CVUSD board votes down censure resolution of Betsy Connolly

By Michael Hernandez

THOUSAND OAKS—The Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) voted down a censure of board member Betsy Connolly by a vote of 2-1 (with Connolly and Patricia Phelps voting “No.”).  The lone “Yes” vote came from board member Sandee Everett who had advanced the motion with abstentions from both board members Mike Dunn and Board President John Andersen.

CVUSD Board Member Betsy Connolly survived a censure hearing on 10-2-18. Photo: Michael Hernandez/

The motion written by Everett for censure had cited four instances of Connolly using social media inappropriately on:

  • October 17, 2017: “Board member Connolly posted a picture on social media of a public speaker and then proceeded to mock him in a public conversation with her friends.”
  • August 21, 2018: “Board member Connolly wrote discriminatory remarks regarding the religious beliefs of a school board candidate.”
  • August 29, 2018: “Board member Connolly used her Board/District email contact list to sent an email with disparaging, political and divisive remarks regarding fellow board members.”
  • September 4, 2018: “Board member Connolly engaged in a social media conversation disparaging and mocking this parent’s comments.”

However, the CVUSD board meeting was thrown into confusion when board member Sandee Everett tried to withdraw the motion for censure.  This action was rejected by Connolly asked Phelps to place the motion before the board as she seconded the motion.  After Board President John Andersen conferred with Supt. Mark McLaughlin; it was determined that the motion would have had to be withdrawn before the agenda was approved.  This was despite objections by Dunn who claimed that the motion could be postponed indefinitely by amendment and approval of three board members according to Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedures.

CVUSD Board Member Sandee Everett unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw her censure resolution, which failed on 10-2-18. Photo: Michael Hernandez/

The packed highly contentions board meeting featured early evening comments from pubic members in favor of censure (11 for censure and three opposed) and then later in the evening (before the actual vote for censure) public comments ran against the censure with almost 15 consecutive public comments supporting Connolly with many claiming that the censure resolution was a “political sham” with at least 10 public members standing defiantly during comments made by board member Everett where she stated that board members needed to participate in social media in a respectful way, modeling good behavior and with a higher standard than those in the community and upholding board policy bylaws.  Everett also expressed disappointment at Connolly’s lack of contrition over the matter and her pattern of derogatory public comments toward parents, members of the community and fellow board members.

Connolly thanked her supporters and defended herself by stating that she did not “technically violate the board bylaws” and that she stood by her messaging on Facebook and Twitter and though she said, “I sometimes have a sharp tongues, and sometimes I am fierce in my stand,” that she did not regret her words and it reflected her personal style of communication and individuals who disagreed did not have to read her words. 

Board member Connolly has served on the CVUSD board since November 2008 and her current term ends in 2020 and is not campaigning this election cycle.   She teaches Horse Science at Pierce College and Zoology at Moorpark College and has two children who have graduated from CVUSD schools 

The Board resolution had sought to advance six points which included that each individual Board member shall:

  • “Recognize and respect differences of perspective and style on the Board and among staff, students, parents and the community.”
  • “To maximize Board effectiveness and public confidence in district governance, Board members are expected to govern responsibly and hold themselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct.”
  • “The Board encourages members who participate on social networking sites, blogs or other discussion or informational sites to conduct themselves in a respectful, courteous, and professional manner and to model good behavior for district students and the community.”
  • “The Board encourages its spokespersons to exercise restraint and tact and to communicate the message in a manner that promotes public confidence in the Board’s leadership.”
  • “When speaking in community groups, members of the public or the media, individual Board members should recognize that their statements may be perceived as reflecting the views and positions of the Board. Board members have a responsibility to identify personal viewpoints as such and not as the viewpoint of the Board.”
  • No person shall be subjected to discrimination on the basis of disability, gender, gender identity, gender expression, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any other characteristic that is contained in the definition of hate crimes…including immigration status, in any program or activity conducted by an educational institution that receives, or benefits from, state financial assistance, or enrolls pupils who receive state student financial aid.”

Both CVUSD board members Connolly and Everett prior to the resolution vote asked pointed questions to district staff about Title IX responsibilities at each school site (the process where public schools receive complaints) as well as the district’s cyber bullying policies.  Staff indicated they would report back to the board at the next board meeting.  Reference was also made to Nick Vujicic (Life Without Limbs) who  they stated had spoken against cyber bullying at assemblies at two of the district’s high schools.


Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service, founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor.  He has worked 24 years as a middle school teacher.   Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected]

Mr. Hernandez is dedicated himself to advance the 13 spheres—as a “City Upon A Hill”; developing an interactive California citizens news platform as an alternative to mainstream media; while building local school-community partnerships and supporting constitutional awareness and active citizenship.

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William Hicks

Where were Dunn and Anderson in all this?

William Hicks