Marek Warszawski: Time to re­call Slatic,

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY MAREK WARSZAWSKI [email protected]­nobee.com

My first and only in-per­son con­ver­sa­tion with Terry Slatic came in Jan­uary, at a north­west Fresno restau­rant, shortly af­ter video sur­faced show­ing the Fresno Uni­fied trustee’s tus­sle with a Bullard High stu­dent.

Af­ter about an hour of ask­ing ques­tions and lis­ten­ing to re­sponses from Slatic and his at­tor­ney, Charles Manock, it was my turn to in­ter­ject.

“A lot of peo­ple are an­gry at you about this,” I said. “But you know, 90 per­cent of them prob­a­bly would for­give you or move on if you just apol­o­gized.”

Slatic looked at me like I was speak­ing Dutch, then made it clear no apol­ogy would be forth­com­ing.

At first I as­sumed Slatic’s lack of con­tri­tion was rooted in his mil­i­tary back­ground. Marines don’t re­treat, and they sure as heck don’t say sorry.

But now that Slatic is again tak­ing flak, this time for rep­ri­mand­ing Bullard cheer­lead­ers that an­gered many girls and their par­ents weeks af­ter the widely pub­li­cized black­face and n-word in­ci­dent in­volv­ing mem­bers of the JV squad, I re­al­ize there’s an­other ex­pla­na­tion:

Slatic doesn’t be­lieve he did any­thing wrong. Not six months ago when he got trig­gered by a mouthy 16-year-old, and not now.

“Lead­ers don’t dwell on whether they’re liked or not, they dwell on whether what they’re do­ing is for the greater good,” Slatic told me over the phone last week. “The right thing is rarely the pop­u­lar thing.”

COM­PLETELY IN THE WRONG

There you have it. Slatic is con­vinced he’s do­ing the right thing, even when com­pletely in the wrong.

This mind­set, I sug­gest, is the rea­son Slatic sat ex­pres­sion­less in his seat Thurs­day night at a spe­cial meet­ing of the Fresno Uni­fied Board of Ed­u­ca­tion as speaker af­ter speaker lam­basted him for his ac­tions of July 10.

Cheer par­ents tore into Slatic for “barg­ing in” on prac­tice and re­buked him for threat­en­ing and in­tim­i­dat­ing their daugh­ters. A 14-year-old cheer­leader likened him to “a wreck­ing ball.” On mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, he was called “un­sta­ble.”

How did Slatic re­spond to their anger and pain, much of it com­ing from his own Bullard con­stituents? With stone-faced si­lence.

Once the 90-minute pub­lic com­ment ses­sion ended, Slatic’s fel­low trustees took their turn. Keshia Thomas crit­i­cized him for bul­ly­ing Su­per­in­ten­dent Bob Nel­son and fel­low trustees. Carol Mills called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and for­mal cen­sure. Veva Is­las called for him to re­sign or be re­called.

Af­ter lots of an­gry shout­ing from the stand­ing room-only crowd, the Board voted 5-0 to dis­ap­prove of Slatic’s con­duct, re­quire him to have an es­cort on fu­ture vis­its to any Fresno Uni­fied cam­pus and form a com­mit­tee to con­sider a for­mal cen­sure.

RE­SIGN? ‘NOT IN A MIL­LION YEARS’

Through it all, Slatic re­mained stoic. When asked by re­porters fol­low­ing the three-hour meet­ing if he would heed calls to re­sign, he replied, “Not in a mil­lion years.”

Why re­sign when you truly be­lieve you’ve done noth­ing wrong?

As de­scribed by the Cal­i­for­nia School Boards As­so­ci­a­tion, the role of the school board “is to en­sure that school dis­tricts are re­spon­sive to the val­ues, be­liefs and pri­or­i­ties of their com­mu­ni­ties.”

Board mem­bers ful­fill this role in five ways: set­ting di­rec­tion, es­tab­lish­ing struc­ture that is ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient, pro­vid­ing sup­port, en­sur­ing ac­count­abil­ity and pro­vid­ing com­mu­nity lead­er­ship.

Nowhere in there does it say trustees should storm into meet­ings, ha­rass staff mem­bers and dis­trict of­fi­cials, rip back­packs off stu­dents’ shoul­ders and cause girls to burst into tears.

But if Slatic’s term ended to­day, months into his four-year term, that is ex­actly what he’ll be re­mem­bered for. The man is a walk­ing light­ning rod.

At this point any­one who ex­pects the 59-yearold re­tired Marine ma­jor to tone down his act or toe some imag­i­nary line is kid­ding them­selves. This is who Slatic is. Com­pletely un­bowed and to­tally con­vinced of his own right­eous­ness.

A for­mal cen­sure, which Slatic’s fel­low trustees said they’ll take up at their next meet­ing in Au­gust, is a sym­bolic pun­ish­ment. Re­mov­ing him from his seat re­quires the will of the vot­ers in his dis­trict. Some Bullard par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers are dis­cussing a re­call ef­fort.

TREAD­ING ON THIN ICE

This is where Slatic could be tread­ing on thin ice. Of the 21,404 votes cast for the Dis­trict 7 seat in Novem­ber’s elec­tion, Slatic re­ceived 34.2 per­cent – by far the small­est win­ner’s share of the four con­tested seats. Which makes him rather vul­ner­a­ble if a re­call drive gains mo­men­tum.

As the fa­ther of a for­mer Bullard cheer­leader, Slatic con­sid­ers him­self “a cheer dad.” Which means cheer par­ents should be his peo­ple. How­ever, his mis­guided at­tempt at dis­ci­pline and ac­count­abil­ity only served to in­cense those would-be sup­port­ers.

For some­one pre­sum­ably trained in mil­i­tary strat­egy, this is the sort of tac­ti­cal blun­der you’d ex­pect from Col. Ge­orge Custer.

Slatic serves on the Fresno Uni­fied Board of Ed­u­ca­tion at the bless­ing of the vot­ers in his dis­trict. They voted him in, so it’s up to them to vote him out. If that doesn’t hap­pen, it’s be­cause they ap­prove of the job he’s do­ing and how he rep­re­sents their in­ter­ests. Sim­ple as that.

Ex­pect­ing Slatic to sud­denly re­al­ize the er­ror of his ways, or ask­ing him to turn over a new leaf, is a fool’s er­rand. This is who he is, and he’s not about to apol­o­gize.

The ques­tion now is what the Bullard com­mu­nity plans to do about it. If any­thing.

ERIC PAUL ZAMORA [email protected]­nobee.com

FUSD trustee Terry Slatic lis­tens as many speak against him at the Fresno Uni­fied School Board meet­ing on Thurs­day in Fresno.

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