By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Blossie Marquez is a bitch. It was Marquez who this past spring spat out, "I can't, with a clear conscience, vote for this trash" when she joined fellow trustees Judy Ahrens and Helena Rutkowski in rejecting state-mandated anti-discrimination language in the Westminster School District charter. It's Marquez who berates parents who address her board. And now it's Marquez who is threatening to sue a Westminster mom for alleging the trustee may have lied about her higher education.
The mother in Marquez's crosshairs is Mary Mangold, whose daughter enters kindergarten at Eastwood Elementary School on Wednesday. Mangold says she first became suspicious of the trustee's claim of holding bachelor's and master's degrees after Marquez acted like, well, a bitch in scuttling a required phrase in the district charter aimed at protecting transgendered students and employees. The board's split decision to reject that language nearly cost the district millions in state grants and provoked threats of a takeover by the state.
"[Marquez] didn't strike me as college-educated or someone who could make decisions analytically," says Mangold, a Norwalk schoolteacher. "I wanted to know how she and the other trustees made such an uneducated decision. I had also heard that Blossie was bragging about being a doctoral candidate, so I began doing research."
Mangold obtained a copy of Marquez's 2000 application for a vacancy on the Westminster school board. Under "Education," Marquez wrote that she received bachelor's and master's degrees in theology (emphasis in counseling) from the United Congregational Church Southern California Graduate School of Theology (SCGST) in Fresno. What caught Mangold's attention, however, was information Marquez gave the League of Women Voters for a 2002 election guide. Marquez's blurb stated that she possessed bachelor's and master's degrees and was a doctoral candidate but listed no schools. And papers later filed with the Registrar of Voters for Marquez's re-election bid mentioned no educational credentials.
Curious, Mangold called Marquez repeatedly at the Westminster district offices seeking clarification for the discrepancies. When Marquez failed to return messages, Mangold aired her concerns at Westminster board meetings. On Aug. 5, Marquez finally responded, snarling to Mangold in public, "I don't have to explain anything to you. Okay?"
Contacted by the Weekly, Marquez was equally bitchy. She returned a phone call for comment by yelling without pause, then hung up before I could get out a question. In subsequent e-mails, Marquez threatened to sue both Mangold and me. "I will not prove to you or anyone else who wants to know," Marquez wrote. "My degrees are hanging on my wall in my home, and that's final. Any more questions regarding this matter will be turned over to my legal adviser—DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"
A Weekly investigation into Marquez's educational past, however, only produced more questions. She claims that in 1996, she graduated from the Cottonwood Christian Center School of Ministry in Los Alamitos and finished her education at the Southern California Graduate School of Theology two years later. That would seem to indicate she obtained her bachelor's from Cottonwood and her master's from the grad school. But Cottonwood only offers an associate of Biblical studies degree. And SCGST shut down in 2002.
Neither Cottonwood nor SCGST had ever been accredited with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of two governing bodies in charge of accrediting academic degrees given in California. The other governing body, the California Bureau for Private Post-Secondary and Vocational Education (BPPSVE), does not accredit Cottonwood, but it did recognize SCGST before its closure.
Weeklyefforts to locate further information on the school proved fruitless. Officials at various Fresno civic entities had never heard of SCGST. The last phone number on file for the school with the California Franchise Tax Board is disconnected.
Records show a school with that name was once known as the United Evangelical Free Church of Fresno. An Evangelical Free Church exists in Fresno, but a spokeswoman for the 55-year-old church had not heard of SCGST nor a UnitedEvangelical Free Church, "and I've been with this community for over 20 years," she said.
When pressed further, Marquez conceded she holds no "secular" degrees from "secular" colleges, only ministerial. She then added, "Having graduated from any college is not a prerequisite for a seat with the Westminster School District."
That is beside the point, says Mangold.
"As teachers, we spend up to nine years getting our credentials," says Mangold, who holds bachelor's and master's degrees and a teaching credential. "If any of my degrees were false, I would be fired on the spot. My third graders can't lie in my classroom. Why should public officials not be held to that same standard?"