Resignations From Guam Board Of Education Halt Termination Of Superintendent

Governor demanded appointees step down over effort to dump Fernandez

By Haidee V Eugenio

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 14, 2016) – The Guam Education Board’s efforts to terminate Superintendent Jon Fernandez hit a wall Thursday after appointed board members Charlene Concepcion and Ryan Torres resigned, leaving the board two votes shy of the six needed, under Fernandez’s contract, to fire him.

The board on Oct. 3 voted 6-3 to begin the process of terminating Fernandez’s contract after reviewing an investigative report into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Fernandez. A former student accused Fernandez of sending text messages that made her feel uncomfortable and that he allegedly rubbed her buttocks during a celebration at J.P. Torres Alternative School in March.

The contents of that report have not been made public, but the board on Wednesday, Oct. 13, gave Fernandez a "bill of particulars," outlining the reasons he should be fired — a step required under his contract if he is to be terminated.

Concepcion and Torres, who were asked by Gov. Eddie Calvo to resign, were two of the six board members who earlier this month voted to terminate the contract.

Without their votes, the count is now only 4-3 to terminate Fernandez, if board members do not change their minds.

The board voted Thursday to continue paying Fernandez as education superintendent, retroactive to Oct. 5, up to the date when the process of terminating his contract, including a public hearing, is completed.

“Under the law to terminate, you have to have six minimum (votes). So even if you reduce the number of board members, you still have to have six (votes) to terminate,” said attorney Gary W. “Frank” Gumataotao, counsel for the education board.

Guam law states it takes a vote of six board members to appoint a superintendent, but the law does not state the number of votes required to terminate the superintendent. Fernandez's contract, however, states at least six votes are required.

Calvo asked appointed board members Concepcion, Torres and Kenneth Chargualaf to resign for voting to end Fernandez’s contract. Calvo has said the board voted to terminate Fernandez without affording him due process. Concepcion and Torres resigned, but Chargualaf has refused to resign.

Gumataotao said the board is working with Fernandez and his counsel David Lujan on the date for a public hearing. A hearing is another mandatory step before Fernandez can be terminated.

While the education board cannot release the bill of particulars based on local and federal laws, nothing prevents Fernandez to release the document to the public if he so chooses, Gumataotao said.

As of Thursday, Fernandez and the education board are going through the process of completing the termination process, Gumataotao added.

During Thursday’s special board meeting, there were only seven members present: chairwoman Lourdes San Nicolas, vice chairwoman Rosie Tainatongo, Peter Alecxis Ada, Jose Cruz, Chargualaf, Maria Gutierrez and Lourdes Benavente, who was off island but was participating via telephone conference.

Concepcion resigned hours before the board meeting, while Torres was not present. Concepcion represents parents on the education board. She currently works as a financial management specialist at the Guam Air National Guard.

During the board meeting, some members of Fernandez’s family were present. Gumataotao mentioned that the family was relieved to know that Fernandez will continue to be paid while the process is still ongoing.

“And the position that I’ve said all along, ever since the first night when they took the vote to start the termination process, was he’s not terminated. He’s still in contract. So they have a duty to address the contract and in any situation, as a lawyer, if I were in contract with somebody, I would appreciate it if they’d honor the contract,” Gumataotao said.

Gumataotao, whose contract with the education board was extended for another year up to Sept. 30, 2017, said the education board has a “good faith obligation” to Fernandez.

Calvo on Thursday night asked Speaker Judi Won Pat to reconsider her stance to not hold an oversight hearing on the education board’s decision to terminate Fernandez’s contract. Won Pat has said the responsibility to call that hearing does not lie with her committee, and doing so would violate the Legislature's rules.

“The baffling turn of events today — during a meeting the education board decided to keep Mr. Fernandez on payroll despite having voted to terminate his contract — only underscores the need to bring clarity to actions that are mired in secret reports and whispers,” Calvo said.

The governor added that hundreds of students gathered to protest Fernandez's termination.

“And residents are on radio talk shows and social media calling for information as they try to understand the topsy-turvy decision by the current Board of Education and the instability in leadership it has caused in the education department,” Calvo added.

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

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