Af­ter lat­est ridicu­lous an­tics, Slatic should con­sider re­sign­ing

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY THE FRESNO BEE ED­I­TO­RIAL BOARD

An ex­tra­or­di­nary out­pour­ing of pub­lic anger, re­sent­ment and grief filled a spe­cial Fresno Uni­fied school board meet­ing Thurs­day night, all directed at Trustee Terry Slatic.

The rea­son? His re­cent meet­ing with the Bullard High School cheer­lead­ing squad. In a nut­shell, he called out the cheer­lead­ers for “mean girl” be­hav­ior. They had used so­cial me­dia to crit­i­cize two ju­nior var­sity cheer­lead­ers over an in­ci­dent in the spring in which one of them wore black­face and said the n-word in a video posted to so­cial me­dia. The par­ents of the girl who wore black­face apol­o­gized and the fam­ily un­der­went coun­sel­ing. The ju­nior var­sity girls were let back onto the team, which it­self up­set some on the var­sity squad who felt a tougher con­se­quence was needed.

Slatic said he no­ti­fied dis­trict of­fi­cials that he wanted to at­tend the cheer squad meet­ing on July 11. But par­ents and cheer­lead­ers said he was not in­vited, that he barged in and pro­ceeded to scold them. Ac­cord­ing to par­ents and group mem­bers, Slatic fur­ther threat­ened to have cheer­lead­ers

kicked off the group or kept from at­tend­ing a cheer camp if they kept bring­ing up the black­face in­ci­dent.

For his part, Slatic said he did not call out any­one by name. “Lead­ers don’t dwell on whether they are liked or not, they dwell on what they are do­ing is for the greater good,” he told Bee colum­nist Marek Warszawski. “The right thing is rarely the pop­u­lar thing.”

Ac­tu­ally, a leader ac­knowl­edges when his be­hav­ior and words hurt others, apol­o­gizes for such and aims to make things bet­ter go­ing for­ward. Slatic, a re­tired Marine ma­jor who holds up his lead­er­ship skills honed through a mil­i­tary ca­reer, has def­i­nitely caused pain. Here’s what speak­ers told the school board at Thurs­day’s meet­ing:

“The term is trustee, which means there should be trust.”

“What made me most up­set about Mr. Slatic’s ac­tion was that he tried to si­lence my daugh­ter.”

“He then threat­ened them, ‘If your par­ents or you talk about this, you will be off the team.’”

“My grand­fa­ther served 30 years in the Army, and he would have never done what you have done.”

“Get­ting on stu­dent’s cases — that is not your role.”

“He used fear tac­tics to try to force ev­ery­body to shut their mouths about this ‘silli­ness,’ as you say.”

“Mr. Slatic, you have given Fresno an­other black eye with what you have done.”

“I am ap­palled, and em­bar­rassed, and wor­ried for the safety of my child.”

“If you have any re­spect for yourself, you will re­sign right now.”

“I shouldn’t have to be up here as a 14-year-old girl to speak on be­half of a girl that did black­face.”

“This is not a way a man acts.”

Any politi­cian con­fronted with such raw re­ac­tion would, at the very least, apol­o­gize then and there to the au­di­ence and his fel­low board mem­bers. Such a pub­lic of­fi­cial would com­mit him­self to mend fences and clear up any mis­con­cep­tions.

But no such hu­mil­ity was shown by Slatic. In fact, when pressed by re­porters on whether he might step down, his an­swer was de­fi­ant: “Not in a mil­lion years.”

This lat­est in­ci­dent fol­lows one in Jan­uary when Slatic con­fronted a stu­dent at Bullard High over pro­fan­ity the stu­dent directed at him and a col­league. Slatic grabbed the stu­dent, pulling off his back­pack, rather than let­ting school of­fi­cials han­dle the dis­ci­pline.

Slatic is mak­ing it abun­dantly clear that his ap­proach is take it or leave it — his way or the high­way. He is a “leader,” which in­fers no one else is, in­clud­ing fel­low board mem­bers and dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tors. Such ar­ro­gance is go­ing to leave him iso­lated, for who wants to work with such a per­son? That, in turn, makes him less ef­fec­tive as an elected of­fi­cial.

He just be­gan his term ear­lier this year, so there is still time for him to re­flect and agree to be a pos­i­tive force for Fresno Uni­fied. Af­ter the Jan­uary in­ci­dent, The Bee ad­vised him work within the role he cam­paigned for — as a part of a seven-mem­ber board and not as some Lone Ranger rid­ing into town to clean things up.

The stakes be­fore Fresno Uni­fied are too high for these ridicu­lous sideshows. The achieve­ment gap for stu­dents of color per­sists. Teach­ers face daunt­ing chal­lenges try­ing to ed­u­cate stu­dents who, in many cases, are hun­gry, or home­less, or have one or two par­ents in­car­cer­ated. Then there are the pres­sures for the work­ers of to­mor­row to com­pete in a highly ad­vanced tech­no­log­i­cal world.

It is time for Terry Slatic to de­cide if he will re­ally be part of solv­ing such ma­jor prob­lems. If not, it is time for him, as speak­ers said, to step down.

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