Fresno Unified board censures Terry Slatic amid rising legal costs, pleas for recall 

The Fresno Unified School District Board of Trustees voted 6-0 to censure Trustee Terry Slatic on Wednesday night during the first board meeting of the school year.

The censure contends Slatic broke bylaws that say trustees are “expected to govern responsibly and hold themselves and the superintendent to the highest standards of ethical conduct … and understand the distinctions between board and staff roles.”

The censure prohibits Slatic from attending internal staff meetings and requires him to notify school administrators before visiting a campus throughout the district.

He will have to sign in as a visitor whenever attending a school campus and be required to have an escort.

The censure also removes Slatic from committees or leadership roles as a trustee until he completes an anger management program.

Slatic’s response

Slatic said the board was using “selective enforcement” to reprimand him and not others. He said censure was a “political and punitive act by board members” against him.

He also said it left out facts, such as a police report about the Jan. 11 incident when Slatic got into an scuffle with a Bullard High student on campus.

“I understand that I have pushed the limits of authority,” Slatic said. “However, every action has been to determine the district’s performance and to make the district’s performance transparent and to make the district’s performance accountable.”

Slatic said the board did not have any authority to make the demand that he attend anger management classes. The censure committee found that there are no explicit bylaws prohibiting the action, according to Trustee Carol Mills.

“This board is trying to conduct a recall effort from the dais,” Slatic said. “The censure document includes numerous unsubstantiated allegations. And since they are unsubstantiated, I don’t know how to respond to such.”

Trustee reaction

The meeting turned tense between members of the board when Mills began questioning the censure document, including information she hadn’t heard of, such as Slatic threatening members of the board.

“You’re insinuating we have done something wrong,” Trustee Keshia Thomas told Mills. “I haven’t jacked up any kids on the campus.”

Board President Claudia Cazares said she was targeted by Slatic after an intense confrontation earlier in the year. He told her he “would put a request for my recall on a billboard on Blackstone and Shaw.”

Nearly pushed to tears, Trustee Veva Islas said she wished there was more she could do. “I wish I could remove him,” she said.

Thomas said Slatic has yet to apologize or show “some sense of responsibility.” She said school board members are usually provided lawyers, “but he’s creating litigation.” The censure document also stated that Slatic’s failure to comply with bylaws will keep him from having that protection like other board members.

Superintendent Bob Nelson did not say anything during the Slatic discussion. But at the beginning of the meeting he acknowledged a June incident involving a Bullard High cheerleader seen on a video posted to social media wearing blackface and saying the n-word. Nelson assured the public that cultural awareness would be implemented for students during the new school year.

Parent reaction

Ingram Tate said her daughter, who is African American, is the girl who received the blackface video. That incident sparked Slatic’s latest trouble when he confronted the Bullard cheer squad at a July practice and scolded members for allegedly ostracizing two girls on the team who were involved in the social media posting.

Tate said that despite the national outcry and district officials saying they were going to help, neither she nor her daughter have been contacted to check how they are feeling.

“Today you sit here and smirk,” she told Slatic, who was seated at the end of the dais. “I am truly saddened that you take this position and you bullied minors.”

She said her daughter and other cheerleaders are afraid of retaliation from Slatic or someone else. “I’ve been worrying so much about her safety.”

After the censure vote, parent Matthew Gillian said he believed the censure was a “correct step in the right direction” and he understands the board has done as much as it can to make Slatic accountable for his actions.

But, he said, he isn’t satisfied that Slatic remains on the board: “An active recall effort still needs to be done.”

Slatic’s troubled time on the board

Slatic has been under scrutiny for much of his time on the board. Fresno Unified has spent more than $100,000 paying for investigations into his conduct in the nearly eight months since he was sworn in, district documents show.

Private investigators have looked into three incidents involving Slatic’s behavior at Bullard.

The completed investigations involve incidents with an Army recruiter, a wrestling coach and the time when Slatic grabbed the backpack of a Bullard student and an altercation ensued.

Now the board is looking at another investigation following Slatic’s behavior at the Bullard cheer practice in July.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPanoo

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