What more reason could the Twin Rivers school board possibly need to divorce itself from Cortez Quinn?
A resolution calling for Quinn’s resignation is to go before the board on Nov. 19. If trustees don’t approve it, their own integrity will be called into question.
Following his arrest on multiple felony charges, Quinn announced Thursday night that he is taking a 90-day leave of absence, but also stated he has no intention of stepping down.
A temporary leave is not enough. Only with his permanent departure can the Twin Rivers Unified School District move past this sordid episode and focus on the district’s 27,000 students.
There is much work to do. In the most recent student test results, 33 of 46 district schools had declines in their Academic Performance Index, a composite of test scores. Along with Sacramento City Unified, Twin Rivers had the most schools in the region ranked in the bottom 10 percent statewide. The district has also been buffeted by expensive employee lawsuits, a series of highly critical reports by the Sacramento County grand jury and a divisive controversy over an out-of-control school police department.
How can the board hope to overcome all of those hurdles with one of seven trustees in such legal trouble?
While Quinn deserves the presumption of innocence, he passed the point of ineffectiveness long ago. These new charges should remove all doubt. He is accused of accepting $55,000 in illegal loans and gifts from a school district employee and of conspiring to falsify a genetic test when that woman filed a paternity lawsuit. In February, he was fined $14,000 by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for not reporting the loans and cash gifts on financial disclosure forms.
Legally, the trustees can’t force him out, since he has not been convicted of anything. But they can, and should, send a strong signal that he is damaging the district and its students.
They had a chance to deliver that message earlier this year by removing Quinn as board president – a post they elected him to unanimously in July 2012 despite the allegations swirling around him. Instead, they took the easy way out and let him serve out his term, which ended in June.
In looking at the board’s inaction so far, the racial politics at play can’t be ignored. There has been a power struggle ever since Twin Rivers was formed in 2008 from the merger of the Grant Joint Union High School with the North Sacramento, Del Paso and Rio Linda elementary school districts. Quinn, who joined the board in 2007, is the only African American trustee and represents some of the mostly black neighborhoods in the old Grant district.
By now, even his most loyal supporters have to face facts: He can no longer represent them with any credibility. There are others in the community who can replace Quinn and be far more effective advocates. It’s many of the children from those areas who have the most to lose if the district can’t refocus on the classroom.
In a statement Friday, board president Rebecca Sandoval declared again that “what’s best for our students will always come first.” If those words mean anything, trustees know what they must do.