Guam Board Of Education Terminates Superintendent

Fernandez facing alleged misconduct, sexual harassment charges

By Haidee V Eugenio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 4, 2016) – The Guam Education Board voted 6-3 to end Superintendent Jon Fernandez's employment contract at 10 p.m. Monday.

The specific reason for Fernandez’s termination is known only to the board members. They are the only ones with a copy of an internal investigation report of Fernandez in response to accusations by an 18-year-old female student and four other individuals of misconduct and alleged sexual harassment. Fernandez has denied all the allegations.

The education board still has to take additional steps to effectuate Fernandez’s termination, according to board attorney Gary W. “Frank” Gumataotao, of the law firm Gumataotao & Pole.

“Guam law specifically says that to terminate the superintendent, you got to follow certain things so you have to do the next steps to do that,” Gumataotao said.

Gumataotao conducted the internal investigation and prepared the report.

Fernandez’s second four-year term as superintendent was supposed to run from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2020.

Fernandez has been on annual leave and paid administrative leave since July 11. His paid administrative leave expires Tuesday, but that issue wasn't discussed during Monday night’s special board meeting.

Those who voted to terminate Fernandez’s employment contract were board members Kenneth P. Chargualaf, Charlene D. Concepcion, Dr. Jose Q. Cruz, Chairwoman Lourdes San Nicolas, Vice Chairwoman Rosie R. Tainatongo and Ryan F. Torres.

The three who voted against the termination of Fernandez’s employment contract were board members Peter Alecxis D. Ada, Lourdes M. Benavente and Maria A. Gutierrez.

When the board resumed public session at 9:50 p.m., Ada made a motion to bring back Fernandez as education superintendent, with conditions.

Only three — Ada, Benavente and Gutierrez — voted in favor of bringing Fernandez back, and the motion was defeated. That’s when Chargualaf made the motion to terminate Fernandez’s employment contract and Tainatongo seconded the motion.

“Based on the preponderance of evidence as documented in the Title IX investigation report, and the accompanying appendices, I move to terminate the superintendent’s employment contract,” Chargualaf said.

Possible leak

According to Gumataotao, the internal investigation report is sealed.

“It’s available to the public after six months. But I can go back to court and ask the court to seal it longer, and I probably will in this case, because there are things in that report that are adverse to the government,” Gumataotao said.

Gumataotao said the board’s internal investigation report may be shared with law enforcement agencies, if they ask for it. He said nobody else, except the members of the education board, are supposed to have a copy of the report.

But Gumataotao said the board believes a copy of the report may have been leaked. He said if he finds out who leaked the report, if it was leaked, and who received a copy of it, he will sue them.

Title IX investigation

He said the investigation is a "Title IX investigation," in reference to a federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination in schools. All schools receiving any federal funds, including the Guam Department of Education, must comply with Title IX or risk losing federal funds.

Guam DOE receives more than $50 million in federal education funds annually.

Sen. Nerissa Underwood, legislative education committee chair, pointed out possible Title IX violations during an earlier oversight hearing on the education board’s policy, including:

  • not immediately investigating a student complaint; 
  • not immediately placing the superintendent on leave; and
  • signing off on a blackmail complaint filed against the same student and four others without concluding any internal investigation.

Governor wants stability

Gov. Eddie Calvo, in a statement late Monday night, said he was disappointed the education board will be losing another superintendent, and he wants to help ensure stability.

“I had a great working relationship with Jon Fernandez. I think he has done a lot to help move the department forward. That said, I appreciate the board’s work and respect their decision. They took several hours to deliberate on this in an executive session tonight. Perhaps there’s information in that report that we aren’t privy to that warranted this action,” Calvo said.

The governor said his concern continues to be the stability in the leadership of the Guam Department of Education and its financial management.

“Guam DOE had become a revolving-door agency — superintendents seem to leave not long after having started. This was an issue raised by U.S. DOE officials, who were concerned that the lack of stability would negatively impact Guam DOE,” Calvo said. "I share those worries as I have stated that Jon’s absence from the department has allowed financial mismanagement and other problems to grow. I want to provide whatever support I can, as governor, to ensure leadership and financial stability at the education department.”

Acting superintendent

Joe Sanchez, acting education superintendent, said his understanding is that he will remain as acting education superintendent.

“We will continue, we will maintain the operations of the department, we will continue to move forward. The employees and staff and students of the Department of Education are very strong and we will continue to progress,” he said.

He added he was surprised with the decision.

“No one really knows the contents of the report or the findings of the investigation, so I really have no basis to place any judgment or any response. All I know is that I will continue to work with our management team and we will continue to move forward,” he said.

Pacific Daily News
Copyright © 2016 Guam Pacific Daily News. All Rights Reserved

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