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School board: Its about character
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Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

I read Christine Rene’s letter “wanted change on school board” with mixed feelings. I respect her honesty in admitting  that she is an estranged employee of the Manteca Unified School District and that this circumstance may have affected her stance on wanting the last election’s school board incumbents removed. That does seem likely since she voted for the challengers without doing any research or reading anything about them. This contrasts with how she previous did due diligence and personally contacted school board hopefuls to better understand their views before casting her vote.

I also admire her desire to give  trustees Ashley Drain, Alexander Bronson, and Sam Fant the benefit of the doubt in their recent troubles and public criticisms. However as much as I admire a positive attitude, we must clearly and logically examine the reality of the situation.

Rene questions whether Drain or Bronson actually “committed fraud or were just unknowledgeable on how things work.” They have been accused of providing false information as to their residences when taking out their school board candidacy papers. “How things work” is that candidates must live in the area they hope to represent and provide an accurate and current addresses as proof. That is fairly clear-cut and uncomplicated. How many people are unsure of where they live at a certain time? 

How is it that Drain and Bronson initially wrote in the same Manteca address? Those are legitimate questions which should be addressed honestly. Rene mentioned the new school bond money and Mello Roos funds that are “guided” by the new school board. If writing a home address is baffling, how will they make million dollar decisions on where the school bond and other district income go? She defended Fant by asking whether anyone “tried to tell him nicely what the gown meant” (in reference to the accusation that he wore a gown at graduation ceremonies that he wasn’t qualified to wear).

She wonders whether anyone tried to help mentor them (Fant, Drain, Bronson) or were they combative from the get go, being that they felt a loyalty to the loosing incumbents? In Fant’s case, almost two years ago he replaced an incumbent who chose not to seek re-election, so the “loyalty” aspect doesn’t apply. Again, one would expect trustees making huge decisions effecting MUSD students would be well aware of the educational significance of a certain type of gown and accessories conferred.

A for Drain and Bronson and “mentoring”, from what I’ve seen at school board meetings, their fellow trustees and administrative staff treat them with respect and do offer advice or suggestions. Perhaps this is residue negativity from Rene’s disgruntled ex-employee status. Regardless, it is unfair to ascribe nefarious motives to either the rest of the school board or the administrative staff without a shred of proof. 

For me, the most disturbing part of Rene’s letter is contained in the last paragraph. She talks about usually being a “person that can see things in black and white,” but being “completely baffled” as to who are the “good guys” and “bad guys.” She then snidely remarks that “Dale Fricthen seems to know, but being he was ousted out of his position on the (Stockton) City Council by a young black man that was supported by Oprah Winfrey, how impartial can he be?”

Apparently she does only see things in black and white because she has reduced Fritchen’s school board concerns and quest for integrity to merely racial resentment over losing a seat to a black man. Does she believe that any man who would lose an election to a woman would then resent all women and be biased against them? Her racial implication is both bizarre and insulting, besides being inaccurate since Bronson is a white male. To demean Fritchen’s legitimate concerns and his insistence on high character standards for trustees who serve as role models for the district and to portray those concerns as simply sour grapes or retaliation from a racially biased, sore loser is completely unacceptable.

In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. eloquently expressed his hope that “my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I agree with Dr. King that character and integrity should be color blind. The issue with certain school board trustees is not about skin color, it is about personal integrity. Don’t hide behind one to obscure the other.


Karen Pearsall