Three Fresno Unified trustees want to end discussions of potentially ousting Superintendent Michael Hanson, saying politics are interfering with what is best for the district.
Hanson, who has led the district for 12 years, announced last month he plans to step down but said he would stay until August “to ensure minimal disruption in the operation of Fresno Unified.”
The Fresno Teachers Association asked the school board earlier this month to expedite Hanson’s departure, though, demanding trustees oust him as soon as possible.
Since then, trustees have held three closed-door special meetings to discuss the “discipline, dismissal, release, reassignment or resignation” of an employee, but have not released further details. Hanson and his legal counsel have been seen attending at least one of those meetings.
These multiple secret meetings are an unnecessary waste of the board’s time, and only meet the interest of the board president.
FUSD trustee Christopher De La Cerda
The board did not take a vote on the matter on Thursday, but trustees Christopher De La Cerda, Cal Johnson and Valerie Davis made it clear they would not be in favor of a speedy termination of Hanson. The three have been supporters of Hanson over the years.
De La Cerda pinned the blame on school board President Brooke Ashjian – an adversary of Hanson.
“These multiple secret meetings are an unnecessary waste of the board’s time, and only meet the interest of the board president,” De La Cerda said following Thursday’s meeting. “I have asked that we instead focus our time on publicly discussing the search process and getting the community’s input involved in it.”
Davis said she is frustrated with the direction the board majority is headed, but would not release further details.
“I question their motive and their concern for the students in this community,” Davis said Friday. “Being a trustee is all about student achievement, but the future of our students is getting lost in the day-to-day riff. I don’t feel that our community’s voice is being honored.”
Johnson said time would be better spent searching for the next permanent superintendent, allowing Hanson to essentially act as interim. He said he wants the community to be more involved in the process.
“We need people to feel comfortable in what we’re doing in this transition,” Johnson said. “We think it’s important that we move forward because we have 74,000 students, and we need to have leadership so that Fresno Unified can stay on that trajectory of upward mobility.”
They should probably go back and reread the district attorney’s reprimand to the board about talking about such items.
FUSD board President Brooke Ashjian
Ashjian, who has promised that the search process for Hanson’s permanent replacement would be transparent, noted that trustees’ statements might violate state law that forbids the disclosure of confidential information acquired during closed session.
“If they are purporting to speak out about closed session – about posted, closed session items – then they should probably go back and reread the district attorney’s reprimand to the board about talking about such items and the penalties involved,” Ashjian said.
In October, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office wrote a letter to the Fresno Unified school board warning trustees to keep closed meetings confidential.
A violation of closed-meeting laws could include injunctive relief, disciplinary action and referral to the criminal grand jury, according to the letter, sent by the county’s Public Integrity Unit.
De La Cerda denied that he had violated closed meeting laws, and pointed to several instances in which Ashjian has been vocal about board matters.
“I didn’t share closed session items, but referenced the publicly announced agenda items (Ashjian) had changed at the last minute,” De La Cerda said.
The school board will hold another special meeting Monday night.