Modesto City Schools exec fires back at superintendent

The No. 2 executive at Modesto City Schools is firing back at Superintendent Arturo Flores, saying he manufactured a case against her because she called him on decisions administrators were making that set the district on course for a financial trainwreck.

In her written response to Flores' June 29 review of her performance, Debbe Bailey accuses the superintendent of undermining her authority as deputy superintendent of business and using trivial tiffs to concoct a reason to replace her. Bailey said Flores retaliated against her when she disagreed with his unsound financial decisions, such as overstaffing schools or giving employees raises that cost the district millions as officials were scrambling to cut millions from the budget.

Bailey paints a picture of a first-time superintendent who's in over his head and whose stumbling left district office staff cleaning up his messes.

Because Modesto City Schools officials are in negotiations this week to resolve Bailey's case, they did not comment extensively on her allegations. Flores did say it shows that Bailey has not accepted any responsibility in the dispute.

Bailey gave a copy of her response to The Bee. In it, she says the deputy superintendent of human resources, Chris Flesuras, had a role in "poisoning the well" against her with Flores. Asked to respond, Flesuras said he was not interested in participating in "verbal volleyball."

Flores released e-mails and memos to The Bee last month detailing a power struggle that boiled over in January. Bailey was placed on paid leave April 27. Flores charged that Bailey e-mailed internal information to the teachers union. He also said they could not agree on financial strategy, and that Bailey undermined him to district employees and the public.

Relying on those e-mails and memos led to a performance review of Bailey that was "so lacking in thoroughness and objectivity that it is fatally flawed," she said. She also said his allegations do not take into account other correspondence that would add context, such as phone calls, personal conversations and meetings. She noted her inability to accurately answer many of Flores' accusations because she no longer has access to e-mails or district paperwork to document her case as Flores does.

She says Flesuras, Flores teamed up

Flores has committed his own offenses, Bailey argues. She said Flores undermined her authority. She said Flores charged Flesuras with running some budget sessions even though Flesuras has no knowledge of finance. She asserts that Flores constantly asked Bailey's subordinates for budget answers behind her back.

She also claims that Flores and Flesuras are not comfortable working with women.

One of Flores' decisions that was hard for Bailey to swallow was his intention to "overstaff the K-6 schools by 12 teachers beyond contractual ratios," according to the document. To trim the district's budget earlier this year, officials handed out pink-slip warnings to teachers. Officials hoped to get enough early retirements, but when that didn't happen, the district was looking at a $1 million gap, Bailey writes.

Also, Flores decided to continue with an intervention team's suggestion to offer smaller classes for ninth-grade English and math, even though the team suggested that budget cuts would make that difficult. Maintaining the smaller classes employed more than 17 teachers, Bailey said.

District officials said Wednesday they couldn't lay off teachers because there were still teaching positions open.

Bailey says she was not disloyal to Flores; she said he is paranoid.

She said she did not conspire with the Modesto Teachers Association to undermine the district by providing the union with loaded questions to ask at district meetings; she said she was simply contributing discussion topics as other high-level administrators did.

"The superintendent typically raises and misrepresents such petty issues because there are no issues of substance to support his adverse actions," she wrote.

Loss of institutional knowledge cited

Bailey said Flesuras verbally attacked her and Flores' assistant Pat Nan, and pandered to Flores.

"Through his actions against Ms. Nan and me, (Flesuras) has now found a way to rid himself of the inconvenience of having two people with long experience and knowledge of the district trying to ensure effective administration of the organization and paving the way to meet Mr. Flesuras' goal of being the only deputy superintendent and second in command," Bailey wrote.

Bailey has worked at the district 23 years, eight as deputy superintendent. Nan retired this year after 37 years with the district.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at or 578-2339.

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