The Public Eye

The Public Eye: Error blamed in hiring of substitute instructional aide with felony record

Published: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012 - 8:06 am

Felony convictions for vandalism and burglary didn't disqualify Ryan Schomberg from being hired earlier this year as an instructional aide to special education students at Albert Einstein Middle School, despite police reports describing the then 21-year-old as being violent with officers during his arrest last year.

"It was not one of the two education codes that would have precluded him from employment," said Jess Serna, Sacramento City Unified School District's chief of human resources.

However, district officials acknowledged an error was made in the hiring process that has forced an examination of the district's personnel system.

Schomberg, who was a substitute instructional aide at the time of his two arrests in November 2011, was taken off the district's approved substitute pool list after the Department of Justice notified the school district of the incidents last year. Serna said that should have carried over to this school year, but didn't.

"Quite candidly, we don't have due-process (for substitutes)," Serna said. "We generally just take them off the substitute list."

Serna said that's exactly what the school district did for the rest of the 2011-12 school year. Then, Schomberg reapplied for this school year.

Serna said Schomberg disclosed his felony convictions, but since the nature of the felonies were not sex offenses or drug-related, his application moved forward.

Schomberg began as a substitute instructional aide and was later hired full time to work at Albert Einstein Middle School in Rancho Cordova.

"Our gaffe was (that) our system didn't tell us he was taken off the substitute list previously," Serna said. "We should have been notified that he was removed from our substitute pool. We are working with our IT department to fix that issue."

Serna said the district is determining whether there are other cases that were overlooked.

"I'm hoping this is an isolated situation," he said. "I don't know yet."

Added district spokesman Gabe Ross: "We don't have any evidence of other situations."

Schomberg was released from his probationary employment Oct. 3, about a month after he was hired full time. Serna said he was released for reasons unrelated to his criminal record that concerned job performance, such as attendance and tardiness.

In an interview with The Bee on Thursday, Schomberg, 22, disagreed with that assessment. He said he enjoyed his job and was learning a great deal when he was abruptly told he was being let go.

Schomberg said he went to the district's office to find out why.

"They finally said it was because of my arrest," Schomberg said. "It may have been a processing error."

Schomberg's arrest last year was covered by several television stations, although his school employment was not mentioned.

Oroville police said in a news release last year that Schomberg was caught smashing windows of at least 11 Butte County vehicles with a shovel and rebar. Schomberg told police he was part of an anti-government group and that he "vandalized the county vehicles intentionally related to his beliefs," according to the news release.

"Schomberg was violent with officers, failed to follow commands and remained concealed inside the bed of (a) truck which resulted in him being bitten by the Police K-9," said the news release, which was issued after the arrest.

The release said Schom-berg forcibly entered two vehicles and took ammunition, which was found in his possession when he was arrested.

Hours before his arrest in the 2011 incident, Schomberg had been arrested in Chico City Plaza after allegedly creating a disturbance near an Occupy Chico protest site.

He said the incidents were the result of a bipolar episode and that he now has his condition under control with medication.

"I suffer from bipolar and had never had an episode before," he said. "It was the first time. I had been up a long period of time, and things went horribly horribly wrong. … I'm a lot better now."

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