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How well did SAISD board vet superintendent finalist?




Yesterday, SAISD Board Chairman Ed Garza told local media that Manuel Isquierdo, the district's new finalist for superintendent, was a strong, exciting candidate. Sure, due diligence turned up some flaws, like that Isquierdo, current superintendent of a Tucson-area school district, owes the IRS over $150,000 in unpaid taxes. Apparently, due diligence didn't include Googling the guy. This morning, the E-N's John Tedesco wrote how an Arizona grand jury investigated Isquierdo and subpoenaed records related to a laptop-for-students program he helped pioneer in his district – there's no record Isquierdo faced any charges from the investigation. And how did Tedesco find this nugget that Garza, and presumably the rest of the SAISD board, knew nothing about? (Garza asked Tedesco, “Were there any findings or did it go any further?”) It was "discovered in a Google search." The controversy stems from a program Isquierdo helped market and sell called “Project Graduation,” which offers free laptops to students with good attendance and good grades. A private investigator hired by the Coachella Valley school district in Thermal, Calif., discovered the grand jury inquiry during a 2011 investigation that led to the firing of Coachella's then-superintendent Ricardo Medina. After a drawn out open-records battle, the Desert Sun newspaper got a copy of the investigation report last year, and wrote about the findings. Had SAISD officials dug, they likely would have found the article and accompanying documents online, just as Tedesco did. The investigation report showed Isquierdo sold Project Graduation to the Coachella district as a consultant for the Tuscon-based firm REA Communications, which marketed the laptop program to Isquierdo's own district and others. While the program would cost Coachella $170,000, paid in monthly installments, Isquierdo told district officials he'd help raise some $100,000 in donations to offset the cost, according to the investigation. Those donations never came, and a Coachella school district employee stopped approving payments for the program, saying the cash-strapped district couldn't afford it. According to the report, Medina (the now-fired superintendent) began signing those invoices himself to pay for the program. The report notes that Isquierdo and REA got the Coachella contract just around the time the IRS filed its first lien against him for unpaid taxes (about $107,000). Over the weekend, the Arizona Daily Star ran a story saying Isquierdo had accepted a new job in San Antonio. One comment posted below seems particularly relevant today: "Bigger news is that San Antonio apparently hasn't heard of Google yet, or used it."


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