BE­YOND BE­ING PETTY

Yo-yo treat­ment of Sam Fant’s photo in MUSD board­room

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - DEN­NIS WY­ATT,

Apic­ture, they say, is worth a thou­sand words. If that’s the case, one par­tic­u­lar photo of Sam Fant may be worth a 10,000 word dis­ser­ta­tion. Fant is the for­mer Man­teca Uni­fied School Dis­trict trustee that ear­lier this month pled no con­test to felony charges that he com­mit­ted voter fraud. The fraud in­volved his role in the reg­is­tra­tion of Ash­ley Drain and Alexan­der Bron­son at ad­dresses they did not re­side at so they could run for the school board. Nei­ther were legal res­i­dents of the dis­trict un­der state law. It would be like some­one liv­ing in Stock­ton run­ning for the Man­teca mayor’s post and do­ing so by com­mit­ting per­jury when sign­ing a voter reg­is­tra­tion form as well as a dec­la­ra­tion of can­di­dacy.

Within sev­eral days of the deal forged al­low­ing Fant to not worry be­ing pros­e­cuted for other elec­tion-re­lated felonies, his photo dis­ap­peared from the Man­teca Uni­fied board meet­ing room where all ex­ist­ing and pre­vi­ous trustees — with three ex­cep­tions — are dis­played.

Also miss­ing is a photo of a trustee from the 1990s con­victed of a felony as well plus the pho­tos of Drain and Bron­son. Fant’s photo has since reap­peared on the board room wall.

It might seem trite or a petty is­sue, but af­ter first glance it is much deeper.

The photo gallery ex­ists to ac­knowl­edge the his­tory of the ser­vice of those who have served on the Man­teca Uni­fied for the last 51 years.

The pho­tos of Bron­son and Drain were re­moved af­ter they were charged with elec­tion fraud. While nei­ther of their cases have been com­pletely set­tled, the premise of the charges is they used fraud­u­lent means to get elected there­fore they never met the legal cri­te­ria to be elected. It’s fairly clear they were nei­ther a duly elected trustee nor a duly ap­pointed trustee.

The trustee from the 1990s was duly elected. He was con­victed of a se­ri­ous crime not as­so­ci­ated with his school board ser­vice. The na­ture of it was heinous enough that trustees — or per­haps the ad­min­is­tra­tion — at the time wanted to white wash his as­so­ci­a­tion with Man­teca Uni­fied.

That seems rea­son­able un­til you look at the big­ger pic­ture.

The gallery rep­re­sents trustees who legally could serve and did serve. By tak­ing down any pho­tos of past trustees that meet that cri­te­ria is re­vis­ing his­tory.

The is­sue isn’t whether the school board or even ad­min­is­tra­tion has the power to de­ter­mine whose pho­tos are dis­played in the board room. That’s a given. The prob­lem is you have peo­ple es­sen­tially in charge of the ed­u­ca­tion of nearly 25,000 stu­dents em­brac­ing the con­cept that it is OK to al­ter his­tory to re­move the warts cleans­ing it of all traces of those deemed to have done “bad” in fa­vor of those who meet the of­fi­cial stan­dard of good. In the case of Man­teca Uni­fied, that ob­vi­ously means only those that were duly elected or ap­pointed who haven’t been con­victed of felonies while in of­fice or af­ter leav­ing the school board can have their pho­tos grace the walls of the board­room.

One won­ders how such a stan­dard would play in the his­tory classes con­ducted on Man­teca Uni­fied cam­puses. Do teachers san­i­tize his­tory to root out evil and jet­ti­son “the bad” parts and peo­ple to make sure only “the good” is left.

It’s rich given how in the past when par­ents or the com­mu­nity have ques­tioned how a course is taught or how a teacher ex­presses points in­volv­ing his­tory or the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, trustees will in­sist that poli­cies in place be fol­lowed. Specif­i­cally, the bias of the in­struc­tor shouldn’t be al­lowed to come into play. Teachers, for the most part, work to do just that.

Granted there is no writ­ten pol­icy about whose photo gets hung in the board room, but one would imag­ine what’s good for the gan­der is also good for the goose.

The facts speak for them­selves. Fant was elected to — and served — a four-year term on the Man­teca Uni­fied board. That’s a fact. It’s his­tory.

Fant also pled no con­test to voter fraud. That’s a fact. It’s his­tory.

The fact Fant es­sen­tially copped to a felony by agree­ing to the facts the pros­e­cu­tion pre­sented but not ad­mit­ting to the crime that was charged as a nolo con­tendere plea op­tion al­lows doesn’t change the fact he served on the school board.

It is no state se­cret that Fant could rub some peo­ple the wrong way — fel­low school board mem­bers as well as hum­ble clas­si­fied work­ers that he tossed un­der the prover­bial bus to make a point, po­lit­i­cal or oth­er­wise. Even if ev­ery­one char­ac­ter­izes Fant’s ac­tions as be­ing neg­a­tive, it still doesn’t negate the fact he legally served on the school board.

Fant — just like his for­mer col­leagues — has the ca­pac­ity for good and bad.

How we go about do­ing things in life, con­duct our­selves, or cherry pick rules we want to fol­low can be seen dif­fer­ently by dif­fer­ent peo­ple. And while it is fairly clear Fant broke the law based on the facts he agreed to, his plea means he doesn’t be­lieve it should be a crime.

The school board — or who­ever is the keeper of the wall of trustee pho­tos — should not cherry pick facts to suit their par­tic­u­lar view of Fant.

It is why the yo-yo play that Fant’s photo has been given reeks of much more than what some might term pet­ti­ness.

Sim­ply put, what mes­sage does it send stu­dents that it is OK to cleanse his­tory in or­der for it to fit a per­cep­tion that the cen­sor wants?

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