Quick Take:

Phil Rodriguez was unfairly reelected to the Soquel Union Elementary School district board, argues Chris Amsden, a parent of four kids who attended district schools. Rodriguez neglected to tell Lookout and voters he had resigned his seat. That led his challenger, Justin Maffia, to believe he was running in an uncontested race. Amsden believes Rodriguez is not fit to serve and not a good model for children.

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Phil Rodriguez should not serve on the Soquel Union Elementary School District (SUESD) board.

He is unfit, and his reelection stems from unfair practices and misinformation.

Let me explain.

At the Sept. 7 SUESD board meeting, Rodriguez (then a trustee) formally announced his resignation from the school board. He did this right after the teachers union formally endorsed his challenger, Justin Maffia.

He resigned after the ballots for the Nov. 8 election had already been printed. So his name would still appear as “incumbent” on the ballot. But his resignation was effective immediately Sept. 7.

This led Maffia to believe he was running in an uncontested race. So, he likely did not see a need to engage in a vigorous campaign. Why would he when the incumbent had resigned?

In a Nov. 3 article, Lookout published answers to questions Rodriguez and Maffia had answered in mid-October. Both candidates provided positions and answers. In his answers, Rodriguez deliberately omitted that he had resigned from the school board.

This was more than a mere misrepresentation on the part of Rodriguez. This was an intentional deception and manipulation of the public trust.

Rodruguez had a fiduciary responsibility to inform Lookout and the voters in the SUESD that he had already resigned from office. By neglecting to do so, he led the voters in our district who read Lookout’s article to believe he was “the incumbent” and was still running.

He also unfairly led Maffia to believe his race was uncontested. How many voters were duped by this misinformation? How many cast votes thinking they were voting for “the incumbent?”

We will never know.

Chris Amsden's four children have all attended SUESD schools.
Chris Amsden’s four children have all attended SUESD schools. Credit: Via Chris Amsden

Those involved in SUESD school board policies a decade ago might remember Rodriguez as one of the three school board trustees who voted for the “pension spiking” of our former school district superintendent. Rodriguez voted to include then-Superintendent Henry Castaniada’s business expenses as part of his salary during the year prior to Castaniada’s retirement. This captured his inflated salary as the pension benchmark. While not illegal, the community overwhelmingly felt this was not in the interests of our school district.

Brown Act violations and grand jury investigations soon followed, as the community realized the school board was clearly acting outside its authority and definitely not in the interests of our school district.

Our school district suffered as a result.

Overall, Rodriguez is not a good candidate and his reelection was underhanded and deceptive. This is far from a model for our children.

We want honest, transparent representation for the best interests of our schools and children. Retaining a school board seat by deceiving the constituents is not honest representation.

Rodriguez has demonstrated he is unfit to serve in a position of public trust on our school board.

Many of the teachers, parents and voters in the SUESD feel it is important that our community be informed of these facts and of this deception.

Chris Amsden is a cybersecurity executive and has been a Capitola resident for the past 15 years. Chris is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and has four children who have all attended SUESD schools.