HAYWARD -- Once again, long-running tensions among Hayward school board members boiled over at a meeting this week, with members interrupting, talking over each other and then abruptly ending the meeting.
"I would like to extend an apology to those of you who came," board president Jesus Armas said to the audience after the meeting was adjourned. As he was speaking, board member William McGee, who had walked out after the adjournment vote, shouted from a conference room, "Then let the agenda be correct!"
Wednesday's blowup was just the latest confrontation on the divided board. Board member Luis Reynoso has clashed repeatedly with Armas since Armas, a former city manager, was appointed to the board in 2010. At that time, Reynoso objected to the appointment because Armas' wife works for the district.
Already this year, the board has been split over the reinstating of a principal, with Reynoso and McGee voting against the action. On Wednesday, the point of contention involved the board's revamping of its policy about meeting notices and its bylaws.
"You are being very condescending," Reynoso said to Armas during the meeting. "You're failing. In the future, I would like to bring up a vote of no confidence in the president."
On Thursday, Armas said, "This is typical Luis. He likes to throw firebombs, and he never worries about acting in a responsible way. He seems to be on a mission to discredit me in any way possible."
At the board's July 25 meeting, Reynoso demanded that Armas respond to a report on an Internet site that the board president has had an improper relationship with another board member, Maribel Heredia. And after Wednesday's meeting, McGee said everyone of the board has been distracted by the allegations.
Armas, asked to respond to the allegation Thursday, said, "I'm not going to engage in that. My responsibility is that we focus on the business of the district."
Heredia said Thursday she has never said anything personal about another board member, and her focus is on the students. "Mr. Reynoso and Mr. McGee seem to want to be in a bad episode of the 'Jerry Springer Show,'" she said.
"The board is very divided because of Mr. Reynoso's actions," Heredia said.
The turmoil comes as the district grapples with continuing financial problems. A critical 2011 grand jury report said trustees had been reluctant to make difficult decisions since 2006, when Hayward Unified regained fiscal autonomy after county financial experts helped it out of a budget crisis.
Janey Edwards, president of Hayward High School Parent Teacher Student Association, said the board has made great progress in dealing with difficult challenges, many created because of previous administrations' mismanagement. She had nothing but praise for the board.
She credits the board with getting a bond passed to renovate or rebuild five schools. "I can't say enough about how proud I am of our new schools. And they came in under budget," she said.
Board member Lisa Brunner said the district is in better financial shape than in the past. "We've been positively certified since 2011. We're in good shape financially relative to other districts," she said, adding that all schools are facing funding challenges.
But she acknowledged the tension on the board, which she says goes back years.
Frank Goulart, a longtime resident, also expressed concern about drama at the board's meetings. "I like the way Reynoso is hard on issues, but I don't like the way he is hard on people," he said.
Reynoso, Armas and Heredia all are up for re-election in November. Reynoso and Armas both have taken out papers, but had not completed their filings as of 5 p.m. Friday. Heredia has not filed.
"I'm upset, maybe a little angry, that we're not focusing on the students," Brunner said. "All the good things we're doing are being overshadowed by personalities."
Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473 or follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.