A California school district’s entire board of trustees has resigned after several were heard making disparaging comments about parents during a live virtual meeting this week.
The Oakley Union Elementary School District announced the resignation of the board members on Friday, two days after the public meeting, a portion of which was recorded and shared on YouTube.
The board members apparently thought Wednesday’s meeting wasn’t yet open to the public at the time they started talking about social media criticism from parents.
“Are we alone?” one board member, Kim Beede asks, before saying, “B—- if you’re going to call me out, I’m going to f— you up.”
The president of the school board, Lisa Brizendine, laments that school officials are being targeted amid frustration over reopening for in-person learning.
“They forget that there’s real people on the other side of those letters that they’re writing,” Brizendine says. “It’s really unfortunate that they want to pick on us, because they want their babysitters back.”
A third school board member, Richie Masadas, says in response, “I totally hear that, because my brother had a delivery service for medical marijuana, and the clientele were parents with their kids in school.”
“When you got your kids at home, no more smoking,” he added.
The comments followed a discussion with Superintendent Greg Hetrick on limiting public comment to three minutes.
“I think that would be amazing,” one board member says.
At one point, one of the board members realizes the meeting isn’t private.
“Uh oh,” Beede says. “We have the meeting open to the public right now.”
“Nuh uh,” says Brizendine.
“Great,” says a board member, before a black screen with the text “Practice session in progress” appears.
Someone watching the meeting said they started recording after “one of the board members spoke poorly of parents of students in the district” and posted the video anonymously to YouTube on Thursday.
“I only wish for our local public school to be run by better people,” the person wrote.
Parents took umbrage with the comments as students in the school district, which is located in Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay area, have been learning remote for almost a year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I thought the board members were also advocates for my child and had her best interests at heart. After [Wednesday’s] incident, it really has me thinking that they don’t,” Ashley Stalf, an Oakley Union parent, told San Francisco ABC station KGO.
“They see us writing letters monthly, weekly, to the board members, detailing our stresses and grief about distance learning,” she added. “For them to say we are doing nothing and sitting home and smoking pot is far from the truth.”
An online petition launched after the meeting called for the board members to resign “due to their egregious behavior.” The mayor of Oakley also weighed in, saying in a statement to East County Today that the board members should “do the right thing and step down.”
By Friday, the superintendent updated families that the four board members — Brizendine, Beede, Masadas and Erica Ippolito — had submitted their resignations.
In his letter, Hetrick also shared a joint statement from Beede, Ippolito and Masadas, saying they “deeply regret” and apologize for the comments made in the meeting.
“This was a difficult decision, but we hear the community’s concerns, and we believe yielding to your request that we step down will allow the district to move forward,” they said. “Please do not let our failure in judgment cast a shadow on the exceptional work that our teachers, administrators and hard-working employees are doing for the students of this district. They deserve and will need your support as you move forward.”
Brizendine, a four-year member of the board, also apologized in a statement to the Mercury News for her “babysitting” comment, which she said she made in part because she “desperately” wants schools to open for in-person learning.
“My remark was callous and uncalled for and for that I am truly sorry,” she wrote in part. “As a 30-year resident of Oakley, I have always championed the kids in the community from Boy Scouts, to PTA service, to my own teaching career.”
“I tendered my resignation because I don’t want to be a part of something that would negatively impact my community,” she continued. “The students, staff and families deserve the very best, there is much work that needs to be done to reopen our schools safely and I will be praying that we as a community can move past this incident together and that our children always remain in focus.”
Hetrick wrote in his letter that more information on the school district’s reopening plans will be available “in the coming days.”
“This unfortunate situation will not discourage or detract me from working to build back the trust in our community and return our students safely back to school as soon as possible,” he wrote.