News: Delgado Loses Civil Court Case

Photo Credit: Annalise Deal

Manuel E. Delgado Jr. versus the Sequoia Union High School District case was held at the San Mateo County Superior court over the course of the last month, finishing on December 4th. The verdict was in favor of the District.

After 28 days of examination, the civil court case Manuel E. Delgado v. Sequoia Union High School District has come to a close, with the jury deciding in favor of the Sequoia Union High School District.

M-A teacher Manuel Delgado initially filed a complaint against the District in 2010, detailing medical conditions that compromised his ability to teach certain classes and requesting accommodations for his diabetes and anxiety.

The two parties supposedly reached a settlement in October of 2011, but Delgado ultimately refused to sign and a trial was set to begin Oct. 15, 2012.

Delgado was hired in 1997 to teach computer classes. Like many other teachers, he acquired additional credentials after several years of teaching. After notifying the school of his new math credential, which gives the district the ability to assign him math classes up to the level of Pre-Calculus, he was assigned to teach these courses.

According to Delgado’s complaint, he was “in no way attaining a math credential to become a full-time math teacher.” However, he is currently teaching five sections of Algebra I and no computer classes.

Court evidence cited that because of his medical conditions, Delgado’s physician “thought it would be beneficial to minimize his number of math teaching assignments predominantly involving students who test below basic or far below basic.” Yet the following school year, he was assigned double the amount of classes of that nature than the previous year.

However, Delgado went on to state that “[his complaint] is not an issue of disability but of credentialing.”

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources David Reilly clarified under examination that “there are no credentials that specify what type of students he can teach.”

While Delgado had argued that he should be teaching computer classes because he had originally been hired to do so in 1997, Reilly qualified that Delgado “does not have tenure to teach computers exclusively.” Additionally, he explained that current students have been “raised in the digital age,” and many computer classes are no longer necessary, unless they are specialized courses such as Web Design or Video Production, none of which Delgado is credentialed to teach.

While Delgado did receive tenure following his 1997 hiring, his ability to continue to display a high level of teaching ability has since been questioned.

Because of the nature of the classes he was assigned, Delgado accused Principal Matthew Zito of retaliating, and according to court evidence, at one point felt his job was unfairly in jeopardy. Additionally, the administration denied Delgado the option of a self-evaluation, usually given to tenured teachers, for the annual assessment of teacher performance.

After being denied self-evaluation in 2009, Delgado later received an unsatisfactory administrative evaluation. He was then placed in the PAR program, a staff peer-advisor program designed to improve the teaching style and ability of teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations. Retired Deputy Superintendent Dr. Francisca Miranda, who testified in the case, stated that the district spent an estimated 10,000 dollars to put him through the PAR process.

Reilly also observed a pattern of Delgado “complaining to the district, the district accommodating to his needs, and then Delgado furthering his requests.” For example, Delgado submitted a doctor’s note stating that he needed to be in a classroom with close proximity to a staff restroom for medical reasons. The administration granted this request, placing him in a C-wing classroom across from a staff restroom. Delgado then asked for a single-occupancy restroom, something his physician’s note never specified. It seemed to Reilly that Delgado was vying specifically for room F-14, the school-wide computer lab.

Reilly and the administration continually offered to reconsider his request if they had an official physician’s note or the permission to speak directly to his doctor. Delgado refused, explaining that he felt he had “badgered [his doctors]” in the past.

Delgado’s non-compliance with Reilly’s request to be in direct contact with his doctors created confusion, as it became clear that “there was a discrepency in how we were interpreting the physician’s note,” said Reilly.

The extensive trial has caused Delgado to be absent for over a month, causing frustration in his Algebra I classes. The jury ultimately decided in favor of the Sequoia Union High School District on Tuesday, Dec. 4, and Delgado was not awarded any damages or other compensation.