The Hollister School District (HSD) Board of Trustees stands by its pick for superintendent despite questions related to 2011 accusations by members of the public and local news over mishandled monies and altered grades at a Chula Vista school.
HSD announced Dec. 26 that Diego Ochoa was the sole finalist for the open superintendent position.
According to HSD board member Rob Bernosky, a town hall meeting is set for Jan. 7 at the Hollister School District office to allow the public to present questions and concerns to Ochoa. The candidate is also scheduled to meet with “select groups” Jan. 4.
“Based on the feedback I get from [the town hall meeting], it will weight heavily on what my final vote is,” Bernosky said.
Ochoa was the principal of Castle Park High School in Chula Vista in 2011 when the San Diego Union-Tribune reported $92,295 was mismanaged. At the time, district officials revealed that $21,584 was taken from various school clubs without their knowledge. Ochoa resigned from his position at the school that same year.
It was also reported in the San Diego Union-Tribune that Ochoa removed 115 D and F grades from students’ transcripts, which was against the district’s policy. In the article, he is quoted as saying he used a wrong form which led to the changes.
Ochoa later went on to work at Esparto Unified School District for several years, ultimately in the role of superintendent.
Newly elected HSD Board President Stephen Kain said the board investigated the allegations against Ochoa and he felt they are not an issue.
“I will stand behind my original comment and give him my 100 percent support,” Kain said.
He noted that the allegations did not result in Ochoa’s arrest or revocation of credentials.
“I suggest people in Hollister give him a chance because he is a very qualified superintendent,” Kain continued. He also pointed out that Ochoa moved on to become superintendent of the Esparto Unified School District, where his work was well-received. Ochoa, according to the district’s website, was hired in 2012 as vice principal of Esparto High School and also served as a teacher, sports coach and the district’s director of special education.
Kain said residents who are concerned about Ochoa’s work history can contact Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, a national school executive search firm the HSD board contracted to assist with the superintendent search. BenitoLink attempted to contact Jacqueline Horejs from the executive search firm, but did not get a response.
The board is expected to approve Ochoa’s three-year contract at its Jan. 8 meeting. If approved, Ochoa is expected to start in February and make $209,000 annually.
The district was left scrambling for leadership when Superintendent Lisa Andrew abruptly resigned in June after two years in the position. William Barr stepped in as interim superintendent in July while the district conducted its search for a new leader. Barr did not respond to a request for comment.