A small, cash-strapped school district tasked with educating some of the poorest students in the county is once again mired in controversy.
This time a former employee is alleging he was wrongfully terminated by the superintendent for raising concerns about potential wrong-doing.
Parents at the San Ysidro School District, located directly on the U.S.-Mexico border said they are fed up with the drama and think more attention should be focused on the students.
The school district signed a contract with an energy company in 2008 to put solar panels on top of San Ysidro Middle School.
Nine years, $16 million dollars later and after an ugly lawsuit that nearly ripped the district apart, and there is not a solar panel in sight.
At one point, the district’s finances got so bad, the state almost stepped in and took over.
Now it finds itself right back in the thick of controversy with some of the same players.
A former San Ysidro School District employee claims he was wrongfully terminated in January 2016.
In a claim filed with the district, Jose Enrique Gonzalez alleges the Superintendent Dr. Julio Fonseca fired him because the employee raised concerns about the district’s hiring practices.
The district said the man’s claims are false.
The controversy was first reported Monday in La Prensa, a community newspaper.
In a written statement to NBC 7, Fonseca said the newspaper’s claims are false.
“The contents of the story are inaccurate and we invite any inquires regarding the District’s hiring procedures,” the statement read in part.
“My primary obligation is to my students – to keep them safe and ensure their educational needs are met while at the same time safeguarding taxpayer dollars,” Fonseca said.
In the statement, Fonseca points out that the owner of the community newspaper is the solar panel contractor who successfully sued the district for $16 million. The former employee making the claims is the chief operating officer of the publication.
Parents at the San Ysidro School District have had several different superintendents since 2011.
Many say they don’t know all the details of the latest drama, but they are fed up with the constant squabbling at district headquarters.
Rosio Terrera, a San Ysidro Middle School parent, told NBC 7 in Spanish that more attention needs to be focused on the students.
“This is about the kids. Not enough attention goes to the students. They shouldn't be affected by the issues adults are fighting about,” she said.
Another parent told NBC 7 she was upset about the district’s hiring practices because a position was added in the administration when she felt it needed to be added at the school site.
“Only one, two or three people for all these kids?” said Olga Espinoza. “You need extra people right here (at San Ysidro Middle School) not over there,” she said motioning across the street to the district headquarters.
An open government watchdog said the real legal issue the district may be facing is not about the original allegation over hiring concerns, but about whether or not they tried to cover it up.
A special board meeting has been scheduled for Thursday night to discuss concerns. Some are asking the superintendent to step down.
San Ysidro School Board President Rosaleah Pallasigue sent NBC 7 the following statement:
"The allegations are absolutely false. The Board was consulted and in support of all decisions made relating to this matter, as in all personnel matters. The goal is for this project to be completed; and we look forward to Manzana Energy being present at all future board meetings, through project completion, to keep the community and board informed."