A picture or a photograph paints a thousand words, according to the old saying.
But when the issue came before the Manteca Unified Board of Trustees Tuesday night, an excess of a thousand words were exchanged. A lot more than the one-line simple sentence placed on the agenda.
The item was requested by Trustee Sam Fant, one of the two newest members of the board, for discussion and then a vote. He represents Area 1 which is Weston Ranch. Fant’s request was supported by his fellow board neophyte Deborah Romero of Area 5.
Their request: to have photographs of the Trustees taken, framed, and then displayed in the 31 elementary and high school campuses in the district. The nine high schools include the five traditional ones plus the Manteca Day School. Fant and Romero said having the trustees’ photographs displayed at the school offices will help staff and students recognize them as their district representatives and not outside trespassers or strangers walking around on campus.
Initially setting off the discussion was the cost that could be involved.
“With the vast number of elementary schools in the district, it does become a cost issue,” noted Board President Don Scholl early on during the discussion.
Discussion boils down to ego and character assassination
But the topic turned to issues about ego and character chastisement when former board member Wendy King stepped forward to comment on the agenda item. With the district facing so many difficult issues, she said she does not understand why the subject of board-member photographs be considered “a priority, let alone an agenda item” which, she said, begs the question, “are you here for the students or to promote your own ego?”
King then went on to add, “I truly hope this item ends at being rejected,” and a reminder to the newest board members, “just walk the walk and talk the talk; your job is to set policy.”
A visibly affected Fant reacted saying, “my character was somewhat called in question,” and shot back in response to King’s comment, “It’s not a question of ego; it’s a question of community. I want to represent leadership in my community.”
Continuing to talk while Scholl tried to tone down the detoured photograph discussion, Fant went on to say that he wanted to respond to King who had “the audacity to come and chastise me” and that “my character was put in question.
“I don’t want to be attacked by a former school board (member) who also attacked me once in the newspaper. I’m only asking for support from my board,” said Fant who was referring to the Letter to the Editor that ran in the Manteca Bulletin before the November 2012 elections. In the letter, King pointed out that one of the three candidates from Weston Ranch’s Area 1, which clearly referred to Fant, was not as familiar and as involved in the school district as the two female candidates, Sharla Moore and Alison Ordner, and then endorsed the election of Ordner.
In the end, the six board members – Trustee Nancy Teicheira left the meeting early – voted to approve a group photo – not individual photos – of the Trustees to be framed and displayed at the high schools only, with the provision that the picture-taking be delayed to a time when the board president Scholl and Teichaira set that schedule.
The vote was unanimous, with board vice president Evelyn Moore saying no during the roll-call voting, but later changed her mind after everyone responded with a yes vote.
A relieved Scholl commented after the long discussion and final vote, “I do appreciate the honest discussion, and see how it works out.”