This story was reported jointly as a collaboration between Joe Hong with The Desert Sun and Claudia Buccio with NBC Palm Springs and Univision Palm Springs.
On the afternoon of Aug. 31, a tense meeting was held in a conference room at Coachella Valley High School. A student and his family objected to an F grade he received and the teacher, the principal and an assistant principal all were there to resolve the situation.
Also in attendance: Coachella Valley Unified School District board member Jesus Gonzalez, who represented himself as the student’s uncle.
The student, Gabriel Montoya, 17, along with his older sister and mother were trying to get Spanish teacher Sofia Baltazar to change his failing grade to an A.
Gabriel Montoya had failed Baltazar’s Spanish Literature course, an advanced placement class, the previous semester and wanted his grade changed from an F to an A. Those involved said the meeting quickly devolved into a shouting match.
According to the Montoyas and Gonzalez, Baltazar pointed at Gabriel Montoya and repeatedly called him lazy and a liar. According to Baltazar, Gonzalez repeatedly stated during the meeting, “I’m going to make sure you’re not teaching here anymore.”
Each side denies the other’s accusations. But one thing is certain, according to an investigative report completed by the district: Board member Gonzalez, as an elected official, should not have attended the meeting.
This heated encounter set off a series of events that have led some to accuse the school district of corruption and protecting administrators at the cost of its teachers and students. An internal investigation by the district cited both Baltazar and Gonzalez for misconduct, but left several questions unanswered — which further aroused the ire of the community at the Coachella Valley’s oldest high school.
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Joe Hong is the education reporter for The Desert Sun. Reach him at 760-778-4655 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jjshong5.