Students demand to know how money is spent by Montebello school district

MONTEBELLO, Calif. (KABC) -- Students from multiple high schools in the Montebello Unified School District walked out of class Thursday and marched to the district office to protest the financially troubled institution.

The planned protest is in response to a $17 million budget cut the district faces, which has resulted in laying off 468 employees - most of whom are teachers.

"We are demanding financial transparency. We want to know where our money is going. We want to know what they're doing with it before it gets spent," organizer Jorge Salazar said. "We also want the state of California to come in and conduct their own state forensic audit. We don't want to be lied to."

Salazar went on to say the district is corrupt and has spent money unnecessarily. Demonstrators demanded to know why the teachers were laid off.

In response to the protest, the district issued a statement saying, in part, that it was "disappointed that some special interests have encouraged our students to participate in a walkout today in a deliberate attempt to influence the board in its discussions over a challenging budget."

The statement went to say that while students are encouraged to participate in the political process, district officials hope students examine the issues properly when addressing them.

"Unfortunately, the flyer circulated among our students calling for the walkout was purposely filled with incorrect and inaccurate information," the statement said.

Employees within the district and community members have been accusing the district of corruption. The claims stem from the hiring of Ruben Rojas as the district's chief business officer and the lay offs.

In January, Rojas was hired as the business officer by then-Superintendent Susanna Contreras Smith. Former district employees told the Whittier Daily News that Smith worked around the normal hiring process to give Rojas the job.

It was later discovered that he provided false information on his resume for five of the six jobs he claimed to have previously held. The authenticity of two of his letters of recommendation were also questioned, according to the Whittier Daily News.

On Wednesday, two state Assembly members and a Senate member sent a letter to the district informing them of an audit request of the district that would be done by the state's Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

The district plans to hold a board meeting Thursday evening, and students said they will be there protesting.
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