MABTON - A long overdue hearing surrounding the Mabton School District's decision to not renew former Artz-Fox Elementary School Principal Fabian Castilleja's contract got underway yesterday at Mabton City Hall.
Both current Superintendent Sandra Pasiero-Davis and Castilleja began their tenures in the district in the 2004-05 school year.
During opening arguments, School District Attorney Jeannie Tolcacher said that the beginning of the 2004-05 school year held a lot of promise with the hiring of Pasiero-Davis and Castilleja. But over the course of the school year, problems began brewing at Artz-Fox.
"Unfortunately, the ship began to take on water as the school year progressed and you'll find he (Castilleja) wasn't a very good captain of the ship."
Tolcacher said that problems with Castilleja included a lack of consistency in the areas of student discipline, poor communication with staff and a failure to progress with the goals of the school district. She said he was given "multiple opportunities to correct" the problems and that the superintendent tried to work with him. Instead, she said, he tried to shift the blame to everybody else.
One of Castilleja's complaints is that of racism. Tolcacher said, and Pasiero-Davis testified that there were no complaints of racism until he was told he needed to improve his performance.
Pasiero-Davis said that she formally expressed concern with Castilleja in an interim evaluation in March.
"By March, I was more than a little concerned. We'd had multiple interactions, several conversations about concerns, some brought about by the Association (union).
"It was important to give him a formal document and make crystal clear that he needed to make dramatic shifts upward."
Pasiero-Davis testified that she believed he was capable of making that improvement at that time.
Within days of the evaluation, she testified that she'd received a formal letter from Castilleja stating that he believed she was retaliating against him.
Pasiero-Davis said on April 1, 2005, he sent her another letter stating that he believed he was working in a hostile environment.
She testified that the obvious lack of trust and collaboration among staff in the Artz-Fox building was clear early in 2005. "In that kind of environment, student achievement is in peril."
Pasiero-Davis testified that there were budgetary concerns as well, including a failure to follow up on grant encumbrances in a timely manner and failure to file purchase orders in a timely manner.
She said she sent a letter to Castilleja in May informing him that she would opt to not renew his contract.
The hearing is expected to last through the end of this week.