Valley Voices

Mr. Slatic, our children are watching us. You must be a better role model for them

For nearly two decades, I have spent my life in service to my community — first as a teacher, then as an organizer, and currently as the leader of a local nonprofit. Many of these experiences involved working with young people, and I learned early on that nothing is more important than leading by example.

While in the classroom, my students were always paying attention to everything I said and every move I made. My own children are no different. As a parent, I am responsible for modeling how to navigate our current world, for shaping their skills and beliefs, and for protecting them from harm. Unfortunately, elected officials are adding to what seems to be a growing list of injustices threatening my children’s world.

Those who choose to run for public office and subsequently win a seat of power have an obligation to advocate for those whom they have been entrusted to serve. These public servants are expected to model sound judgment, fairness and a commitment to equity and unity. More, this dynamic is magnified in the setting of our public school system, where every decision made by elected school board members impacts the lives and futures of our young people.

Currently, Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) is governed by seven board members. These seven Fresnans are not just tasked with managing a budget of over $1 billion — they are responsible for guiding and supporting the growth and success of more than 70,000 young people and 15,000 employees. Additionally, these elected adult leaders are asked to ensure that students have daily access to safe learning environments where they can thrive.

Mike Espinoza Contributed

According to the California School Board Association (CSBA), the roles and responsibilities of school board members include, acting “with dignity, and [understanding] the implications of demeanor and behavior” as well as governing “in a dignified and professional manner, treating everyone with civility and respect.” I would appreciate these behaviors in any individual, but in the case of a public official charged with decision-making that implicates our young people, I demand it.

Fresno Unified School Board member Terry Slatic, seen at the FUSD meeting Thursday, July 18 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA

Recently, FUSD Trustee Terry Slatic has been the subject of major headlines — not once, but twice. Both times, his alleged actions involving young people in our schools were in direct conflict with the role and responsibilities of the office he has sworn to uphold. We must ask ourselves, is he the role model that our children can follow as their dreams take shape?

As parents and adults alike, we have an obligation to speak up — and speak out — against public officials who violate our trust in their ability to serve effectively and authentically. To not hold our leaders accountable, and to stand by in silence, truly speaks volumes — and let’s remember, our children are watching us.

Mike Espinoza is the Executive Director of GO Fresno. He can be reached at