By Michael Hernandez
THOUSAND OAKS—The Conejo Valley Unified School District board chose not to move forward on the censure of board trustee Sandee Everett but ran out of time to discuss censure of Board Trustee Jenny Fitzgerald.
Meanwhile, an email was submitted the day of the meeting by former CVUSD Board President Mike Dunn to both Superintendent Dr. Mark McLaughlin and Board President Betsy Connolly challenging the censure agenda items as not meeting the two week CVUSD board policy requirement for a community member to place an item on the board agenda with the required written supporting documents and the name of the individual making the request.
Everett’s critics who included Jess Wiehl (also known as Anonymous Mommy who said at the board meeting she submitted the board item for Everett’s censure) and Jon Cummings (Indivisible activist) were outnumbered 4 (in favor of censure) and 12 (against) during the public hearing comments made around midnight as Everett supporters stayed till 1 a.m. to support her.
CVUSD president Betsy Connolly stated that the two action items discussed at the end of the night at the board meeting which began at 6 p.m. were to decide if a board ad-hoc committee was to be created to write a censure resolution regarding either or both board members as reported by community members. According to Connolly the discussion on censuring Everett (item 5f) was listed first over any discussion on censuring Fitzgerald (item 5g) because this item was received first by the Board of Education.
The controversy over both censure items was due to a Everett addressing parents at an education conference held on Aug. 10 at Godspeak Calvary:
Everett’s comments at this conference was challenged by board member Jenny Fitzgerald who blasted Everett on social media after attending the conference with a group from Conejo Indivisible and resulted in two letters printed in the Aug. 15th Acorn criticizing her speaking at the event (written by Bonnie Shubb and Lauren Gill both of Newbury Park).
Shubb wrote that though Everett gave a disclaimer she was “representing her own view—not representing the school board” that she “should keep her personal views private until she is no longer serving our community.” Gill wrote “don’t we deserve better than a trustee who asked for our votes and who now undermines the schools?”
Tim Cooley, president of the newly formed California Parent Alliance” spoke in defense of Everett stating: “Sandee represents her constituency and she is a champion for public schools while Amy Chan, who ran for CVUSD school board in 2018 spoke: “It is a sad day when we need to defend the right to free speech….(the education conference) was on public, private and home school options. Sandee has the right to participate in public discourse. She is an ambassador of public schools and advocate for public school and a (CVUSD) parent.”
Everett was defended in an August 22 Citizens Journal editorial. To read go to:
Everett stated: “I understand why there is a large portion of our community that doesn’t choose public schools but to go to Christian schools or Christian homeschool groups.
“Every board member should be talking to people and asking them about their concerns; how they can be resolved; and how we can work together. One parent told me that because I spoke (Aug. 10) she would keep her children in the public schools. We need to be building relationships at such events to build trust. I am an advocate for public schools and as example of a person who believes in public schools.”
Board President Connolly at the conclusion of public comments said that from “what I have heard so far, I am not voting now to set an agenda item for creating an ad hoc committee to create a censure resolution.” Trustee Bill Gorbach stated: “I don’t see a requirement for censure.” Board Trustee Jenny Fitzgerald encouraged the public to view Everett’s slides (her Aug. 10 presentation) and make their own decision. Board Trustee Cindy Goldberg stated: “We are spending the morning of the start of school (on this issue) and the schools and staff deserve better than this.”
Connolly announced that there were 13 public comment cards filed to discuss the censure of Trustee Fitzgerald but stated “we’re not going to make it” and concluded the meeting at 12:54 a.m. (almost seven hours after beginning the board meeting).
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and 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 25 years as a middle school teacher. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].