Censure is not harsh enough for Fresno Unified’s Terry Slatic. He must resign now

Fresno Unified School District Trustee Terry Slatic was censured by fellow board members Wednesday night, apparently a first for the district, and thus a sad distinction for FUSD.

But it was entirely the right move by the board. Slatic earned it by outrageous behavior consisting of bullying, intimidating and disrespecting Fresno Unified staff, students and board colleagues.

The action cannot stop there. For the district to truly move beyond the disrepair Slatic has caused, he should resign — immediately. That resignation letter should also include apologies to the Fresno Unified community, especially the Bullard High region Slatic was elected to serve. Far from getting an effective leader, Bullard’s Area 7 has been unduly burdened by a political neophyte who seemed to have promise, but in the end was no better than the predecessor who also specialized in bullying tactics.

Slatic emerged victorious last fall with 34 percent of the votes from a field of four candidates for the seat; it is one of seven on the school board. Since January, he has offended, angered and scared students and parents in both his home area as well as across Fresno Unified, the state’s fourth-largest district.

In January he grabbed a student by his backpack after they got into a verbal altercation on the Bullard campus. The student may well have been disrespectful to Slatic and a colleague. That was not the point. A trustee does not grab a student, period. For the former Marine major who served overseas and boasted of his abilities to deal with battlefield scenarios, that was an epic error.

Last month Slatic attended a meeting of the Bullard High cheer squad, uninvited, to demand they stop criticizing two junior varsity members on social media because they were acting like “mean girls.” Several of the cheer members and their parents said how scared they had become of Slatic.

A few members of the public raised signs demanding Trustee Terry Slatic resign. It came during the Fresno Unified School Board discussion of a resolution to censure Slatic on Wednesday, August 7, 2019. CRAIG KOHLRUSS ckohlruss@fresnobee.com

Then reports emerged that he got into a verbal confrontations with an Army recruiter on the Bullard campus, and with Bullard wrestling coaches, including a veiled threat to doom any further job prospects in the district for an assistant coach. The coaching dispute led to the cancellation of a practice with Clovis East that had been set up weeks before.

A new example emerged Wednesday night when board president Claudia Cazares told how Slatic had earlier this year become angry with her and threatened to put up a billboard at Shaw and Blackstone avenues advocating for her to be recalled.

The school board cannot remove Slatic; only he can take himself off, or the voters can by a recall. An effort is now under way by some citizens to do just that.

Investigations into Slatic’s actions have cost the district more than $100,000, a figure determined by a Bee public-records request. He should spare the district any further expense with the realization that legal fees simply subtract funding that could otherwise go to programs for students.

As emotional, difficult and unprecedented Wednesday night’s hearing was, there was one bright spot that reminded those present what Fresno Unified’s best moments are about. An 11-year-old, sixth-grade student at Lincoln Elementary told the board how much she has enjoyed a computer-coding program. She intends to become a marine biologist when she grows up, she said.

Applause greeted her when she stepped down from the speaker’s podium. It was noteworthy that she did not say she aspired to be a Fresno Unified trustee.

Slatic admitted he had pushed the limits of trustee authority during his short time on the board. Actually, he has gone well beyond them, to the point that remaining will just be cancerous. His campaign promise — to bring more accountability to the district — has been dashed because he refuses to be accountable for his actions.

There is no other route for Slatic other than to resign. The sooner, the better. Then the school board can return to its proper work of trying to lift the learning of Fresno Unified’s 74,000 students.