Here is an embarrassing story. A California school district’s entire board of members has stepped down after their comments bashing parents went live during a virtual meeting.
According to ABC News, the Oakley Union Elementary School District announced the members’ resignations on Friday.
Two days before, a public meeting was held. The board members didn’t realize the meeting was open to the public as they discussed 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.”
According to the school board president, Lisa Brizendine said that school officials were being targeted due to 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.”
Richie Masadas, another school board member, said 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.”
Adding, “When you got your kids at home, no more smoking.”
There was also a discussion with Superintendent Greg Hetrick on limited the public comments to three minutes.
“I think that would be amazing,” one board member responded. Soon after, one of the board members realized the meeting wasn’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.
Apparently, someone watching the media had recorded it after hearing “one of the board members spoke poorly of parents of students in the district” and posted the video anonymously to YouTube.
“I only wish for our local public school to be run by better people,” the person wrote.
Parents were offended by the comments made by the members.
“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.”
The school district is located in Contra Costa County in the San Francisco Bay area, and students have been remote learning for almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
An online petition was created following the meeting and called for the board members to step down “due to their egregious behavior.” The mayor of Oakley supported the request, saying in a statement to East County Today that the board members should “do the right thing and step down.”
On Friday, the superintendent informed families that Brizendine, Beede, Masadas, and Erica Ippolito had submitted their resignations, ABC News reported.
Hetrick also shared a joint statement from three of the four members, saying they “deeply regret” and apologize for their actions during 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 was not a part of the statement but released her own statement to the Mercury News for her “babysitting” remarks.
“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.”
“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,” Hetrick wrote in a letter regarding the reopening plans of the schools.