Jose Cantu, a former Lamont administrator who resigned his position after community members discovered that he falsified his employment contract by lying about his lack of administrative credentials, has returned to a line of work he knows a thing or two about: contract negotiations.
Cantu served as a bargaining specialist with the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office before taking a job as assistant superintendent with Lamont Elementary School District in 2012, then left his administrator position after The Californian uncovered that he was working without an administrative credential — a requirement for the job.
But while he was there, he negotiated a $20,000 pay raise for himself the same day he advocated for the elimination of four intern teaching positions, citing budget constraints. Labor relations experts said he entered into an agreement he knew to be breached, flawed and left the district open to lawsuits. None were ever filed.
Since leaving, Cantu has gone to work as an independent contractor, negotiating with district bargaining units alongside his former supervisor at KCSOS, Carl Lange. He secured a contract with a Taft school district this year, and could clinch another contract worth $15,000 at the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District next month.
Board members were set to make that decision Tuesday, but tabled the item because of a policy restricting board members from voting on contracts exceeding $15,000 without more than a month’s prior notice.
Cantu and Lange were not at the meeting and could not be reached by press time.
If approved next month, Cantu would have a seat at the bargaining table for no more than three contracts that are up for negotiation this year. He worked with Panama for a couple of years, advising them on contract matters before heading to Lamont, Assistant Superintendent Gerrie Kincaid said.
Despite Cantu’s past, Panama Superintendent Kevin Silberberg said Tuesday that he has no hesitations hiring the former administrator.
“When he worked for our district in the past, it was a stellar existence. He has proper credentials for this and he helped Panama in the area of human resources, and he’s available,” Silberberg said.
Cantu has experience in that field. He worked for KCSOS’ Schools Legal Service bargaining benefits, salary and concessions for school boards and administrative teams for three years, and in 2011 negotiated the first contract in California that linked student academic achievement to teacher evaluations, according to Cantu’s resume, which was obtained by The Californian.
While at Schools Legal Service, Cantu became the go-to guy for teachers who were preparing to retire. Cantu provided retirement advice and direction in that field.
"I've heard a great deal about Jose Cantu and his work with teachers. As bargaining chair, i look forward to working with him in the future should his contract be approved," Panama-Buena Vista Teachers Association Bargaining Chair Lauri Heffernan said.
Panama’s Trustee President Keith Wolaridge wouldn’t comment when asked whether he would weigh Cantu’s contract falsification into his decision to hire Cantu next month and said the board would use the next 30 days to do its due diligence. Silberberg said he hadn’t looked into the details of Cantu’s departure from Lamont when asked the same question.
“I know he had a great past record,” Silberberg said.