Connect the dots.
If you do that you’ll see what’s coming down the tracks. Manteca Unified will be slammed with enough hostile workplace complaints to keep lawyers in the money for the rest of their careers.
Worse yet, the circus being led by folks who are supposed to be worried about things such as their fiduciary duty on behalf of the people and overseeing a business with more than 2,000 employees will end up crippling Manteca Unified’s primary mission – educating 23,000 kids.
The first act of the hatchet job is well underway. There are school board members gunning for Weston Ranch High principal Jose Fregoso. Unlike smooth political operators who build cases and alliances to get their way, they have all the subtle finesse of a Texas Chainsaw massacre flick.
It is why Debie McLarty – a hardworking office clerk at Woodward School – is being shameless and viciously attacked.
McLarty had the audacity as a representative of Manteca classified employees to come to the defense of a Weston Ranch janitor caught in the cross-hair of trustee Ashley Drain’s defense of a student that called the district employee a “b***h” during a heated exchange. The incident ended up being sorted out by Fregoso, who ended up suspending the student.
This did not sit too well with Drain who believes Weston Ranch High is oozing with racism or — as she sometimes phrases it — a lack of “cultural diversity and awareness training.” She expressed on her Facebook page her dislike for Fregoso because he happens to send his kids to a non-traditional public school and therefore, in her words, “has no clue how to deal with minority children.” That must come as a complete surprise to Fregoso’s kids given that he is Hispanic.
It’s safe to assume that Fregoso – like every dedicated educator – sees kids as students and not color swatches. Apparently that is his original sin in the minds of some that view an even-handed application of the rules of decorum needed to sustain a stable and safe learning environment for all kids is racism — or lack of cultural awareness — if it is applied across the board to everyone regardless of ethnicity.
Of course, all that matters to Drain is what she believes to be racism. And whether you agree or disagree with her on this one – or any other school-related issue – there is a little thing that she shouldn’t overlook. She was elected as one of seven people to serve as the governing board of Manteca Unified.
That doesn’t mean she should bury her concerns or her agenda. But she has to walk a tight rope that reflects her responsibilities.
The district has collective bargaining that produced workplace rules and how disciplinary actions are taken.
If a trustee can be connected to orchestrated efforts to have a classified worker called a racist in a public forum and arrange for TV coverage at the same time for a more effective, widespread smear it looks an awful lot like a trustee is creating a hostile workplace.
This time it was McLarty. Next time it will be another school employee. And rest assured there will be a next time, and a next time, and a next time. Drain is just getting warmed up. It hasn’t even been two months since she took her oath.
So what overt act of racism did McLarty commit? She had photos of kids and adults on her Facebook page wearing shirts with confederate flags on them. The confederate flag is used by the Ku Klux Klan and others as a symbol of their movement to advance racist treatment of blacks. There are others who view it as kind of a rebel or redneck symbol.
It is much like the gammadion cross that has been around for centuries that’s also known as a swastika. You see one and likely think of Nazi Germany and anti-Semitism. But others view it as a sacred and auspicious symbol. No, these people aren’t Nazis. They are Hindus and Buddhists who employ swastikas in their religions. Heaven wonders how a school district employee that’s Hindu would be treated if a trustee saw a gammadion cross on their personal Facebook page.
So why did McLarty have family members and friends dressed in confederate flag T-shirts? They were photos of a birthday party for one of her kids that had a Dukes of Hazard theme. Lucky McLarty didn’t have a recording of “Dixie” on her personal Facebook page.
There is also a photo of President Obama with what at first glance looks to many like a bullet hole. McLarty said she didn’t upload it and believes a Facebook friend did.
When I was first shown the photo I thought it was a tilaka – a mark with religious significance that Hindus place on their forehead. Both Ralph White – a former Stockton councilman and longtime community activist who referenced the Obama photo at the school board meeting – and I were wrong. It was a photo taken during a press conference where the President was being buzzed by a fly that landed on his forehead. Google “President Obama fly” and find out for yourself.
Of course, none of this matters. The damage has been done. McLarty has unfairly been branded a racist. That’ll teach her to challenge a school board member.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.