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Comments at Special Meeting for Censure – April 6, 2023

April 6, 2023

I have not updated this website in some time, nor posted on the blog. But I prepared and read a statement at our special meeting today in support of a censure of a colleague, and wanted to get it on the record.


  • The annual training conference for school board members in California is always held in late November or early December, before any elections are officially certified or brand new board members are sworn in. This year’s conference was in San Diego, and while all board members are encouraged to attend, not all choose to take four or five days out of their personal schedule without compensation, even though direct expenses are reimbursed. The conference consists mostly of training sessions, including an extra day to help brand new board members figure out what their job is.
  • Evening social events, like the one where this incident arose, are by design a trust building environment. They encourage casual social mixing and frequent one on one discussions between board members or senior employees about issues in the district that will have to be addressed in the year ahead.
  • When new people come onboard an organization, there is a double moral obligation. If an experienced employee takes a new employee aside and gives background, such as where hidden controversies may be, the experienced employee who does this has stuck his neck out a bit. He’s done a favor and the new employee is supposed to return a favor by withholding judgment and not intentionally embarrassing the one who shared. That’s the informal deal. When this doesn’t happen, the new employee is more apt to make mistakes and embarrass themselves or the group. Picture the newest person in *your* organization. Would you want to help the newbie or snicker when he falls down?
  • There is a complicating factor for school board members. We elected officials have a public base of supporters. But the professional staff are often the ones with the most experience and perspective. They are *not* elected, and they can’t run political campaigns or draw a roomful of charged citizens to give comments at public meetings. If a staff member takes a new board member aside to fill them in, that staff member is especially vulnerable.
  • When I was new, my first conference was in San Francisco. I was grateful for those who were willing to share their view of things, even when I privately did not respect everything they were sharing. I received this generous treatment from David, from Jonathan, from Bethany, from Joan, from Judi, and from almost all of my new peers and support people.
  • So this is the setting. There’s an environment designed to build trust, and there is an emerging trust between individuals, off the clock, so to speak, who know they will be spending lots of time during the subsequent year in formal meetings.
  • And then there is a colossal blunder, which is the reason we’re here today.
  • Given that background, here is my position. For an elected official to secretly record a conversation with an employee at a social event in order to share it with friends shows a stunning lack of judgment. I hope nobody disagrees with that. I’ll say it again: For an elected official to secretly record a conversation with an employee at a social event in order to score points with political friends shows a profound lack of judgment.
  • This is not what we want from any of our elected officials. I doubt there is a politician in California who would disagree. This negative behavior was noticed far and wide.
  •  Then there is the behavior afterwards. If I have made a mistake that brings embarrassment to my colleagues, which I inadvertently did at our last board meeting, please let me know and give me a chance to apologize and make it right. I didn’t see that attitude or behavior following these events in San Diego. If there had been, I doubt this censure would be before us.
  •  It hurts to see the school board become a political battlefield over the basics of trust and cooperation. If we all assume bad faith from each other, the system will break down or at least become seriously dysfunctional. Do we really want to become like San Francisco city politics? Ask any former board member. We give large amounts of discretionary personal time and usually wind up with great respect from each other, even when we disagree with each other’s votes or comments.
  • But to seriously and intentionally degrade that trust environment is offensive to me personally, and a disservice to the entire community. Considering all of these circumstances, I will vote to support the censure.


From → Meetings, Training

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