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Unfinished business over sexual conduct

Schools are supposed to be safe havens for students, until they are not. Madera has Bill Coate to thank for keeping the Ruben Castrejon story alive, albeit to the chagrin of Madera Unified School District, which would rather see the story die a quiet death.

It has been a year since the accused sexual predator at Madera South High was placed on paid leave pending investigation. Meanwhile, he kicks back and gets to have his cake and eat it, too, while the district continues to wrestle with its seeming existential challenge.

Rumors had it that the district was awaiting action by the District Attorney’s Office.

Well, what is MUSD waiting for? It was informed late 2016 that no criminal prosecution was forthcoming due to statute of limitations. So what else is there left to be done?

The district’s investigation concluded last summer. It has all the evidence it is going get. The victim and other witnesses are now willing, able and available to cooperate. Is this a case of overlearning an earlier lesson?

There have been concerns expressed by the administration that legal action to terminate Castrejon’s employment will cost over $200,000. This is simply wrongheaded.

First, safety of students is of utmost importance and shouldn’t be entangled with dollar savings. Second, the district already has sunk cost (Castrejon’s salary and benefits package) that is fast approaching the dreaded anticipated litigation costs. Third, it sends the wrong message regarding staff sexual misconduct.

What the district needs is an unequivocal message of zero tolerance.

Fourth, acting decisively, forthrightly and with alacrity makes dollars and sense in the long run. Inaction inevitably leads to untold liability exposure for deliberate indifference and reckless negligence. There is an increasing line of court cases involving staff sexual misconduct with huge jury awards against the school district for ignoring the plethora of warning signs and/or willfully turning a blind eye to behavior hidden in plain sight.

There are those in the upper echelons of MUSD who take umbrage at any unwanted attention brought to this case viewing it as an unwarranted personal attack of their leadership. On the contrary, the ability of a school district to identify, report and affirmatively act to root out such problems and implement preventive policy, programs and practices are an affirmation of institutional health.

Burying one’s head in sand guarantees being shot in the backside. In point of fact, Castrejon is not an aberration but a symptom of the institution’s lax practices and permissive culture. There is a current case working its way through the district’s investigatory process where, allegedly, a high-ranking security officer, at a minimum, openly engaged in the sexual grooming of a student on campus.

Despite, complaints by fellow staff, the conduct persisted while she attended Madera South and continued thereafter.

Administration conveniently fends off a call for action asserting that it now amounts to a post-graduation matter that is outside of the purview of MUSD. (Perhaps the DA’s office needs to take a serious look at school employees, charged as mandated reporters, who failed to report or frustrated others from reporting in violation of Penal Code sec. 11166(c).)

The district can’t talk endlessly about students first and then refuse to discipline rouge staff. While MUSD needs to do the honorable thing by not “passing the trash,” that doesn’t translate to keeping it either. In the meantime, the meter keeps ticking.

— Baldwin Moy,

Madera Name school after Matilda

I am urging your endorsement in naming our next new school Matilda Torres High School.

What an opportunity to be able to name a school after someone born and reared in this very community, someone who not only symbolized the importance of its educational system, but lived it every day of her life. Matilda was highly respected by her colleagues and by all the students who crossed her path. She always had and gave of her time, had endless patience and always left her students with the feeling of self-worth and belief in themselves.

Madera will never witness another person of this caliber, nor a person as compassionate or selfless as Matilda, the heart and soul of this community.

Matilda was never just a member of community service organizations. She was a leader who always set the example by working in the trenches. She probably held every office not only once, but many times — especially when no one else would come forward. Matilda’s only interest was in getting things accomplished, especially if it came to fund raising for scholarships, and this inspired many of us to do the same.

Matilda received many local, valley and state-wide accolades, ranging from Teacher of the Year from Madera High School, Counselor of the Year from San Joaquin Counselor’s Association, Top Ten Educator of the Year from State AMAE (Association of Mexican-American Educator), Madera Soroptimist Community Leadership Award, Latinas Unidas Community Service Award, Homenaje a la Mujer (Homage to Women) from State AMAE and I am sure there are many more, including serving on the board for St Joachim School, Madera Food Bank and Holy Family Table.

Matilda was so humble of any recognition that even her own family was not always aware of her acknowledgements. She never said “I,” it was always “we.”

Think of the statement of naming a school after an educator, think of the message you would be giving every student, that “my school is named after someone who dedicated her life to Madera Unified School District and probably someone who my parents and yes, even grandparents had or knew.” Let’s not just give this school a name, but an identity that is recognizable, respected across the board. As Nelson Mandela stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” this is what Matilda Torres did.

— Dolores Olmos-Rodriguez,

Madera Tapping into water sense

Channel 18 (PBS) is airing the series “Tapped Out.” It is a clear depiction of water in the San Joaquin Valley, showing the importance of increased storage on the San Joaquin River to benefit all. Not only agriculture, but fisheries and water table maintenance.

All sides had a say, and the spokesman for the salmon showed me that his argument was emotional and not realistic.

The San Joaquin “salmon run” was never an annual event. The river is too shallow and warm in most years. With more storage, releases could be better regulated to enhance a salmon run, but where are they going to spawn? There needs to be Fish Ladders built to allow the Salmon to find cold gravel beds to spawn. Everything has pluses and minuses. Everything has wins and loses.

Salmon, although wonderful, have no real future on the San Joaquin. No wildlife to consume them after the spawn, except flies. Perhaps we should just look the other way, as we do with crime and drug addiction.

The real benefit is water for the growing population. We are endangered too.

— Bill Hoffrage,


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