MARICOPA — The remainder of a state hearing over the alleged misconduct of a former Sequoia Pathway Academy principal and current Edkey administrator has been called off after Alfonso Alva agreed to give up his certificates.
Alva’s case in front of the Arizona Board of Education’s Professional Practices Advisory Committee, which began June 22, was scheduled to resume July 22. At the end of the hearing, PPAC was to decide whether to recommend taking action against Alva’s certifications and to forward that recommendation to the board to decide during its meeting on Friday.
However, according to the agenda for Friday’s meeting, Alva voluntarily surrendered his certificates on June 29, thus negating the need to hold the second day of the hearing. On Friday, the Board of Education will decide whether to accept the surrender of all Alva’s certificates, as recommended by its staff. The item is listed under the consent agenda, meaning there will be no discussion on the decision unless a member of the board moves it to the regular portion.
Under consideration will be Alva’s Standard Professional Principal Certificate, Standard Professional Superintendent Certificate and Standard Professional Elementary Certificate. All these certificates actually expired in January, with renewal pending the outcome of the hearing. Should the board accept the surrender, “all states and territories” would be notified.
Alva did not respond to PinalCentral’s request for comment. However, Mark Plitzuweit, the CEO of Pathway’s parent company Edkey, said Alva will continue to serve as the company’s assistant superintendent of school operations, and that his job responsibilities will not be affected by the loss of his certificates. The only change will be the addition of another assistant superintendent to help “alleviate his workload” following the growth in Edkey’s student population.
He also stood by his belief that Alva had done nothing to warrant punishment beyond a written warning issued by Edkey after the allegations took place.
The allegations center on a complaint filed with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools in 2019 by numerous Pathway employees and students describing Alva’s reign as principal as filled with emotional abuse and conduct inappropriate for a school administrator. That complaint, as described in a PinalCentral story in 2019, eventually led to a rift in the school that caused many teachers to leave their jobs.
After the charter board determined it did not have the jurisdiction to act on the complaint, Kim Anderson from the Arizona Attorney General’s Office took over the case and brought it in front of PPAC based largely on the complaints of former teacher Trecia Koozer and former student Paris Jones. Former teacher Juan Garavito provided corroborating testimony.
Koozer and Garavito described several instances where Alva made inappropriate remarks about Koozer’s appearance, sometimes in front of students. Koozer also said Alva seemed to get enjoyment out of harassing her about her faith and whether drinking coffee is acceptable.
Jones then testified in front of the committee about the many occasions Alva would comment on her relationship with a baseball player and how he had seen the boyfriend hanging out with prettier girls than her. Jones said she was present when Alva asked one of her friends, “Why are you wearing such tight clothes? Who are you trying to impress?”
In a statement to PinalCentral, Koozer, who is now teaching at a different school, said the inappropriate behavior that came out during the hearings was “just the tip of the iceberg” when compared to everything else he did while at Pathway.
“I am disheartened, but not surprised, that Mr. Plitzuweit will continue to employ Dr. Alva,” she said. “However, my job was merely to tell my story and help young girls and a school campus have a voice. Any decisions made thereafter are above my pay grade. I am incredibly proud of several current and past employees and students who persevered through a lengthy and brutal process to be heard.
“The noble character of those who put their own comforts aside to see changes made in an organization that seemed untouchable was impressive and evident. These educators went to work every day for all the right reasons: to advocate for students and teach them to advocate for themselves. I will take this as a small victory, and the closest thing to justice we may get.”
Alva was scheduled to testify during the second day of hearings but never did because it was called off. However, the line of questioning from his attorneys toward the complainants, along with Plitzuweit’s testimony, sought to portray Koozer and Jones as sources of problems on campus. This was part of what Plitzuweit described as a campus atmosphere where it was Pathway people actively working to undermine Edkey people.
When asked by PinalCentral what he was doing as CEO to make the Pathway campus less confrontational, Plitzuweit said, “The relationships will continue to develop under new leadership at the campus level, along with the addition of the new assistant superintendent.”
Jones said she was stunned by the line of questioning Alva’s attorneys took with her, which included trying to label her as a “drama queen” and violator of the school dress code. That line of questioning was thrown out by the committee.
“The questions were super inappropriate,” Jones said. “Those questions literally have nothing to do with anything that happened to me or what happened to other students. I’m glad they got dismissed, but the fact they had the nerve to ask me that, it just seemed like they were going to their last resort. They had no other way to make a liar out of me.”
Jones said she was also taken aback when she listened to Plitzuweit’s testimony, which painted her as a problem case at Pathway, which he said was the only reason he knew who she was. That came as a surprise to her, since she was the student body president, the senior class president, in the National Honor Society, a teacher aide and had good grades.
Plitzuweit told PinalCentral that despite the defense’s tactics to label the complainants as the problem, he isn’t worried that staff and students will be hesitant to come forward in the future.
“Edkey Inc. still, and has always had, an open door policy, and a procedure for filing grievances if necessary,” he said. “I stand by the Edkey Inc. human resources department on making the appropriate determinations in every investigation.”
Despite all this, Jones said she remains happy that she came forward with her story and that she put a name and face to the issues students and staff faced at Pathway during Alva’s time there. She hopes to be an inspiration for other vulnerable students, especially girls, who feel they don’t have a voice when they know something is wrong. She said those students will be faced with adversity as she was, being told by administrators that they are liars, but that the truth will come out.
As for whether Edkey will learn anything from this experience, Jones has her doubts.
“Even with all our complaints to Edkey, to the state charter board, to HR, there was nothing we could do because Edkey wasn’t protecting its administrators, its teachers or its students,” Jones said. “They were protecting Dr. Alva.”