Alum Rock Trustee Hit With Restraining Order for Verbally Attacking Superintendent

The superintendent of an embattled East Side San Jose school district has filed a temporary restraining order against a trustee for verbally attacking her during a recent closed-session hearing. Alum Rock Union Elementary School District Superintendent Hilaria Bauer asked the court for the stay-away injunction because, according to court records, trustee Khanh Tran uttered a “credible threat of violence” against her.

Tran—who found out about the legal action when a process server showed up at his house at five-before-7 this morning—scoffs at Bauer’s characterization of his remarks.

“I said I would kick her ass,” he said matter-of-factly. “She’s under investigation, she’s committed crimes and she’s stealing from taxpayers. So yeah, I told her that at the first opportunity I would kick her ass right outside the district.”

After saying he’d kick her ass four to five times, according to folks who witnessed the Aug. 9 exchange, Tran then threatened to put Bauer in front of a firing squad. They say board president (and noted Luis Miguel fan) Esau Herrera reportedly did nothing to stop the browbeating and even chuckled at his colleague’s outburst.

Tran disputes that retelling of events, too.

“I don’t know about that,” he said in a phone call on his way to court, where he submitted a defiant response to Bauer’s petition, which also seeks protection for her husband and adult daughter. “I meant it in general. I said something more along the lines of, ‘Those who are stealing or are criminal should be in front of a firing squad.’ I mean, she’s a criminal, she’s stealing money—that’s crazy, you know what I’m saying? If you’re doing that, you should face a firing squad.”

Here’s the account Tran submitted to the court by way of explanation:

Khanh Tran's rebuttal to Dr. Hilaria Bauer's allegations.

And here’s an email Bauer sent the board today to apprise them of the legal action:

Dear Board Members,

I'd like to share with you that I have requested and been granted a temporary restraining order against Trustee Tran. This restraining order directs Trustee Tran to neither contact me, or my family members or come within 100 yards of us. I made that difficult decision after very troubling and threatening remarks he made against me during our last board meeting during closed session, and considering the very troublesome violent acts against members of the Alum Rock community and my home.

This was a very deeply personal decision reached after consulting with my family.  Although this doesn't involve the district, I want you to know about this. Depending on the final decision, there may be a need to accommodate Trustee Tran during board meetings. I will keep you informed about that. I have done this confidentially, and I am asking you to do the same; although this order is a matter of public record.

Respectfully,
Hilaria Bauer, Ph.D.
Superintendent

Bauer has been on the receiving end of Tran’s onslaughts for the past couple years as the district went through one audit after another that uncovered alarming abuse, including conflicts of interest and potential fraud involving a contractor overseeing hundreds of millions of dollars in school bonds.

As one third of the board’s majority bloc (Herrera and Dolores Marquez being the other two), Tran has firmly defended the contractor, Del Terra Real Estate, despite a criminal probe and blamed Bauer for the district’s problems. Earlier this year, a civil grand jury report called on the so-called “Alum Rock Three” to step down, but the trio has stubbornly held its ground. Tran and Herrera have filed for re-election this fall, which prompted a slew of other candidates to give them a run for their money: Raymond Mueller, Bruce Huynh, Ernesto Bejarano, Linda Chavez, Brenda Zendejas.

Meanwhile, the superintendent, who’s widely respected by families in the district, has kept a low profile and focused on her day-to-day work despite chaos on the board and the resulting media firestorm. She did not return a request for comment.

The meeting where Tran apparently went ballistic took place after the five-member board unanimously voted to remove an item relating to Bauer’s discipline or dismissal from the closed-session agenda. Though the agenda item was nixed, Tran still spoke about Bauer’s performance, calling her insubordinate, among other things.

While Herrera allegedly laughed at Tran’s tirade, sources say trustees Andres Quintero and Karen Martinez tried to make him stop. Martinez reported the incident to the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office and Bauer, on the advice of her attorney, immediately asked the court for protection.

Quintero, who declined to comment on the details of Tran’s closed-session conniption, said he’s appalled but, sadly, not at all surprised by his behavior.

“Unfortunately, given the pattern that’s we’ve seen in the past, I’m not surprised that it reached this level,” said the first-term trustee, who says he’s running for another term help pull the district out of this mess. “We’ve been in chaos for quite some time.”

Trustee candidate Mueller expressed similar dismay.

“There is a pattern of bullying and cronyism that  permeates many school boards,” he said upon hearing the news. “The culture of violent communication and antisocial behavior is not acceptable in our boardroom any more than in our classrooms.”

The court order Tran got first thing this morning summons him to a Sept. 11 hearing—just two days before the board’s next monthly meeting. If the judge grants Bauer’s request to have Tran stay a certain number of yards away from her, that would force him to teleconference in for future meetings.

Tran called the restraining order, which prevents him from coming within 100 yards of Bauer and her family, a desperate gambit.

