Can’t we all just get along?
That’s exactly what Manteca Unified School District special education teacher Leo Bennett-Cauchon wanted to know after Trustee Nancy Teicheira inquired about the summer pool program in Weston Ranch and the protocol for the forwarding of a complaint that was sent to Trustee Sam Fant but was forwarded on to Superintendent Jason Messer months later – impacting the chain of succession that the district told the San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury they would follow in the future.
And things got a little bit heated.
Teicheira, who wanted to know what could be done in order to ensure that the proper people are notified when a complaint is filed, said that it was reported that those using the Weston Ranch swimming pool back in June – when the complaint was filed – were spotted riding bicycles and skateboards on the pool deck. It was also reported that some of the children weren’t actively supervised by lifeguards when they were taking their breaks, and lifeguards were lenient on safety concerns like jumping into the pool’s shallow end.
“We don’t know that to be happening,” said Fant – not mentioning at the time that the board packet contained an email sent to his district address that raised those specific concerns.
Fant’s response to the email was also included in the packet.
And after Trustee Stephen Schluer backed Teicheira’s comments and noted that safety concerns do need to be brought to the attention of staff and ultimately the board itself – who approved the contract with Stockton Kids Club and agreed to pay them $15,000 to operate a community swimming pool – Fant dug in his heels and went on the offensive.
“It’s funny because the most work – and I have to say this to my colleague – I’ve never seen Nancy work so hard unless it’s a project in Weston Ranch,” Fant said. “Then she’ll come and bring something up. And my thing is, honestly, I don’t think we’ve ever brought so many different complaints about this and this and that – are we really going to begin to micromanage and come and bring every complaint to the board? Bring every concern to the board?
“I’m taking about Trustee Teicheira – there was a complaint that came, it was not a formal complaint, and I think there is a formal complaint process that the district has in place and there are steps to be taken when there’s a formal complaint. Somebody just brought a concern to my attention, and I did move forward and bring to the attention of the director of the program.”
According to the redacted email, Fant said that he would address the concerns raised by the parent to the director of the organization that hosts the summer swim program so that the issues could be dealt with.
“I’m ready to move forward because at the end of the day, we’re here for kids and we’re not here for ‘gotcha’ moments,” Fant said. “I think a lot of times the focuses get shifted because we want to sit and say, ‘I gotcha!’ and at the end of the day, we’re not serving kids when that happens.
“I just think that enough is enough and it’s time to focus on why we’re all here on the board, and quit with these ‘gotcha’ moments. I think we’re bigger than that.”
According to Teicheira, it wasn’t a “gotcha” moment because Superintendent Jason Messer was asked if there were any complaints at the last meeting – noting that if she had received the complaint she would have forwarded on to him immediately because “that could have made all of us liable if something were to happen at that swimming pool.”
If something were to have happened, Teicheira said, and it came out later that a person had actually sent a complaint or a concern to a board member but it was never properly sent up the channel, the entire board could be legally exposed.
But Fant wasn’t alone in his critique of Teicheira’s intentions either.
Manteca Unified special education teacher and active school board contributor Leo Benenett-Cauchon echoed the ‘gotcha’ sentiment and suggested some reading for Teicheira that he felt would be beneficial for the group as a whole.
“So Trustee Teicheira I share the perception that it’s ‘gotcha.’ I could be wrong, and I know you’re well motivated in terms of liability but when you sit in the audience and it’s ‘gotcha’ about cell phone use – and then the lawyers said no, you can’t regulate that and if I want to text Sam right now that’s okay, that’s current law,” Bennett-Cauchon said. “And it was ‘gotcha’ about the library in Weston Ranch, so I would just ask that we try to find ways of fixing our problems. In the little book ‘How Not To Be A Terrible School Board Member’ it says ‘maintain a respectful environment. Disrespecting of fellow board members is a terrible habit and it’s all too common. Adopt the mindset that your fellow board members are well intentioned and deserve your respect. A board makes sure that there’s resource equity for schools by providing additional support for schools and communities with higher needs – that’s what our staff is doing, and that’s what I see Trustee Fant doing and I commend the majority of the board for doing that.”
Messer said that he was comfortable with holding organizations accountable according to the contracts that they’ve agreed to with the district – extending that to all agencies across the board and not just the Weston Ranch swim program.”