Education Lab

Fresno Unified trustee Slatic hit by critical report, racism claim 

A Fresno Unified investigation concludes that Trustee Terry Slatic violated three board policies when he dealt with an Army recruiter at Bullard High School in January.

Furthermore, the investigation reveals the recruiter, who is black, felt Slatic was racially profiling him – a claim Slatic denied, and the report found unsubstantiated. The investigation was sparked by a formal complaint filed by the recruiter.

Slatic late Friday called the report the result of a corrupt system, saying he did nothing wrong.

The district’s governing board voted Thursday evening to release the 173-page report, along with one other investigative report, during a special meeting.

District officials released the first report late Friday afternoon, one day after community members showed up in droves to the FUSD board meeting asking for Slatic to resign over a confrontation he had with Bullard High cheerleaders.

District officials said they are working to redact private information from the second report before releasing it.

Prepared by the Southern California legal firm Adams Silva & McNally LLP for Fresno Unified and its attorney, the Fresno firm Lozano Smith, the report says Slatic violated policies on management oversight, governance standards and limits of board member authority.

Though the report does not state whether the violations will have consequences for Slatic, the board is already making moves to censure him.

The incident

In his complaint, the recruiter says he felt Slatic profiled him based on his race.

The Army staff sergeant, whose name is redacted from the report, describes a Jan. 7 incident where Slatic, a retired Marine major, asked what the recruiter was doing at Bullard and then told him “shut your mouth,” threatening to ban him from the school.

After Slatic asked the recruiter three times what his purpose was at Bullard, the recruiter said he tried to ask Slatic a question. “At this point I was feeling threatened, belittled and confused as to what I did to enrage Mr. Slatic,” the recruiter wrote in his summary of the incident.

The recruiter called his supervisor, and during the call Slatic demanded his phone. Slatic told the supervisor he was “someone important,” but didn’t identify himself as a board member. Slatic also told the supervisor the recruiter was “really showing his ass.”

After Slatic hung up, the recruiter went to his car to call back his supervisor, and then returned to campus to inform the school’s principal, Carlos Castillo, about the incident.

Principal’s comments

According to the investigative report, the Bullard principal told the recruiter he was welcome on campus as long as he followed the rules.

Reached by telephone Friday, Castillo declined to comment on the report.

According to the report, Castillo said it was not uncommon for Slatic to challenge authority and raise his voice. Slatic confronted Castillo at the last football game of the season and told him, “Oh, you are going to be fun to deal with,” and, “And I’m a racist too!” Castillo told the investigator Slatic’s wife had to pull her husband away.

Slatic refused to meet with the investigator at the district lawyer’s office and instead did the interview at the district’s main office.

“Trustee Slatic’s comments were abrupt and he was assertive in his position. He was confrontational and repeatedly cut off the investigator. Trustee Slatic threatened to walk-out of the interview if the investigator did not concede to limiting the scope of the interview,” the report says.

The report says Slatic wasn’t credible and the details he provided “appeared to be designed to prove to the investigator that he was calm during the incident.”

Slatic told the investigator he made it “crystal clear” to the recruiter that he understood he was on campus to recruit students for the Army, but he wanted to know exactly what the recruiter did while on campus.

Slatic acknowledged he cut off the recruiter “innumerable times” during the conversation, but he said he did it because the recruiter cut him off.

When the investigator asked whether Slatic inquired with school or district officials about his authority to ban people from Bullard High, Slatic “asserted that the question was an unreasonable question and refused to answer.”

Slatic also denied cursing at the recruiter’s supervisor on the phone and threatening to ban the Army from Bullard.

Slatic responds to report

Slatic told The Bee on Friday the report was the result of a corrupt system and he believes the findings are incorrect.

At a board meeting a couple months ago, Slatic said he learned Fresno Unified has used the same investigators for 16 years.

“You have a handful of people who get this staggering amount of business, and they want to keep this amount of business, so they end up determining what is going to make their audience happy in these reports,” he said. “What about the 16 years worth of investigations that are now, at best, suspect, if not corrupt?”

Slatic said he did question an Army recruiter, but “mysteriously” the report left out the part where the recruiter’s supervisor told Slatic on the phone that the recruiter “has trouble with authority figures and answering the questions of adults.”

Slatic said his relationship with Principal Castillo has been rocky since 2017, when, he said, Bullard’s vice principals mishandled a death threat made to his son.

“That’s why I’m on the board – because you guys completely screwed this up,” Slatic said about the school administrators.

Addressing claims of racism

Slatic said Castillo, Bullard’s principal, has called him racist multiple times. Slatic said he believes that’s because he’s “put (Castillo) in uncomfortable positions of accountability.”

About the meeting at the football game cited in the report, Slatic said he was repeating Castillo’s accusation back to him.

Slatic said he’s not racist, calling the accusation an “absurd comment that Carlos Castillo made when he was in a very unhappy place.”

Slatic said he likely won’t formally respond to the report until the board and superintendent return from an East Coast seminar on governance next weekend.

Brianna Calix: 559-441-6166, @BriannaCalix

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.