Embattled Tucson School District Boss Cries Racism, Fears Students Will Have To Use Paper, Pencils

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An Arizona school district superintendent who stands accused of falsifying graduation rates broke down at an emergency board meeting on Friday night and dramatically begged board members to buy out the remainder of his lucrative contract.

At a prior board meeting last week, school board member Buck Crouch charged that that Manuel Isquierdo, the beleaguered superintendent of Tucson’s Sunnyside Unified School District, had submitted graduation percentages that don’t corroborate with the rates on the Arizona Department of Education website, reports local CBS affiliate KOLD.

Crouch’s allegations came amid the run-up to a wild school board recall election, set for Tuesday. He also asked for the superintendent’s resignation.

At the Friday meeting, Isquierdo described Crouch’s graduation claims as an attack on him personally and an insult to the district’s students, teachers and parents.

Isquierdo also threatened that his departure would mean that students would have to use traditional writing mechanisms more frequently.

“Let them go back to their pencils and papers,” he said, according to the CBS affiliate. “We have made so many advancements since I have been superintendent.”

The superintendent of Tucson’s second-largest district played the race card at the meeting as well.

“I feel Mr. Crouch was reckless, uninhibited toward his board members who happen to be Latino, he was disrespectful to a Latino superintendent. I have earned the right to be in this chair,” the schools boss said, according to the station.

“I really want you to consider to buy me out,” Isquierdo urged. “I’m done. I’m tired.”

As the Arizona Daily Independent notes, Friday’s emergency meeting appears to have been scheduled for a time when Crouch and another school board member, Daniel Hernandez, could not attend.

Lori Hunnicutt, editor of the Daily Independent, provided some background on the Isquierdo’s odd paper-and-pencil remarks.

“A few years back,” Hunnicutt told The Daily Caller, Isquierdo “started a digital giveaway” involving “cheap laptops” that were provided for kids who maintained good grades.

“Isquierdo made a small fortune” out of the deal, Hunnicutt claims.

Crouch, who was in Nebraska at his grandson’s high school graduation on Friday, told KOLD he was frustrated by the recent turn of events.

“When I heard that the superintendent and his board of three were accusing me of being a racist, I thought it was a joke, that even they could not sink that low. But alas, they have, and are apparently filing a civil rights violation lawsuit against me,” he said. “The majority of people I choose to associate with are of one or more minority groups.  I am prejudiced against bigots and idiots, but not against any racial or ethnic group.”

According to a state education official who was present at Friday’s meeting, the discrepancy between the Sunnyside school district’s numbers and the state’s numbers occurred because the state’s numbers are for students who graduate from high school in four years. The school district tracks students who take longer.

In addition to the problems Isquierdo faces as a result of the school board recall election, he is also facing other troubles.

In December, the Arizona Daily Star reported that the superintendent and his wife owe the federal government nearly $57,000 in back taxes. This amount is apparently on top of $150,000 in other unpaid taxes (and a 2009 California tax of lien of almost $18,000 that has been paid).

At the time of the report, Isquierdo indicated plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

As of the end of 2013, he was renting a $1 million home in the posh Catalina Foothills. The impressive home boasts 3,400 square feet. There’s also a 1,700-square-foot guesthouse.

Isquierdo’s total compensation for 2013 was $237,500.

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