Marek Warszawski

Yes, Fresno schools have problems. But censured trustee Terry Slatic has made more of them

Watch as FUSD board decides on resolution to censure trustee Terry Slatic

During a Fresno Unified School Board meeting, trustees discussed whether or not to officially censure trustee Terry Slatic for his behavior.
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During a Fresno Unified School Board meeting, trustees discussed whether or not to officially censure trustee Terry Slatic for his behavior.

When it finally came his turn to talk, at his own censure hearing, Terry Slatic pulled a neat trick.

The bull in the Fresno Unified School District china shop managed to sound calm and rational.

Reading from handwritten notes on 8½ by 11 paper, the embattled school board trustee cited the low academic performance among the district’s high school graduates and how woefully the needs of special ed students are being met.

Slatic, a retired Marine Corps major, also described climbing a ladder to inspect a school roof and finding years-old dry rot that somehow eluded annual inspections.

“Is there another trustee who is publicly discussing (these matters)?” Slatic asked.

If it were only that simple. Major Malfunction didn’t end up on the receiving end of a 6-0 censure because of his frankness about the district’s shortcomings or personal crusade against dry rot. He more than earned this public slap across the face.

Opinion

For all the things Slatic said, it’s what he didn’t say that spoke volumes.

Not once did Slatic express any shred of remorse for his behavior. When the mothers of Bullard High cheerleaders described, in emotional detail, how his unannounced appearance at practice exacerbated an already tense situation, he sat quietly with arms folded staring straight ahead.

“These kids are not safe,” said Stacy Williams, gesturing toward Slatic. “He is not a safe person.”

Nor did Slatic voice a tinge of regret over the $100,000 (and counting) the district has already spent investigating his conduct, money that could be spent elsewhere and for better purposes.

Nor did Slatic acknowledge his own threats toward district staff, recounted by board president Claudia Cazares, or his unprofessional dealings with fellow trustees.

“It’s unbelievable how you don’t realize how you come off to some people,” Cazares said.

Actually, it’s pretty darned believable. If we’ve learned anything about Slatic during his short time in the public eye, it’s that he moves through life with a massive blind spot.

Yes, Fresno Unified has problems. All Slatic has done is create more of them.

What happens now? Slatic has already indicated he won’t resign or attend anger management sessions as directed by the censure. My guess is he sues over Wednesday’s proceedings.

Hard to see recall effort succeeding

While there is some talk about a recall effort, based on recent history it’s hard to see that gaining much steam.

Slatic certainly isn’t the first combative, confrontational school board trustee elected by the Bullard area. His predecessor, Brooke Ashjian, did even more damage to Fresno Unified’s pocketbook and public image. Before Ashjian, there was Michelle Asadoorian, who has close ties with the group that wanted Bullard to break off from the district.

So while there may be a few angry parents who want Slatic removed from his seat, there are probably just as many folks with deep-seated (and perhaps justified) grudges against Fresno Unified who approve of the way the trustee has conducted himself.

In other words, expecting anything to change is probably a false hope. It won’t be long until Slatic stirs up another hornet’s nest and we repeat this cycle of group condemnation and his own stoic skirting of the issues.

But remember, it’s all about the kids.

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Marek Warszawski writes opinion columns on news, politics, sports and quality of life issues for The Fresno Bee, where he has worked since 1998. He is a Bay Area native, a UC Davis graduate and lifelong Sierra frolicker. He welcomes discourse with readers but does not suffer fools nor trolls.
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