There were two things that drew me to Thursday’s meeting of the Escondido Union School District Board of Education meeting. First, I was curious to see the reception Jose Fragozo would get after the restraining order against him was lifted. This was covered in the UT: http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/mar/25/restraining-order-lifted-against-escondido-school/ , and more completely in the Escondido Grapevine: http://escondidograpevine.com/2016/03/25/eusd-denied-restraining-order-against-trustee-jose-fragozo-breaking/
Second the Agenda Item 301 “Conduct a public hearing on a request for a material revision to the Heritage K-8 Charter School petition…” caught my attention.
When Fragozo entered the board room, he was cheered by his supporters in the audience.
The meeting began with the usual recognition of outstanding students from two schools, Felicita and Pioneer, a very cheerful beginning. Also recognized were outstanding students that are enrolled in EUSD’s independent studies program, AKA home-schooling.
After that cheerful beginning, the atmosphere of the meeting rapidly darkened into gloom. Board President Joan Gardner noted that she had many speaker requests under Public Comments and more requests to speak on an agenda item, and that the Board had not been able to complete their closed session agenda, and would have to meet in closed session again after the regular meeting, therefore she would limit the speakers to two minutes each rather than the usual three minutes. Actually, her statement was not completed in one simple sentence, she was interrupted and booed after imposing the two minute rule, and told that it was her job when she lamented how late the board would have to work that night. She then read from the bylaws that stated her ability to limit total public comment to twenty minutes, and to clear the board room if the audience didn’t behave. Her comments did not go over well. It seemed to me that Gardner and Chris Garnier of the National Action Network, and others in the audience, spent about thirty minutes arguing about the length of time each speaker could speak.
There were ten speakers under Public Comments. Among them was a middle school teacher who complained that there was a girl in her class who bragged about how easily she had been able get a teacher dismissed, and the teacher was afraid to discipline the girl for fear of dismissal. Another, a parent of a middle school girl, complained that her complaints about the abuse her daughter had received from a teacher had gone unheard. Sounds like an administration problem.
Nina Deerfield reminded the Board that Past President Paulette Donnellon had sent a letter to around twenty thousand parents that Fragozo had been issued a restraining order, when, in fact, it was a temporary order that was now lifted. The Board needed to send another letter to those parents exonerating Fragozo. Now, she had heard, the Board, other than Fragozo, were considering cutting kindergarten classes to half days. It would seem, Deerfield went on, eighty percent of the EUSD Board wanted regular public schools to fail so they could divert more taxpayer money into charter schools. Donnellon, she noted had accepted money from the California Charter Schools Association in her campaign for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Education.
Kim Garnier also said the Board should send another letter to parents. She called for a recall of Gardner. Her husband, Chris Garnier, advised the Board to cease their relationship with the Stutz Artiano Shinoff and Holtz law firm they had hired to proceed against Fragozo, noting that the law firm’s recent record was less than stellar. (see http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/mar/16/shinoff-suspended-jpa-sdcoe-malpratice-bar/ and http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/attorneys-flee-go-to-schools-lawyers-firm-as-his-hold-on-education-market-slips/ )
The last one to speak under Public Comments was from Fragozo’s son, John Fragozo. Fragozo stood by his son as he read. John Fragozo noted that his father had received no apology, and no remediation for the slanderous letter sent to parents. He ended by expressing his father’s hope that the Board members could forget past animosities and work together for good of EUSD schools.
Agenda Item 301 requires a blog of its own, so…to be continued.