SACRAMENTO — Residents in one Bay Area community are demanding that several school board members resign after the officials were captured on video disparaging parents in frank and profane ways as tensions mount over prolonged campus closures.
“It’s really unfortunate that they want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” Oakley Union Elementary School Board President Lisa Brizendine said in a recording of a board meeting posted Wednesday on YouTube. Brizendine and other trustees of the small district about 50 miles east of San Francisco are shown lamenting parent frustrations throughout the eight-minute clip, apparently not realizing until too late that their discussion was airing live.
The situation reflects the unprecedented levels of tension within California school communities after most classrooms have been shut for nearly a year. Parents are forming “Open Schools Now” organizations and mobilizing like never before, airing their grievances on social media groups and testifying at board meetings. Teachers unions and district administrators are facing growing pressure to reopen campuses in a state that is now among the last to bring students back.
In another exchange about social media criticism the schools board has faced, Oakley Union trustee Kim Beede goes on a profanity-laced rant about an unidentified critic after asking her fellow board members, “Are we alone?”
“Bitch, if you’re going to call me out, I’m gonna f— you up,” Beede said, laughing with other members. “Sorry, that’s just me.”
The video was captured on a cell phone, whose time shows the discussion occurred about 10 minutes before Wednesday’s scheduled 4 p.m. open session. Board members also discussed the organizational structure for the meeting.
School board member Richie Masadas insinuates on the call that parents are frustrated with distance learning because they aren’t able to smoke marijuana as much. Masadas says he knows a medical marijuana deliveryman, “and the clientele were parents with their kids in school.” His comments are received with hearty laughter, as Masadas says parents are frustrated they can no longer “smoke up” without in-person instruction as an option.
Masadas also says of the school board’s critics that “it’s easy to hide behind their screens” and “when you’re face-to-face with people, it’s a whole different ballgame.”
Beede is notified that the meeting is being recorded live, then says, “Uh-oh.” The board members then scramble to turn off their videos, as Brizendine says “Nuh-uh.”
“Great,” another says.
Oakley Union Superintendent Greg Hetrick is also on the call, but does not participate in the conversation much. Hetrick and school board members did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday.
As of Thursday morning, a petition asking the involved school board members to resign had garnered more than 1,000 signatures. Oakley Union Elementary School District enrolls about 5,000 students and has not reopened to students despite a push from Gov. Gavin Newsom to reopen elementary schools.
Newsom and the Biden administration have bolstered their efforts to assure school reopening can happen with masks and social distancing, especially among younger grades, but most California districts have not made much progress as teachers unions demand stricter safety precautions, including access to vaccines. A school official told POLITICO on Thursday that OUESD is considering an April return date.
“Parents were tuned in to learn if we will be sending our kids back to school soon and if not, why. There has been a lack of communication from the board and this was the first communication we heard,” the petition, circulated by Oakley resident Rebecca Mackowiak states.
“A recall would cost the district money that should be going to the kids,” the petition adds. “I am asking that the board members to resign immediately due to their egregious behavior. They should no longer represent the parents, teachers and children in this school district.”