Outgoing Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson and newly elected school board President Brooke Ashjian may have a tough time working together during Hanson’s final months at the helm of the district.
Hanson’s first meeting with Ashjian as board president – he is among Hanson’s biggest critics – and new board secretary Claudia Cazares was cut short last week because of a disagreement.
According to a memo to the seven-member Board of Education from Hanson, Ashjian and Cazares walked out of a meeting with him Dec. 16 after Hanson demanded that his chief of staff or an attorney sit in on the meeting. Ashjian and Cazares contend that the meeting was just to be the three of them, and shouldn’t have included others because it pertained to employment matters.
Hanson announced last week that he will resign in August, after leading the district for nearly 12 years.
They refused, and walked out of the room, in effect ending the meeting.
Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson
“I refused (Ashjian’s) requests, indicating that I did not know the subject matter of the meeting and preferred to have another party present to capture specific notes of the meeting, as necessary,” Hanson said in the memo. “I reiterated my desire to meet with board leadership, and twice offered alternatives such as the opportunity to have district legal counsel present in the meeting, if that was preferable. … However, they refused, and walked out of the room, in effect ending the meeting.”
Ashjian is seeking Hanson’s terms of his employment agreement and vacation accrual, according to the memo.
Since a subpoena was served to the district in 2015, Ashjian has opposed Hanson and other top district officials’ directives.
When asked if he and Hanson can make it work until Hanson officially resigns in August, Ashjian seemed unsure.
I’m hoping that it isn’t indicative of going forward.
Fresno Unified trustee Claudia Cazares
“That’s a great question. I hope so. I’m concerned about 74,000 children. But he wouldn’t meet with his board president and board clerk. That’s strange,” Ashjian said. “We went with the understanding that it was a meeting of new board leadership to talk about the transition and his recent announcement. We didn’t feel it was correct to speak about HR issues in front of anybody else. You just can’t do that. It’s illegal.”
Cazares, a project manager with Granville Homes who was elected to the board last month, said she’s optimistic about working with Hanson despite the meeting, but doesn’t understand Hanson’s demands.
“I didn’t see it was necessary to have somebody there for a meeting that was more or less just going to be about moving forward. But he was very defensive from the beginning, and that’s unfortunate because I was hoping to get off on a different foot with him,” she said. “It doesn’t have me worried. He doesn’t know me well or where I’m coming from. I’m hoping that it isn’t indicative of going forward.”
The school board does not meet again publicly until Jan. 11.