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Alum Rock Union School Superintendent Fired!

  Photo by Lorraine Gabbert
The Alum Rock Union School District board of trustees unexpectedly fired Superintendent Hilaria Bauer on March 14, 2024. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Informed Parents of California learned last week that the Alum Rock Union School District Board of Trustees voted to fire their School Superintendent, Hilaria Bauer. East San Jose school superintendent abruptly fired.  In a closed session on March 14, the Board voted to end Bauer’s contract with a 3-2 vote. March 25 was Bauer’s last day of service. Imee Almazan was named the new interim superintendent. Almazan, who was appointed unanimously, had been director of student services and took over the Superintendent post on March 26. East San Jose school district selects interim superintendent after ousting predecessor

The firing of Bauer was the end of a rocky tenure, despite an alternative perspective presented in an article in the San Jose Spotlight that broke the story. The San Jose Spotlight article on the firing of Hilaria Bauer provided a perspective that she was fired unexpectedly and that her tenure was abruptly terminated according to the headline. The headline could be interpreted as “unjustly terminated” by the Board, and only fragments of the article shed light on the reason for the firing.

Nevertheless, the Alum Rock Union School District has been embattled for years with regard to the School Board and Superintendent Bauer who had been hired in 2014. Then, in 2018, there was serious turmoil in the district. However, in early November of 2019, the ARUSD voted to extend Bauer’s contract for an additional three years.

In that time, a different writer for the San Jose Spotlight reported, “It’s been a tumultuous year for the Alum Rock Union School District (ARUSD), following months of scandals stemming from a long history of mismanagement and financial troubles…” To deal with the scandals and turmoil the School Board was “hoping her leadership will bring transparency and better ethical practices to the embattled school district” according to that article. And, it should be noted Superintendent Bauer had her supporters on the Board throughout her tenure, but her words rang hollow when she accepted her new contract: “I would like to thank the Board of Trustees for their unwavering support of my leadership… By working together, I am confident that we will be able to provide the children of our community with the necessary tools to make all of their dreams a reality.”

Yet, in August of 2018, San Jose Mercury News detailed a more clear indication of serious controversy between Bauer and the ARUSD. At the time, Khanh Tran, a former Board member, had questioned Bauer’s integrity and was quoted as stating:  “I think she’s a crook, I think she’s dishonest and I don’t want her to run my district.” In that time, Tran vowed to remove Bauer from her post as strong sentiments divided the District even then. However, Tran had a number of other words with Bauer in that time, some not being wisely chosen. Some of Tran’s statements in closed sessions were toxic and received as threatening. 

Bauer obtained a restraining order against Tran and it initiated a public hearing over the controversial incident. At the time, the Mercury News article revealed that Board members had issues with Bauer previous to her recent termination. Then, Tran as well as board members Esau Herrera and Dolores Marquez also had concerns with Bauer and feuded with her and apparently had also threatened to dismiss her. This threesome on the Board filed a complaint against Bauer with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC)

Yet, these three Board members had a complaint filed against them with the same Fair Political Practices Commission. However, in June of 2018, Tran stated that the FPPC had “cleared” the three Board members based upon a public statement from the organization that: “Based on a review of the documents received and obtained during our initial review of the allegations, the Enforcement Division will not open an enforcement case in this matter at this time.” Nearly at the same time, however, a civil grand jury slammed the School Board In a scathing report that also urged those same three trustees on the Board to resign. 

A San Jose Mercury News article - Grand jury urges three Alum Rock board trustees to resign - revealed that: “‘The 2017-18 grand jury found the board, controlled by a three-trustee block, has failed to meet its governance standards and fiduciary responsibility,' the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury wrote in its report…’” The article explained that the grand jury report was “one of the most clear and complete pictures of the board’s actions to date.” It also stated “The grand jury urged Alum Rock Union Elementary School District board trustees Esau Herrera, Dolores Marquez and Khanh Tran to step down.” There was no insistence that the trustees needed to comply, but citizens of the district were reportedly prepared to vote against Tran and Herrera who were up for re-election that year. 

While there is more to the ongoing turmoil within the Alum Rock Union School District over the years, many questions are still unanswered with regard to who did what, or who did nothing, and under whose authority. However, in 2019, the ARUSD extended Superintendent Bauer’s contract after the controversies in hopes of moving beyond the turmoil, with the hopes that “her leadership would bring Michael Wright, ARUSD intervention specialist…” according to the article in the Spotlight on Bauer’s recent firing. That article did reveal that Michael Wright was not truly satisfied with Bauer’s leadership, and “agreed with the board’s decision to end Bauer’s contract and move the district in a new direction.” 

The same Spotlight article interviewed some of the area parents, and Ruby Arias also agreed with the Board’s decision. Her children are attending Aptitud Community Academy at Goss. Arias explained that 

...the school was on the potential chopping block and parents were calling for

the superintendent to be fired… Nothing was getting done or heard all the time

she was here…   She prioritized other stuff when it came to making decisions

instead of trying to find solutions. It’s time to find the right fit for the position;

someone who actually can dedicate time and effort to help the community

and not just (make) promises.

Michael Wright echoed that truth for more than just the ARUSD when he stated: “We need a leader that understands the needs of our community… The community spoke up and the board listened.” In truth, every school district needs even more than that: honest leaders who not only understand the needs of the community, but who will not just make hollow promises, but who have the integrity to do what they say they will do for the sake of the greater good of the kids and the community.  

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