President put on leave, foundation facing backlash

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When Luis Sanchez, president of Oxnard School, was placed on paid administrative depart earlier this month, the transfer elicited shock and outrage from some staff and alumni. Ventura County Group School District officers, who launched an impartial investigation into complaints of harassment and misconduct towards Sanchez, usually are not discussing the case. However his supporters, who see him as a defender of scholars, had loads to say about it—they usually level to tensions between Sanchez and the Oxnard School Basis, the establishment’s impartial fundraising arm, as the explanation for his being positioned on depart.

District leaders stated in a press release that impartial attorneys are investigating two complaints of “illegal harassment, together with on the premise of intercourse and gender” and allegations that Sanchez “engaged in misconduct pertaining to the Oxnard School Basis.”

“The District is not going to make any determinations pertaining to the allegations till it receives the investigation report,” the assertion stated. “The District will conduct a good, thorough, and neutral investigation. The District is unable to offer additional data presently as a result of confidential nature of the investigation.”

Supporters of Sanchez say his criticisms of the inspiration’s bureaucratic course of for awarding scholarships and its funding priorities ruffled the feathers of some basis leaders and prompted the Board of Trustees to take motion towards him.

Sanchez stated he was stripped of his work e-mail and hasn’t been informed the precise prices towards him. Nevertheless, he stated in an e-mail to former colleagues at Moorpark School, the place he beforehand served as president, that he believes the complaints had been filed by folks affiliated with the inspiration after he repeatedly informed basis leaders that the inspiration was “not fulfilling its goal acceptably” due to its reticence to spend cash and that the faculty would want a brand new fundraising arm if the inspiration “doesn’t change course.”

“To that allegation, I plead responsible as charged,” he stated within the e-mail.

A ‘Cumbersome’ Scholarship Course of

The muse, which has greater than $10 million in property, raised roughly $750,000 in unrestricted funds in 2019 alone by weekend on-campus swap meets, the place contemporary produce, furnishings and different wares are offered, but it surely spent solely a few third of that quantity on scholar scholarships that yr.

Sanchez factors to this as one instance of how the inspiration “board’s method has not been intently tied to the faculty’s wants or priorities, and due to this fact to not our college students’ wants and priorities.”

He additionally stated the scholarship utility and award course of is “very cumbersome” and, consequently, a lot of the funding additionally goes unclaimed. The muse affords scholarships meant to assist cowl prices corresponding to tuition and costs, or to assist college students purchase laptops and different faculty provides. College students are required to fill out an utility, present the names of two references and reply a number of essay questions. As soon as authorized to obtain the funds, college students should buy the gadgets after which request reimbursement and supply receipts.

“For our college students, that’s a hardship,” Sanchez stated. “They simply don’t have $1,000 to plunk down for books.”

Oxnard School is a Hispanic-serving establishment the place Latino college students make up about 70 p.c of the scholar physique. The establishment, positioned in a rural agricultural space, is thought for serving low-income and first-generation college students whose households are immigrant farmworkers.

“College students don’t have the power to entry these funds due to the restrictions put in place,” stated an worker who selected to not be recognized due to issues about job safety.

Daizy Contreras, who was a scholar at Oxnard School from 2019 to 2021, utilized for 2 $500 scholarships throughout her time on the school. She thought the cash could be a “blessing,” as she was a first-generation scholar and a single mom of two youngsters. However “that cash technically wasn’t out there to me once I wanted it probably the most,” she stated.

Contreras needed to borrow cash from a number of folks to pay for her faculty provides earlier than she may very well be reimbursed, which was “embarrassing” and made her really feel like the inspiration didn’t belief her to spend the cash on what she wanted. She informed campus leaders concerning the overcomplicated scholarship course of when she served on scholar authorities.

“We’ve been attempting to place a cease to this,” she stated. “This has been occurring for a lot of, a few years.”

Geoff Inexperienced, president of the Board of Administrators for the Community of California Group School Foundations and CEO of the Santa Barbara Metropolis School Basis, described the reimbursement mannequin as an “antiquated” observe he wouldn’t advocate to different foundations.

“It’s not a greatest observe,” he stated. “I don’t suppose anybody would defend it as such. I’m not blaming anybody there. It’s simply an outdated mannequin that must be upgraded. That’s not a secret.”

Pete Parker, who grew to become government director of the inspiration in December, wrote in an e-mail that the inspiration gave $536,851 in complete assist to Oxnard School, together with $358,694 in scholar scholarships and grants, within the 2020–21 fiscal yr, in line with a routine audit of the inspiration’s monetary statements. The muse supplied $1,013,867 in assist to the faculty in 2019–20.

He declined to focus on Sanchez however stated school members and college students shared their issues and frustrations concerning the scholarship utility course of early on in his time on the school. As a brand new government director, he stated he is “nonetheless studying” and needed to take the time to get a “full image” of the problem.

