Fresno trustee under fire for talk with cheerleaders says superintendent knew about meeting

Before Fresno Unified Trustee Terry Slatic allegedly scolded Bullard High cheerleaders during their practice last week, he discussed his plans with Superintendent Bob Nelson, according to the district.

Nelson is on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment.

But district spokesperson Amy Idsvoog said that Nelson knew of Slatic’s intention to speak with the cheer team, but “was not aware of content or delivery.”

Slatic was present during multiple meetings between Nelson and Bullard High cheer parents before the talk happened, Idsvoog said.

Slatic is now facing a recall effort after parents and students say he arrived uninvited to cheer practice on July 11 and threatened to have students kicked off the cheer team or barred from attending cheer camp if they brought up the blackface incident.

And the school board has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday evening to discuss the issue.

Despite controversy, no regrets

Slatic told The Bee he doesn’t regret giving a talk to the varsity cheerleaders, who he believes continued to be “mean” to two junior varsity cheer members.

Those two members of the team had stirred community outrage after they were involved in a social media posting, where one of the girls wore blackface and said the n-word.

Even though that upset some in the community, the two girls were let back onto the junior varsity team. Some cheerleaders were not happy with it, according to a cheerleader who spoke to The Bee last week.

Slatic described himself as a cheer dad – his daughter was on the squad at Bullard. He said after discussions about the bullying, Nelson agreed that Slatic “was the one to engage” with the team.

“My basic message to them was to stop doing the ‘mean girl’ thing and if they don’t there could be consequences,” Slatic said. “I didn’t accuse a single individual. These are elite athletes and let’s talk to them like elite athletes.”

In addition to Nelson, Slatic said the summer school principal at Bullard High knew of his intention to speak to the team, and he saw two vice principals and the cheer director while on campus.

Prior physical altercation

This isn’t the first time Slatic’s interactions with students have come under fire. In January, Slatic was investigated by a private investigator after he got into a physical altercation with a student on the Bullard campus.

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office declined to file any criminal charges.

Slatic defended himself against the latest backlash.

“Leaders don’t dwell on whether they’re liked or not, they dwell on whether what they’re doing is for the greater good,” he said. “The right thing is rarely the popular thing.”

He said while giving his four-minute speech, no one cried or left the room. The outraged comments are coming from people who weren’t in the room, he said. “They’re from people getting the story second hand, and that’s fine.”

If you go

What: Fresno Unified special board meeting

When: Thursday, July 18, 5 p.m.

Where: District office, 2309 Tulare St.

Single topic: Trustee Terry Slatic meeting with the Bullard High cheer team on July 11

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPanoo
Related stories from Fresno Bee