Santa Maria Sun / Commentary
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 26
The school district is 'under attack'The Santa Maria-Bonita School District board president responds to Will Smith's claims
BY LINDA CORDERO
Since December of 2010, the Santa Maria-Bonita School District and its Board of Education have been under attack. In the past, attacks on education have generally come from the state and federal governments in the form of budget reductions. It is a shocking situation when a newly elected board member begins his tenure with attacks on the district he is supposed to serve. Anyone who is aware of this contentious situation knows that the name of this trustee is Will Smith.
The state’s financial challenges over the past five years have kept every school district governing board in a constant state of anxiety. The Santa Maria-Bonita School District Board of Education is no different. We face those same funding challenges despite increased enrollment.
Yet the attacks we are continuously faced with by Mr. Smith have been just as serious because they have cost the district thousands of dollars. Every time the district has to go to court—or staff has to respond to his inquiries—it costs money. The Board of Education’s decision to censure him cost thousands of dollars as well.
Mr. Smith has openly stated that his goal is to shake up the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. His actions have brought a great deal of negative attention to our district and our Board of Education. While those who have attended our board meetings understand what has happened and why, too much of the general public is only aware of what has made the headlines. This is a source of great concern for the majority of board members and many of the employees of the Santa Maria-Bonita School District.
It is an unusual situation when one board member attacks the very district he represents. Mr. Smith claims that he wants transparency and to rid the district of incompetent administrators and employees, which seems ironic because he was suspended from his previous job as a classroom teacher in the district for more than 100 days. What truly needs to be understood by Mr. Smith and the public is the role of a Board of Education.
A board of education is elected to oversee the policies and practices of the district. Our authority is to make policies in accordance with the state education code and the laws of the state. We approve the operating budget and are accountable for keeping the district fiscally solvent. We have the final say over the purchase of textbooks to meet the demands of state and federal standards for education. In essence, we are responsible for ensuring that all employees are held to the highest standard and that our students are provided the best education possible. We are not overseers of the day-to-day operations of the district. That is the responsibility of the superintendent.
Since being elected in 2010, Mr. Smith has made repeated threats of litigation against the district and its employees and filed numerous complaints with a variety of agencies. His threats have not been validated by the courts and his complaints are overturned. He attempts to get what he wants no matter the cost. At meetings he tries to bully the board into getting what he wants by being loud and disruptive until we must call a recess or call the police. His disruptive behavior has even caused us to adjourn a meeting at which parents and students were waiting to make a presentation. He does not understand that the Board of Education can only be effective when it acts as a whole. Individual board members have no authority. We must abide by the bylaws for governing boards and Robert’s Rules of Order. Mr. Smith cannot accept these boundaries so he becomes disruptive and disrespectful.
In an effort to mitigate some of Mr. Smith’s behaviors, the Board of Education censured him. A censure is the only way to officially address inappropriate behaviors of a board member and it has no legal consequences. Mr. Smith’s response to the actions of the board majority is to claim that we simply don’t want to hear what he has to say. In fact, the censure was not about what Mr. Smith says, but about the way he behaves. He continuously calls board members incompetent and “stooges of the administration” and has verbally attacked each board member personally as well. He insults district employees and members of the public at almost every board meeting. He abstains from voting on routine matters frequently and thus does not represent the community that elected him. As a candidate for the school board in 2010, Mr. Smith wooed the public with his title of “reverend” while calling for “change.” In fact, the only change he has brought about is to take financial resources away from students!
All we want as a board of education is for everyone to follow the rules so we can address the real issues of our district that affect our students and employees. It is imperative that members of the public attend one of our meetings to see what happens. You can then reach your own conclusion. Our meetings are held at the Souza Center, 708 S. Miller St., at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. We welcome three-minute comments from any member of the public.
Linda Cordero is the president of the Santa Maria-Bonita School District Board of Education. Send comments to her via the managing editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.