Evergreen students, staff protest looming layoffs

December 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
No one lost their job at a South Bay community college, at least not yet. To balance the budget, officials at Evergreen Community College debated cutting jobs on Tuesday evening. It is always a touchy subject, but especially so after an ABC7 News I-Team investigation that looked into the questionable spending of the former chancellor.

Students, support staff, and service workers were outraged and protested before the meeting because their classes and jobs are on the line at San Jose and Evergreen community colleges.

"I hope they don't lay me off. It's so difficult for me to look for another job," said Thanh Vangaasbeck from the counseling department.

The school district is considering cutting 15 union jobs to save $1.5 million. The district's reserve fund is basically non-existent.

"They're saying most of the cuts are due to legislation budget cuts, but if we would of had the $14 million in reserve that the chancellor spent in 4 years, that would carry us over," said Bessie Fuentes, a student.

Fuentes is referring to an ABC7 I-Team investigation into spending at the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District revealed Chancellor Rosa Perez enjoyed big perks while students suffered cutbacks in classes and services.

Perez used taxpayer money to fund international travel to places like Scotland and El Salvador. On these trips and on many others across the United States, Perez travelled with her partner Bayinaah Jones. Perez hired Jones as her executive assistant then quickly promoted her to management.

Under her watch, district employees also took trips to El Salvador and other countries, including Guatemala, Honduras, Vietnam, Cambodia and China. Two district board members went to Vietnam as well. The purpose of the trips was to study culture and recruit foreign students.

Although the chancellor makes almost $300,000 a year plus a $600 monthly expense account, documents obtained by the I-Team showed Perez still charged at least $130,000 on district credit cards for things like local hotel rooms, membership and meals at the exclusive Silicon Valley Capital Club, symphony tickets, home electronics and furnishings and a plane ticket for her son. Often, she failed to provide any receipt or accountability to the district.

Perez retired during ABC7's investigation, citing health reasons. The district says they are hiring an independent investigator to look into the questions raised in our report.

Anger filled the district board meeting, where trustees considered cutting jobs to save money, but the focus for those in the audience was on Chancellor Perez -- who was not present.

"We the parents entrusted you to educate our students. We voters entrusted you to spend this money correctly," said a speaker at the meeting.

"Obviously, no one was watching when the recently retired chancellor was using tax payer dollars that did nothing to further the education of any student in this college," said union member Allan Clark.

"It's not our preference, not what we want to do, but the state has left us no alternative at this point," said Jeanine Hawk, the acting chancellor.

However, the trustees didn't agree. They voted unanimously not to cut any jobs, at least, not right now.


Load Comments