According to some reporters, the Guam Education Board’s legal counsel Gary Gumataotao would only give the entire board one copy of the bill of particulars to read during an executive session. It’s not known if the board was required to return that copy. Gary Gumataotao told the media he doesn’t trust the education board with the documents.
There are two questions this scenario raises:
- Who is the boss and who is the employee?
- Why doesn’t the attorney trust his client? And if he doesn’t trust them, then should the people of Guam?
Lourdes San Nicolas and Rosie Tainatongo, leading the board as chair and vicechair, hired Gary Gumataotao. And with his legal advice, they have started the process of terminating the Superintendent – beginning with the termination. And now the bill of particulars has been drafted and provided to the board – in other words: these are the reasons why you fired Superintendent Jon Fernandez.
The actions have been so appalling to some former Guam educators that they have called from abroad to share their worries that the local education department is being led down a dangerous path. Even high school students are wary of the situation that has been created since Senator Nerissa Underwood called for the initial oversight hearing in July that started the “investigation”.
The education board’s secret report and the subsequent termination of the superintendent at 10 o’clock at night denied Jon Fernandez his right to due process. That action has caused instability in leadership. This is something that U.S. DOE has warned the education board about PARTICULARLY because they are in a high-risk grantee status.
The Governor has made attempts to right those wrongs:
- Calling on the Legislature, specifically Senator Underwood and then Speaker Won Pat, to hold an oversight hearing to determine what process, if any, was followed in the education board’s so-called investigation and termination.
- Rallied, alongside students and others in the community, for Guam DOE’s most successful superintendent in years to be reinstated.
- Calling for the resignations of those appointed board members who took part in denying Jon his right and causing instability in Guam DOE’s leadership.
What would be interesting is if U.S. DOE and DOJ also looked into the allegation of blackmail filed with the feds.
It’s also interesting because some of the cast of characters who wreaked havoc at Guam DOE in previous decades — leading to many of the challenges it faces now —are the same that are wreaking havoc today. Here are some facts:
- Rosie Tainatongo was appointed to be director of Guam DOE by former Governor Carl Gutierrez in the late 90s to early 2000s.
- The lack of proper financial management and bookkeeping, that included her years as director, contributed at least in part, to the Department of Defense’s decision to pull military students out of Guam DOE schools AND contributed to the high-risk grantee status.
- Taxpayers have been paying millions of dollars annually for several years for third-party federal watchdog, Alvarez & Marsal, to ensure federal funds are properly spent and documented.
- Mrs. Tainatongo now serves as the board’s vice chairwoman.
- The board, under hers and Chairwoman Lourdes San Nicolas’ leadership, hired Gary Gumataotao as their attorney. Gumataotao and Governor Gutierrez ran (and lost) against Governor Calvo and Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio in the 2014 gubernatorial election.
- Mrs. Tainatongo’s brother was the chairman of the education board several years ago when the board terminated Juan Flores’ contract. Flores’ term as superintendent provided the education department with stable leadership. In addition, he was working to address the long-standing financial management problems at Guam DOE and made it a point to hire a properly qualified and competent person to fix Guam DOE’s finances.
- Ken Chargualaf is a current board member who was appointed by Governor Calvo last year and this week was asked by Governor to resign.
- It was Ken Chargualaf who delivered Juan Flores’ termination letter to Flores’ residence at 4 a.m. Flores was terminated for insubordination because the board chairman ordered him to attend a meeting, even after Flores explained he couldn’t make that meeting time because of work. Flores left the meeting two hours and 30 after it started. The meeting continued deeper into the night until the board, in executive session, decided to terminate him.