The self-imposed exit of Alexander Bronson from the Manteca Unified School District board 188 days after his election offers a morality lesson for many people — school district brass, the board, and Bronson himself.
Bronson resigned this week just days after entering a not guilty plea to election fraud. The felony charges stem from him using an address that he did not live at to claim he met the residency qualifications to run for the Area 6 seat representing northwest Manteca.
The University of Southern California graduate was not even a Manteca Unified School District resident at the time he filed paperwork attesting to the legitimacy of his place of residence. The fact he moved into a Manteca apartment complex near Manteca Rehab & Care since his election didn’t cancel out the wrong.
If you talk with Bronson one-on-one you would be impressed. He is intelligent, analytical, serious, visionary, pleasant, and is truly concerned about the education of young people. He has an idealistic viewpoint tempered with a desire to make things work.
That said you can’t build on a wobbly foundation. The question that the perjury charges are based on is as straight-forward as it gets: Where do you reside?
It was a slam dunk question, especially for a USC grad.
Given that trustee Ashley Drain, also elected in November and facing the same felony charges plus charges of welfare fraud and grand theft, happened to write down the same address that Bronson did when she filled out candidate papers two days later and then crossed it out raises a big question. If Bronson and Drain did not know each other beforehand, then how did they come up with the same address? They do, of course, have a common associate.
It is why there is speculation today that Bronson may have cut a deal with prosecutors to cough up the name of who supplied him with the address. It would explain why after pleading guilty you make a move — resigning from the board — that wouldn’t exactly convince a jury or judge of your innocence.
Bronson has a bright future. The odds are he took advice that on a quality scale that wasn’t just poor but downright sinister as it appears to have been a deliberate attempt to hijack an election by putting up an unqualified candidate. By doing the right thing, he can repair a lot of self-inflicted damage and move forward.
Those that don’t fall into the Twenty-Something category on the board along with district brass shouldn’t forget the role they played in the fiasco that has been unfolding over the past six months and led to the departure of an effective high school principal at Weston Ranch. It all comes down to the number 30.
That is the number of vote difference between what Bronson (10,004) and Drain (9,974) received in the November election. Each had only one opponent — incumbents.
Trustee Sam Fant likes to brag that it was the social media campaign he engineered that got Drain and Bronson elected. Fat chance since their reach was only in the general Weston Ranch area. Talk to voters in Manteca and Lathrop who said they voted for Drain and Bronson and they made five things clear:
• They did not like the “direction” the school district was taking.
• As such, they didn’t want to vote for the incumbents.
• They felt the district/board was pushing Going Digital down the throats of parents and the community.
• They had issues with claims of alarming pressing health and safety issues on campuses made in the slick campaign mailers for the school bond when the district had never given any inkling that was a concern before and even submitted state mandated report cards to Sacramento saying everything was fine. Among those, many said they begrudgingly voted for the school bond.
• They admittedly knew nothing about Bronson or Drain other than their claims to be educators.
It is clear the board started believing their own reviews. That’s the danger when your counsel is primarily school administrators you work with as a trustee and not the people you represent. Essentially they were so close to all “the great and wonderful things they were doing” they failed to see the storm clouds.
That led to the perfect storm that allowed two unknowns to knock off incumbents and set in motion six months of district turmoil.
Superintendent Jason Messer got the message. He said several months ago that he’d advise any other school district trying a massive roll out on the scale of Going Digital to double down on efforts to engage the community from the start. It’s not that Messer or the district was trying to hide anything. He now understands an extraordinary and somewhat trailblazing imitative also requires extraordinary community and parent engagement as well.
As for the bond election, once the check was signed to hire a consulting firm to run the campaign is when the troubles began. The district can’t legally have any say in a campaign for a bond election.
The consultant was advised by some that using “pressing health and safety” needs as a ruse wasn’t needed nor was it necessarily a good thing. But consultants who usually take the tact of General Sherman visiting Georgia don’t believe in voters doing the right thing. Hence the campaign that led people to believe there was a severe problem with malfunctioning fire alarms at East Union High and that there were classroom conditions throughout the district that was endangering student health and safety.
None of those alleged deficiencies are being addressed by the district in the first round of bond spending.
And to top it off, the rank and file of classified and teacher unions have passed no-confidence in the board resolutions.
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 email@example.com or 209.249.3519.