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Entire school board resigns after members mock parents on live stream that was accidentally public

Entire school board resigns after members mock parents on live stream that was accidentally public

One parent said that the insults were "the straw that broke the camel's back" for those who had been imploring the board for more information about the district's plans for months.

All four school board trustees of Oakley Union Elementary School District resigned last week after they were caught laughing and jeering at parents during a regular bi-monthly meeting of the board on Wednesday. Unaware that the meeting had been opened to the public before the scheduled time, the members spent two minutes mocking parents, suggesting that they wanted teachers back in school so they could have "their babysitters back." Parents who had logged in early for the meeting heard the entire conversation and swift retaliation followed. By Saturday afternoon, over 6,600 people had signed an online petition that threatened to recall the trustees if they did not resign.



 

According to The New York Times, like many other parts of the country, students in the Oakley Union Elementary School District have been learning remotely since last March due to the pandemic. "Parents were tuned in [to the meeting] to learn if we will be sending our kids back to school soon and if not, why," the petition stated. "There has been a lack of communication from the board and this was the first communication we heard." In letters submitted to the board prior to the meeting, many expressed frustration over the lack of transparency and voiced concerns that their children were suffering as a result of remote learning.



 

However, minutes before the meeting was officially scheduled to begin, a now-former member of the board of trustees, Kim Beede, complained about a woman who had lashed out at her on social media. "Are we alone?" she asked, before adding: "B**ch, if you're gonna call me out, I'm gonna f**k you up!" As other board members laughed at her comment, Beede said: "Sorry, that's just me." Lisa Brizendine — the president of the board of trustees — jumped into the discussion at this point, stating that "[the parents] want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back."



 

"I totally hear that," said another member named Richie Masadas, who went on to describe how his brother had a delivery service for medical marijuana. The clientele "were parents with their kids in school," he claimed as other members laughed. Moments later, Beede noticed that the meeting was already live before the public. "Uh-oh... We have the meeting open to the public right now," she informed the others. "Nuh-uh," Brizendine replied. The screen then went dark and was replaced with the words "practice session in progress."



 

Angela Palacio — who has four children, including a daughter in the first grade who has struggled with remote learning — said that the insults were "the straw that broke the camel's back" for parents who had been imploring the board for more information about the district's plans for months. "That blew my mind," she said of the remarks. "I was like, what, are you kidding me? It just showed the lack of respect that our school board has for parenting as well as the people in our community." Following public outcry over the trustees' comments, Sue Higgins — the mayor of Oakley called on board members to resign.

 



 

 

"Quite frankly, I am embarrassed for our community as this meeting has now gone both national internationally at a time when we are not only trying to stop the spread of the virus but also try and safely reopen schools," stated Higgins, according to the local news site East County Today.  "I encourage the remaining board members to do the right thing and step down." While Brizendine stepped down from her position Thursday, the district superintendent, Greg D. Hetrick, announced the following day that the remaining members had also followed suit. Beede, Masadas, and another board member, Erica Ippolito, said in a statement that they "deeply regret the comments" and were resigning to "help facilitate the healing process."



 

"As trustees, we realize it is our responsibility to model the conduct that we expect of our students and staff, and it is our obligation to build confidence in District leadership; our comments failed you in both regards and for this, we offer our sincerest apology," they said in the statement. "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."

 



 

 

Meanwhile, Hetrick — who was present during the meeting but did not comment — described the incident as an "unfortunate situation," in a letter announcing the resignations. "I am committed to returning the attention to student learning and getting our students back in school," he said. "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."

 



 

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