Did the flap over an employee posting photos of a confederate flag at a birthday party and a controversial picture of President Barack Obama with a fly on his forehead prompt one school board member not to run again?
Deborah Romero says it did.
Last week the Manteca Unified School Board President, in a tearful signoff of the board’s business meeting, said that she was so affected by the fallout of the situation – which included investigations, a scathing Grand Jury report, and widespread media attention – that she decided not to seek another term on the board.
The entire ordeal was rehashed the day before when outgoing Weston Ranch board member Sam Fant – who opted not to run for a second term as he seeks a spot on the Stockton City Council – used the report of the San Joaquin Civil Grand Jury as part of his defense in San Joaquin Superior Court to prove that the District Attorney’s office should be forced to recuse itself from his prosecution because of bias.
Fant is being charged with two counts of election fraud and conspiracy stemming from his alleged involvement in getting Ashley Drain and Alexander Bronson elected to the school board by using addresses inside of the district boundaries where they did not actually reside.
He will be back in court on Thursday to make his case to Judge Brett Morgan to have the California Attorney General take over the prosecution.
Romero held back tears when making her closing comments – speaking candidly about the state of racism in Manteca Unified, and the impact that the investigations and the accusations had on her decision to run again.
“Is there racism in Manteca Unified? Of course there is. There is. Because guess what? There is racism everywhere in the world. You aren’t going to escape it,” Romero said. “And I’m not saying that it’s something that we don’t need to be aware of, but it’s not going to be 100 percent remedied because even when you think that you’ve got it remedied, there will be pockets that aren’t remedied. And it’s a shame.
“I know where I stand in my beliefs. But like Stephen (Schluer) said, it’s hard to sit up here and be attacked. And two years ago it was devastating. It was so devastating that I chose not to run this year. It’s more than you guys can imagine. So to the board members who are choosing to stay – congratulations. To those of you who are running – good luck. And for those of you who are elected – I look up to you. Because it’s the hardest job you’ll ever do.”
As part of his defense, Fant’s attorney is attempting to have the confidentiality agreement of at least one – and possibly more – members of the grand jury lifted to offer insight into the report that offered a blistering assessment of Fant’s actions as a trustee and the controversy that ensued when he took photos from an employees Facebook page and presented them to the media before bringing them to the Superintendent or the rest of the board.
Two prominent members of Stockton’s black community – Ralph White of the Stockton Black Leadership Coalition and Bobby Bivens of the Stockton Chapter of the NAACP – alleged in a statement that the language used when speaking about Drain was racist in nature, and that the report was riddled with bias.
The judge appointed to rule on whether the grand juror can be released is expected to hear arguments next month.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.