Don't Give Money to Rio Hondo Community College!

An open letter to Gov. Schwarzeneggar and the CA State Legislature

By Dr. Susana de la Pe?a
Published on LatinoLA: February 9, 2005

Don't Give Money to Rio Hondo Community College!

I am a professor of literature and writing, with excellent student evaluations and letters of recommendation, several Teaching Awards, and twenty-five years of teaching experience in universities and community colleges across the Southwest. I write to inform you that I possess legal documentation and court transcripts in support of the argument that you should not give one cent to the members of the Rio Hondo Community College (RHC) Board of Trustees, nor to any community college like them that squanders taxpayers? dollars.

These RHC Board Members (Andre Quintero, Michelle Yanez, Gary Mendez, Mar?a Elena Mart?nez, and Leo Camalich) are visiting the Capital this week in order to plead for more monies, ostensibly for educational purposes. Don?t give it to them! My attorney, Mr. Bill Evans (Pasadena), and I, believe that this Board condones discriminatory practices by its community college administrators. In fact, Arbitrator Judge Ernest S. Gould officially ruled in February of 2004 that this College acted in ?an arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory manner,? such that he took the unusual step, in an unusually lengthy report, of recommending ?remediation training? for Rio Hondo Community College?s administrators (including President Rose Marie Joyce, Vice-President Voiza Arnold, Dean Gail Chabran, and former Human Resources Director, Ron Cataraha). Such College Administrators and Board Members who engage in illegal employment practices do NOT deserve more tax dollars to squander. Moreover, because of a dearth of necessary educational reforms, and actions by this teachers? ?union? at this College, this Board has been allowed to do the unconscionable and reject the ruling of this eminent Harvard-schooled judge with some 30 years? experience, considering it merely ?advisory,? instead (and so they continue to act irresponsibly and engage in practices which at least one judge, thus far, has deemed illegal).

RHC is an ?Hispanic-serving institution? with over 75% Latino student population, and we deserve better! We deserve much better for our tax dollars than Administrators who are an apparent embarrassment not only to themselves but also to our College. We deserve better than Administrators deemed in need of remediation training?and the Board Members who protect them! As my mother might have said, ??Qu? l?stima de educaci?n!? (?What a waste of education!?)

The primary point of my argument is that community colleges, like Rio Hondo, should be in the business of education?not (frivolous) litigation! Then, perhaps, they would have the monies with which to educate our youth, a noble endeavor that many of us support. I submit to you, however, that their egregious waste of taxpayers? dollars amounts to an example of one of our country?s dirtiest little secrets in education?one which I propose to expose and have reformed, with your help. ??Ya basta!? Enough of the waste of taxpayers? money. Enough of the lack of responsibility for our Latino student population!

To borrow a word from you, Governor, I propose ?FANTASTIC!? reform measures that could save California millions! in taxpayers? dollars by putting the little money that we do have back where it belongs?in education, not litigation. California community college Administrators and Boards (financially supported by teachers? ?unions?) currently possess what amounts to carte blanche. (And do know that I have been a life-long and ardent supporter of unions?that is, before they morphed into what they have become, at least as illustrated by then-President of the RHC teachers? union, Mary Ann Pacheco, Ray Barney, et al). These College Administrators and Board Members, who go unchecked by our teachers? ?unions,? are able to behave as irresponsibly as they like, resulting in lawsuits against their College, and then turn around and use taxpayers? monies against us, the taxpaying teachers, in lengthy, irresponsible, and very, very expensive legal battles. (After all, it is not they who pay their lawyers? fees; we, the taxpayers do! So where is their incentive not to waste our money on their own high-priced attorneys to clean up their own messes? )
Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature?Page 2

These community college administrators, like Rio Hondo?s, have typically been given the monies they have requested, as if it grew on trees in the backyard of our State Capital. California Community Colleges?like Rio Hondo Community College?need to be held more accountable before they are given anymore.)

I propose that research, by those with the power and authority to investigate, could reveal just how many millions! in taxpayers? dollars could be saved by ?capping? the amount of monies which all California community colleges could spend on litigation?instead of education. I would welcome any assistance with a member of your staff on this project of such import to California. Let?s open that Pandora?s Box and find out exactly what percentage of those tax dollars received by RHC have been spent on costly litigation?instead of education.

On Thursday, February 10, 2005, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, William Highberger, meets with my attorney, and the College?s attorneys (Gateau, et al, and paid by taxpayers) to issue a court date for my lawsuit against RHC for numerous offenses. This is not a lawsuit that the College can win, but it will continue to use our tax dollars to fight it, hoping that I will give up in this war of attrition (as other plaintiffs whose health has been jeopardized have had to do). I won?t. I won?t just ?give up, shut up, and go away quietly,? as I was told to do. I won?t, despite the hate mail I have received at my home on this College?s letterhead. I won?t because I owe it to my students not to. I owe it to my working class parents who long supported me and my pursuit of an education. I owe it to all who came before me who also struggled with the prejudice that was prevalent, then, at our country?s educational institutions. I owe it to my students, most of whom are Latino, first-generation college-educated, and/or from immigrant communities, whom I not only teach to read, write, and think critically, but also to pursue their own version of the American Dream.

I ardently hope, Governor, that you may be as successful with your efforts at educational reform as you have been with all else which you have attempted as Governor, and that you may also come to view the Rio Hondo Community College Administration and Board of Trustees as the deservedly classic
illustration?the ?poster child??of exorbitant waste of taxpayers? dollars and badly needed educational reform that it is. And one can only hope that RioHondoGate does not end up like the SouthGate mess which you inherited but which you so excellently and promptly resolved in that class action suit?which received such little mention from the Los Angeles Times, I might add, albeit front-page coverage in the Latino community?s La Opinion?.

Were Rio Hondo Community College Administrators, and the Trustees who protect them, be using our tax dollars responsibly, and for educational purposes, that would be one thing, and I would support that use of tax monies?but it appears that this is not the case, given the numerous costly legal affairs and lawsuits in which this College is, and has been, embroiled within the last few years, alone?I am not the only plaintiff, or defendant against RHC.

In closing, I leave you with this image: You may have heard of that legendary monster known as the Chupacabras said to wreak havoc in Chicano communities across the Southwest by devouring innocent farm animals in the dark of night. (Literally, ?goat suckers??from ?chupa? which means ?suck? and ?cabras? which means ?goats). Well, I submit to you that these aforementioned Rascals de Rio Hondo, the RHC Administrators and Board of Trustees, are a variation on the theme. But they are perhaps a more dangerous monster?the ?Chupataxes??those ?tax sucking? Administrators and Board Members who irresponsibly devour more and more of our tax dollars, not only at the expense of the taxpaying public, but at the expense of our own innocent, as well?our Latino youth?and their education. This must be stopped! Don?t let these tax-suckers continue to ask for more and more money?only to use it for frivolous litigation, instead of education.

Put our tax dollars back into education?not litigation?and let?s get rid of the Chupataxes!

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