Education

Attorney for student in Bullard incident alleges district failed to disclose information

Video shows altercation between Bullard High School student and Fresno Unified trustee

Video footage obtained by The Fresno Bee on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, after a public-records request shows a physical scuffle between a Bullard High School student and Fresno Unified Area 7 trustee Terry Slatic.
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Video footage obtained by The Fresno Bee on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019, after a public-records request shows a physical scuffle between a Bullard High School student and Fresno Unified Area 7 trustee Terry Slatic.

The attorney for the student seen in a physical confrontation with Trustee Terry Slatic at Bullard High School on Jan. 11 has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Superintendent Bob Nelson, accusing the district of failing to properly disclose information about the incident.

Attorney Roger Bonakdar said the district violated the Brown Act when Nelson sent Slatic a letter informing the trustee that the Bullard incident would be discussed in a meeting, only for it to not appear on the agenda for that meeting.

However, the dates referenced in the letter appear to be incorrect; the letter says that Nelson sent Slatic a letter dated Jan. 16, with the intent to discuss the incident at a regularly scheduled board meeting that night.

The letter obtained by The Bee last week shows it is dated Jan. 15, and a special closed session meeting was held that afternoon in regard to the incident and potential litigation that could follow.

The letter from Bonakdar also delves into the rest of Nelson’s letter to Slatic, which describes Slatic’s alleged violations of the board bylaws since he took office, claiming that these matters should have been discussed in an open session.

“These are core, critical issues about district governance, and not within any of the narrow exceptions to the open meeting requirements of the Brown Act. The public was entitled to notice of that board discussion on a published agenda, and to witness the discussion occur in open session. FUSD violated the Brown Act by conducting the discussion without notice on a published agenda and in closed session,” the letter states.

Bonakdar could not be reached for comment Monday night shortly after the letter was sent to The Bee. He is the attorney for the student seen in the video with Slatic, but the letter states that it is being sent on behalf of a “parent of a student at Bullard High.”

Nelson and district spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog both said they had not seen the letter as of Monday night.

The Brown Act mandates that the public be informed of the contents of meetings by public boards.

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District reviews its goals

A copy of the letter was sent to The Bee shortly after another special meeting Monday to discuss the district’s goals, including increased transparency.

The board looked at established goals and discussed new ones in a meeting meant to familiarize new trustees with the governance process. Progress was ranked on a stoplight scale by the superintendent.

Most concerning was the aim to increase “transparency to build confidence,” where the district got its lowest score as set by Nelson for its failure to “establish performance expectations for staff, and hold all staff accountable for results.”

Trustee Carol Mills said the goal concerns mostly administrative staff who are higher in rank than principal and report up to the superintendent.

Mills said that the prevailing feeling was that the people who reported to the superintendent had not done a good job.

“It’s basically business as usual for that big group,” Mills said. “There’s a feeling that the old favoritism still goes on, that it’s the same old, same old.”

Slatic said the issue was that while Nelson himself was relatively new to the job, others had been in their positions for upwards of a decade, many under the leadership of Michael Hanson, who was ousted amid investigations of the district’s no-bid contracts.

“As the CEO, he’s not going to come and fill in the gopher holes,” Slatic said.

Newly elected trustee Veva Islas added that transparency also needs to include non-English speakers by providing data and other information from the district in a way that’s accessible to all families.

The district also discussed how better to prioritize facilities construction, including looking at where money has already been invested for what return, as well as how to expand programs like Parent University.

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