“She’s just messing around with the law,” he said. “She’s committing perjury. She’s using something that’s designed to protect people, to protect innocent people from violent offenders. This isn’t supposed to be a political tool. I mean, think about all the women who are beaten up, and the kids or families who are beaten up, and how she’s doing this just because she’s on the defensive and knows she’s wrong. She’s abusing the system.”

Though Tran said he’s ambivalent about the stay-away order and that he’d actually embrace it if the court made it mutual, he came off as a tad petulant.

“I honestly don’t give a shit,” he said. “I don’t want to see her either.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the News Editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

16 Comments

  1. Khanh Tran admits his guilt in the matter. Awesome.
    Please Alum Rock, don’t re-elect this madman.

    The District’s previous lawyer investigated the matter he’s referring to
    and determined that the only wrong-doing was the Board itself approving the
    emergency contract (fire repair services) without the necessary number of votes.
    The Superintendent has done nothing wrong and everybody knows it.
    Tran keeps going back to this matter like a moth to a flame. He has no credibility
    and nobody in Alum Rock trusts this guy. The sooner he’s gone, the better.

    And the FPPC investigation was filed by a person with the same name as someone who
    works in the Leal & Trejo (the Board’s attorney)’s office. Imagine that, the law firm that
    we (Alum Rock taxpayers) are paying for is filing complaints against our Superintendent.

    This is about as low as it gets and I think Tran is done.

    Jeff Markham

  2. Ugh! I am an employee within the Alum Rock school district. We’re all so tired of this never-ending drama. When are we going to move on from this chaos created by Tran and his two buddies, and start focusing our full attention on what really matters? Our students should be the board’s number one priority. Thank you, Karen and Andres, for working on behalf of our students!

  3. I know many useful and valuable things.
    But I have NO IDEA how to save public education from this clown show.

    It’s “democracy’, folks. If the voters are clueless, inattentive idiots who think the government is going to give them free things and take care of them, this is what you can expect.

    Somehow, I think “progressives” will not be as discouraged as I am. I predict they will eagerly offer up the traditional REAL PROGRESSIVE SOLUTIONS:

    SPEND MORE MONEY!!!

  4. Many, many months ago (more than a year ) during my public comment at a board meeting, I touched on how the antics of this guy and rest of “The Alum Rock 3” were “…akin to a domestic violence relationship…” (my full comments from that night are below) Well, here we are, all these months later, and this is how it is playing out…..That is why I am now the Candidate with the experience, the plan, and the integrity to get our district headed back in the right direction! It’s time for a change… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeP7a-3X-wM

    ARUSD School Board Meeting – July 13, 2017 – Ernesto Bejarano Public Comment

    “The gross incompetence of the majority of this body is inexcusable. The basic, rudimentary errors in protocol and procedure while conducting official business representing our children is mind boggling. The only explanations that I can fathom for this level of ineptitude are incompetence, a lack of understanding of the concepts of professionalism and ethics, or prioritizing personal and political gain over the needs of our children.

    Our district does not have the power of big money or big name influences, but we do have the most powerful tool of all, the power of community. Over the past several years IN SPITE OF the inefficiency and political grandstanding of certain members of this board, who everyone in here can identify, Dr. Bauer has provided TRUE leadership and has stood as a genuine champion for our children. She has built trust across cultures within a community that in reality has little reason to put faith in this process. For this and her high degree of competence, we stand unequivocally behind her. I am not alone when I say that those who would consider her dismissal, or ANYTHING that would derail the progress that she has made and the stability that she provides have declared an assault on our children. I GUARANTEE that WE, THIS COMMUNITY, WILL NOT FORGET THIS FAILURE, should it occur, at THE BALLOT BOX! Just as you are evaluating her, WE ARE EVALUATING YOU

    When members of this body blame staff and community for their own CLEAR errors and lack of performance, or threaten them for voicing their opinion, then something is wrong. These behaviors are akin to a domestic violence relationship, where the perpetrator blames the victim so as not to take responsibility for their own inadequacies, and to further support their power and control over the victim.

    It is time for you to go!”

    #ernestob4arusd #TheChoiceForChange #AlumRock #ARUSD #EastSanJose #EastSanJoseMatters

    • > The only explanations that I can fathom for this level of ineptitude are incompetence, a lack of understanding of the concepts of professionalism and ethics, or prioritizing personal and political gain over the needs of our children.

      Ernesto:

      I think these are really symptoms that arise from the more fundamental problem: TOO MANY COOKS!

      This is a FUNDAMENTAL problem of public education. EVERY whackadoodle backbench legislator in Sacramento has a say in what goes on an Alum Rock classroom. Every education bureaucrat in Sacramento or Santa Clara County has a say. The CTA has a say. The parent organization has a say. Plus, there are endless numbers of political demagogues and activist butt-in-skis eager to have THEIR political agenda somehow grafted on to the “educational process”: global warmers; immigration rightists; gun controllers; bike lane kooks; Democratic Socialists; on and on.

