SocraticGadfly: The Richard Gonzales story and Lancaster ISD hiring practices

January 02, 2007

The Richard Gonzales story and Lancaster ISD hiring practices

Or, why is a person with all teaching and management certifications revoked for improper disciplining of children running the district’s special and bilingual education programs?

I can't run the whole newspaper story here, as that would go beyond proper fair use, and for whatever reason, it did not get posted to the Today website. But, as at least one person has asked what I wrote, I'll provide snips with some blogging.

Here’s the key parts, from the center of the story and taken from the open records report from the Colorado State Board of Education:
Gonzales had his Colorado state certification revoked due to multiple instances of improperly disciplining children on two different occasions while an elementary school principal in Denver Public Schools, that city’s school district.

Colorado officials acted not only on the basis of those two incidents, but on allegations of previous improper discipline while in the Austin School District, where Lancaster Superintendent Larry Lewis was an area superintendent.

In Denver, in the spring of 2003, Gonzales was found to have improperly disciplined a student at Knapp Elementary, by making him kneel on the floor, place his hands behind his back and his face on the floor. Gonzales reportedly then pulled the student’s arms behind his back hard enough to make him feel pain and to cry. In another incident with another student, he similarly pulled that student’s arms behind his back.
Nine months later, the first student complained to a school nurse. The district put Gonzales on administrative leave while investigating.

Investigator Bob Mickelson contacted the Austin School District, where Gonzales had been principal of Galindo Elementary in 2000-01. He found that Gonzales had punished students there by having them kneel and place their foreheads on the floor and stretching their arms in front of them; several students said he had also twisted their arms.

I e-mailed Austin ISD through its ridiculous webmail system to check if Galindo was one of the schools under Lewis’ purview. (Under Austin’s system at that time, it had five area superintendents. Each oversaw a couple of high schools, a few middle schools and a number of elementaries.) AISD didn’t respond before last week’s press deadline.

After the previous week’s five-minute shouting match on the phone with Lewis, I wasn’t even going to ask him. I should have asked Teri Wilson, but didn’t think about it at the time.

Anyway, I think Galindo was under his oversight, but since I wasn’t sure, couldn’t write that up. But, even the size of AISD, word of Gonzales would have traveled.

In the story, I went on to say that “the story” is bigger than Richard Gonzales, and ultimately has two other aspects.

One is how many other administrators have histories that would possibly contraindicate them holding their positions, to use a medical term? And how many were knowlingly hired?

Two, where’s the Lancaster School Board in all of this? Isn’t this just another blank check for board members to not be taking more seriously their state-mandated oversight over hiring issues?

I noted in the story that I mailed a copy of the Colorado SBOE findings I obtained to every school board member, and I also sent a cover letter. That cover letter included some rhetorical questions, such as”

What if Lewis hired Gonzales in full knowledge of his background?

Even more, what if he did so knowing that other people at Lancaster ISD administration know about Gonzales’ background and let him know?

No comments: