ personal space, pointing a finger in faces and demeaning staff during meetings.

The district’s attorney, Daniel Shinoff, told the court his clients suffered through tirades and threats of physical violence from Fragozo. In addition, Shinoff said Deputy Superintendent Leila Sackfield felt, at one point, she had been falsely imprisoned, while Assisatant Superintendents Kelly Prins and Kevin Rubow were targets of bouts of yelling “as close as possible” with Fragozo pointing his finger in their faces.

Shinoff also cited 158 school shootings since 2013 including three local shootings have given the four added reasons for concern, but Fragozo’s attorney, Laura Farris, blasted Shinoff for attempting to link her client and mass shootings.

During Farris’ opening statement, she said her client has not threatened any district official and his passion for the district stems from wanting the best for its students. She added Rankins-Ibarra is overly sensitive to others in disagreement with how to approach the district’s issues.

In addition, Farris claims the district has prevented Fragozo from performing his duties and “obliterated” his constitutional rights.

“He demanded accountability for test scores,” Farris said. “They are using the shootings to get Mr. Fragozo out of the picture.”

Due to early deadlines for Christmas, coverage of Wednesday’s hearing will appear online and in next week’s The Coast News.