      Public education is fatally infected with a massive overgrowth of incurable political viruses.

      There is no human way to make things right.

      Time to pull your children out, take to the lifeboats, and scuttle the ship.

      And start over.

      Investing ANY more energy or effort into public education is a lost cause.

      • @SAN JOSE OUTSIDE THE BUBBLE, with regards to your comment “The only explanations that I can fathom for this level of ineptitude are incompetence, a lack of understanding of the concepts of professionalism and ethics, or prioritizing personal and political gain over the needs of our children.”, I believe you hit the nail on the head and are 100% correct. You don’t have to be exposed to some of these people for too long to see that what you fathomed is accurate, but trust me, if you see these behaviors in real time month after month, year after year as I have, the magnitude and severity of the ineptitude is even more striking! (and frankly, embarassing)

        Specific to your thoughts on “too many cooks”, I think that it is important for a board member to consider the input of all of these “cooks” (parents, unions, community partners, etc.) and then determine the veracity, credibility, and value of their claims or statements in his or her decision making process. The input from these “cooks” should “color” the decision making process, but should not be the sole factors for how decisions are made. A board member is charged with making a sound decision that considers all of these points of input, but also must use critical thinking, strategic vision, fiscal responsibility, etc. to make decisions that are in the best interest of children and their education. You are not going to please everyone all of the time, but your decisions should always be well thought out and have some justifiable rationale as their basis.

        Finally, in terms of pulling our children out and starting over, I can say that as someone who is PROUDLY from East San Jose and has invested most of my life into the well being of this community, running away is not typically something we do. Sometimes we stick with things because we simply do not have any other resources or options, usually connected with socioeconomic realities. However, there is also a “spirit” in ESSJ that is resilient and drives us to confront the challenges we face, head on. I know this spirit is hard to see from the outside when you look at crime statistics, educational outcomes, etc., but it is here. And it is for this reason that I have decided to run for a seat on this board and do what I can to confront this chaos head on. It remains to be see how successful I/we will be, but I am not going out without drawing on my “East Side Spirit” to put up a fight!

        In any case, I appreciate the dialogue…..

        • > Finally, in terms of pulling our children out and starting over, I can say that as someone who is PROUDLY from East San Jose and has invested most of my life into the well being of this community, running away is not typically something we do.

          Well, then, DON’T look at it as running away. Look at is as building the education solution that NEEDS TO BE BUILT.

          The existing public education is a dead stinking corpse on “life support”. As proud and spirited as you may be, you’re not helping the situation by giving a blood transfusion to a corpse. You’re just wasting your blood.

          If you’re never seen it, I recommend to you the famous Monty Python “Parrot Sketch”. You can pretend the parrot isn’t dead, but sooner or later the customer is going to notice.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vuW6tQ0218

  5. It’s SCC gone wild!
    Check out the abominable student academic achievement results for the Alum Rock School District at http://sipbigpicture.com! Who is looking out for the children and families? Parents are leaving this clown show district in droves! Can you blame them?

  6. Yes, Bill, many students leave the district and they head for the charter schools. However, in all fairness, an overwhelming number of our enrolled students are leaving because they are moving out of the Bay Area due to unaffordable housing (NOT because it’s a “clown show district”). I have taught in the district for nearly two decades and, despite the chaos surrounding the board, there are many great things happening in Alum Rock. I am proud to be an Alum Rock teacher!

  7. Sounds like everyone running this dysfunctional school district is acting immature and unprofessional and unable to focus on viable and important goals, objectives and priorities. Proves wrong assertions that “local control” is best for any government body. SCV Water District is another example.

  8. what’s unfortunate about this is what details will be lost in the mix.

    a temporary restraining order is granted without notice to the person who made the alleged threats. so, this person says I was granted the order like this is an some sort of fairly decided process not you pay the filing fee we give you the order

    if she’s really scared, why not call the cops rather than waiting around?

  9. We need to remove politicians out of that district and put parents ,community members that care, and teachers.We can not allow for people to use our District as a stepping stone for their political career. We need to be watchful of those that run and make sure they do not continue to abuse our district. Read about candidates their history will say it all. Like Tran many ran for congress failed and only continue to sit because they block the way for others to run.. Herrera ran for assembly and so did Quintero both lost. They are still In alum rock and they need to all go I have lived here 44 years and we need a change. We need people with ethics and morals and that will do it for me. No more suits and tie men who sell us a story. If we get the same clowns next step remove all kids until they are out.

  10. Khanh Tran may have good intention in trying to fix the broken and corruptive system. However, his language used is abusive and not acceptable anywhere especially in the education environment where kids are at stakes. Khanh Tran should resign, and the new board should start investing in the new Superintendent.
    The losers in this circus are our children and their future!

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