Use of bond money questioned at heated Alum Rock school board meeting

Thursday, the Alum Rock Unified School District’s board held a special meeting to allow community input surrounding the use of bond money to pay for a questionable contractor. There were impassioned calls for change rang out inside the cramped board room.

“The parents and students deserve more respect!,” yelled one parent from a podium microphone.

Alum Rock’s small school board meeting room could barely contain the heated rhetoric at Thursday night’s meeting. Hundreds of parents and community members protest what they call a race for profits and cozy business arrangements which take priority over the educational needs of children.

“We are troubled by the failure of certain board members,” said another parent.

Two board members, Tran, and Marquez-Frausto were no-shows and avoided the spectacle.

Specifically, demonstrators are angry over contracts signed last year with Southern California-based Del Terra to build bathrooms, and heating and cooling systems. Bond money from Measures I-and-J funded the projects, but many here claim the district has been fleeced.

“We just think they’re unworthy, and they’ve been stealing money from our district,” said parent Jacky Franco. 

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the county D.A., and the county school board are all investigating Del Terra. The Alum Rock board president says there were red flags dating back to last October.

“It was voted on and approved by the board without there being a contract. They had to comeback in November, and bring back, bring forward a contract that we could actually see,” said Andreas Quintero, as he shuttled between the meeting room, and a separate room designated for closed-session agenda items.

Officials with Del Terra declined a request for a phone interview, and instead provided a statement that says in part: “Alum Rock…has had challenges with continuity and accountability in its business office…” And, turnover in the business office has, “made it extremely difficult to establish consistent systems and protocols for contractors doing business with the district.” One board member, under fire for his support of Del Terra, says the current conflict has more to do with politics than criminal behavior.

“Had there been the alleged fraud, it would have been easy to see. It would have come to a conclusion by now. But that fact that it has not, since I do criminal law investigations myself, tells me there is perhaps more smoke than fire,” said board member Esau Herrera.

Still, many here are breathing fire as they call on the board to cut ties with Del Terra, and if necessary, some board members too..

“We urge the board members to reflect on its recent actions, how it’s relating to the community, and how to take immediate corrective action,” said another angry parent from the podium.

The investigations by the three agencies are still in their infancy. One sources with knowledge of the issue says it’s too soon to tell if there really has been wrong-doing, or if something minor is being blown out of proportion.