The trustees of a northern California school board, caught on videotape mocking the parents of their school district who wanted their schools to reopen, have resigned en masse.
During a pre-meeting session of the school board for the Oakley Union Elementary School District, one member said of an interaction with a frustrated parent, “B****, if you are going to call me out, I am going to f*** you up.” Another commented of the frustrated parents, “They want their babysitters back.”
“Another member of the board theorized that parents want their kids to go back to school so they can spend the day getting high,” Reason reported, adding, “The board also discussed whether it would be possible to change the public comment portion of their meetings so that members of the public would be cut off automatically after three minutes of speaking time.”
One parent told ABC7, “I thought the board members were also advocates for my child and had her best interests at heart. After [Wednesday’s] incident, it really has me thinking that they don’t. They see us writing letters monthly, weekly, to the board members, detailing our stresses and grief about distance learning. For them to say we are doing nothing and sitting home and smoking pot is far from the truth.”
School Superintendent Gregory Hetrick issued a statement apologizing for the board, writing: “I know that our students deserve better from us. I pledge to work collaboratively with stakeholders and community members to begin doing the important work that is needed to rebuild community trust in our district.”
After a petition was launched calling for the board members to resign, along with a statement from Sue Higgins, the mayor of Oakley, in which she stated, “Quite frankly, I am embarrassed for our community as this meeting has now gone both national internationally at a time when we are not only trying to stop the spread of the virus, but also try and safely reopen schools. I encourage the remaining board members to do the right thing and step down.” On Friday Hetrick released a statement saying the board had resigned:
Dear Oakley Union Elementary School District Family,
I want to inform you that Board Members Kim Beede, Erica Ippolito, Richie Masadas and Lisa Brizendine have submitted their resignations from their position on the OUESD School Board.
As a District, we will continue to proceed with the work that we are engaged in to bring our students back to school. There will be a lot of details in the coming days about what will be taking place and I will be providing you with a complete update.
Board members Kim Beede, Eric Ippolito and Richie Masadas asked that the following statement be shared with you:
We deeply regret the comments that were made in the meeting of the Board of Education earlier this week. As trustees, we realize it is our responsibility to model the conduct that we expect of our students and staff, and it is our obligation to build confidence in District leadership; our comments failed you in both regards and for this we offer our sincerest apology.
We love our students, our teachers and our community, and we want to be part of the remedy to help the District move forward, returning its full focus to students needs. To help facilitate the healing process, we will be resigning our positions as Trustees of the Oakley Union Elementary School District, effective immediately. The Superintendent will be working with the Contra Costa County Office of Education to address the vacancies on the Board of Education.
Brizendine, who had stated on the Zoom call, “They forget that there’s real people behind those letters they are writing. We are real community members, we have kids or have known kids who have gone to those schools, so we have a vested interest in this process and they don’t know what goes on behind the scene and it’s unfortunate they want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” issued a statement to the Mercury News in which she wrote:
In my response to a situation, I talked about how some people don’t realize that we, as the board are people; I then made a flippant comment that “they want their babysitters back.” I think in some respects, I said that because I too want desperately for schools to open. I am raising a 10-year-old with special needs and having him home during this pandemic, while also holding down two jobs to support my family, has been a huge stress. I suffer with many of the same things that parents are going through from mental health issues to regression. My remark was callous and uncalled for and for that I am truly sorry. As a 30-year resident of Oakley, I have always championed the kids in the community from Boy Scouts, to PTA service, to my own teaching career.
I became a member of the board to serve, which is what I did for the last four years. I tendered my resignation because I don’t want to be a part of something that would negatively impact my community. The students, staff and families deserve the very best, there is much work that needs to be done to reopen our schools safely and I will be praying that we as a community can move past this incident together and that our children always remain in focus.