“I’m working with the board to take , arduous have a look at what’s occurring,” he stated. “It was delivered to my consideration by many, and I requested for endurance that it wouldn’t be capable to change for this scholarship spherical, as a result of it’s too fast they usually’re already in place. However I’m working with the board to establish the entire points and see what sort of change we have to handle. I absolutely perceive each side. Now I’m working with the board to see what modifications have to be made.”

A Tight Maintain on Funds

Sanchez famous that the inspiration has made some important investments within the school, together with funding a brand new science lab, and has made some modifications to enhance its assist for college kids by providing extra up-front grants that don’t require college students to first pay out of pocket like the method for scholarships.

“They’re altering,” he stated.

Sanchez’s issues with the inspiration prolong past scholarships, nonetheless. He stated basis board members employed a marketing consultant to assist devise a strategic plan after he pushed them to develop one in 2020, however no plan materialized.

Parker stated the inspiration was holding off on the plan till it discovered a brand new government director.

“I’m in contact with the marketing consultant, discussing the required steps to maneuver the plan ahead,” he stated.

Sanchez additionally proposed the inspiration fund a place for director of development, however the request was finally denied. Basis board members authorized the request, then informed him two hours later that there had been a “miscount” of the votes approving it. He needed to make use of donated funds that had been restricted for a 20-year interval, which the faculty entrusted to the inspiration till the cash may very well be used. Sanchez stated the inspiration wouldn’t enable the faculty to entry the funds even when the restriction interval had handed. These interactions led him to query whether or not the inspiration ought to proceed to regulate the swap meet and its revenues.

“I made up my mind that if we are able to’t belief the inspiration to return funds that we positioned of their care to us, then we’ve a basic downside within the alignment of our relationship,” he stated. “I used to be very clear about what the stakes had been.”

Inexperienced stated it’s acceptable for group school foundations to have hundreds of thousands of {dollars} saved. Whereas $10 million in financial savings could also be a “important sum” for a group school, it’s a small quantity in comparison with the philanthropic {dollars} pouring into many four-year universities—and sometimes a majority of basis funds are restricted by donors for particular makes use of. (In keeping with Parker, 61.3 p.c of the inspiration’s property had donor restrictions in 2020–21, and the vast majority of funds had been donated with the restriction that they might not be used for a 20-year interval.)

“Group schools are pretty new to philanthropy in comparison with their four-year counterparts,” he stated. And that comes with “rising pains” or “evolutionary challenges.”

He stated disputes between school directors and basis boards—and inside divides inside foundations themselves—are all too frequent, particularly at group schools which can be unused to working with sturdy foundations. Campus and basis leaders typically butt heads over funding priorities and might need totally different concepts concerning the goal of the inspiration.

“That communication and political connection needs to be maintained consciously and constantly, and if it’s not, then one hand doesn’t know what the opposite is doing, and that may be problematic,” he stated. “The muse board would possibly say, ‘That is the place we’re going,’ and the faculty president and elected trustees would possibly say, ‘Effectively, that is the place we’re going,’ and except they’re speaking by that, it may be actually difficult. And possibly nearly each school basis in the neighborhood school world has gone by some model of that.”

Parker stated there’s a variety of opinions on Oxnard’s basis board, and he thinks that’s a constructive factor.

“What’s lovely about this board is it’s numerous in thought, background, passions, talent units, industries,” he stated. “That’s what I like about this board. However with these passions, we want considerate, open discussions.”

Alumni, staff and two basis board members got here to Sanchez’s protection at a district Board of Trustees assembly final Wednesday and referred to as for modifications to basis insurance policies and procedures. Some college students stood with handwritten indicators that learn “OC Basis is disconnected from college students” and “We want our basis to spend money on college students.”

Gabriela Rodriguez, who administers a federal grant program at Oxnard, informed district board members that the final three presidents of Oxnard School ignored college students’ complaints about struggles with basis scholarships, however Sanchez lastly listened.

“President Sanchez has been a student-centered, very cool, calm and picked up, inviting, partaking particular person,” she stated. “He’s had an open door. I’ve seen, I’ve witnessed, him communicate up on behalf of scholars and their issues.”

Yolanda Benitez, a member of the inspiration board, confirmed through the assembly {that a} “very restricted amount of cash” from the inspiration goes to scholar scholarships, which is meant to be the “important goal” of basis funds. She described the inspiration as “dysfunctional” and referred to as for an audit of the inspiration earlier than it will possibly proceed its management of the group market.

Sanchez stated being placed on depart is humiliating after 31 years working within the California Group Schools system. He got here to Oxnard School to briefly fill a management vacuum towards the “tail finish” of his profession when his predecessor at Oxnard abruptly left earlier than her deliberate retirement. Sanchez ended up staying as a result of he “fell in love” with the scholars, school and employees members and felt like he’d discovered his calling working with a group of farmworker households.

“To have this criticism, and the best way it’s being dealt with, mar my repute,” he stated, “it hurts me profoundly. It’s mortifying to run into neighbors or folks on the retailer, they usually’ve learn the paper, however they don’t know me properly sufficient to ask about it. It’s simply excruciating and, I feel, belies my file and what folks learn about me.”

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