Former Rio superintendent arrested again

Rio School District’s former superintendent, Sherianne Cotterell, has been charged with shoplifting for the second time in as many years, this time in Salt Lake City.

“This reaffirms the action we took,” Rio School Board President Eleanor Torres said Monday afternoon, referring to the board’s March decision to fire Cotterell. “She is no longer a part of this district, so the things that she does should not be a part of what the Rio District is.”

Cotterell was booked into Salt Lake County’s jail on Aug. 9 on a charge of suspected retail left, bailing out the next day for $555, according to Detective Mike Hamideh of the Salt Lake City Police Deptartment. She has pleaded not guilty to the charge and is scheduled for an Oct. 3 pretrial hearing.

Hamideh said officers were called to Dan’s Foods, a grocery store whose employees had followed Cotterell outside after she refused to cooperate with them and return to the store. Officers determined Cotterell had purchased some items but also had $94.97 worth of unpurchased cosmetic items in her purse, Hamideh said.

News of the arrest prompted local radio personality David Cruz, whose program has a following among Rio’s mainly Latino parents, to break into normal music programming to discuss it.

“If this incident doesn’t show the need for us to separate from the past, I don’t know what will,” said Cruz.

Cotterell is already on probation for a July 2009 shoplifting arrest at the T.J. Maxx store in Oxnard. In April 2010, Cotterell pleaded no contest to petty theft and was sentenced to 36 months probation with a one-day jail sentence suspended.

That arrest and Cotterell’s long-standing feud with teachers, which fueled the election of new board members in November 2010, factored into her dismissal in March.

Cotterell has challenged her termination with a lawsuit, claiming the board violated the Brown Act by not giving her notice of the meeting at which Torres and trustees Ramon Rodriguez and Henrietta Macias voted to exercise the “no-cause” termination clause of Cotterell’s contract.

Trustee Tim Blaylock voted not to fire her; trustee Mike Barber was unable to attend the special meeting but had a statement of opposition read. The board has since hired Hamilton to fill in temporarily while it searches for a permanent replacement.

Despite being fired, Cotterell has made efforts to remain a voice in the district, most recently weighing in with an Aug. 27 Op-Ed in the Ventura County Star.

“Keep standing up for your children. Unless you do, politics and personal vendettas will continue to control the agenda and children’s best interests will come last ,” wrote Cotterell.

But on Monday afternoon, Rodriguez said that fears the board might drop the program were unfounded and that the issue “has been blown way out of proportion.”

“I won’t be surprised if it gets approved,” when the agreement comes back to the board for a vote in October, said Rodriguez.