Education

Modesto City Schools administrator defends work

In the two weeks since Modesto City Schools' second-in-command was placed on paid administrative leave, it appears she was suspended because of a personality clash with Superintendent Arturo Flores.

At Monday night's board of trustees meeting, Deputy Superintendent of Business Services Debbe Bailey said she has served the district diligently for 23 years with "absolute integrity and loyalty."

"Those of us who work in these kinds of jobs know that there may come a time when performing our fiduciary responsibility to this board and to the public and doing our job right may mean losing that job. This is one of those times," she said.

Trustees were set to discuss Bailey's employment status in closed session Monday night. Flores would not talk about details Tuesday, citing confidentiality laws prohibiting public discussion of personnel matters. He did confirm that no action was taken Monday and that Bailey is still on paid administrative leave.

Bailey's attorney, Frank Zumwalt of Modesto, also addressed trustees Monday, saying that Bailey has had nothing but "above standard" performance evaluations over two decades from five evaluators -- including Flores -- and the reviews included no discipline, reprimands or warnings.

He spoke of Bailey's belief that a relationship had become "openly hostile for some length of time." Zumwalt couldn't be reached Tuesday or Wednesday to clarify which relationship he meant, but many district employees said they have observed disagreements and tension between Bailey and Flores since he took over the district's top spot two years ago.

Zumwalt asked that Bailey be present when trustees and Flores discuss reasons for her suspension, and that she have an opportunity to address those reasons with trustees.

Board President Steve Grenbeaux declined to comment Wednesday when asked if trustees would consider Zumwalt's request.

Bailey was hired in 1986 and has been at her current position since 2000. She earns $165,000, and her contract goes through June 2010.

Bailey's contract states that her employment can be terminated without advance notice for a "material breach" of the agreement without compensation. If there is no material breach and trustees decide to fire her anyway, Bailey could be entitled to her salary for the rest of her contract, about $175,000, according to the document.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.

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