Following long, contentious meeting Antioch School Board censures, disciplines Trustee Vinson

Lasts until the end of the school year; claims of retaliation, racism made

By Allen Payton

During a four-hour Antioch School Board meeting on Wednesday night, Sept. 13, the members held three split votes on the censure and discipline of Board Vice President and fellow Trustee Debra Vinson for allegations of bullying and intimidating staff members, earlier this year. Each item passed 3-2 with Board President Walter Ruehlig and Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray and Gary Hack voting in favor, while Vinson and Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White voted no.

The first vote was for a letter to Vinson from Ruehlig directing her to communicate only through Superintendent Stephanie Anello. The draft letter limited that to six months. However, the final vote makes it last through the end of the school year, next June. Following is the draft of the letter:

“September 14, 2017

By U.S. Mail & E-mail:  DebraVinson@antioch.k12.ca.us

Trustee Debra Vinson

Antioch Unified School District

510 G Street

Antioch, CA 94509

Re:       Directive Following Findings of Employee Complaints

Dear Ms. Vinson:

As you know, last month the Antioch Unified School District (“District”) completed its factual investigation into a complaint filed against you by two District employees and provided you with an executive summary of the findings prepared by the District’s independent investigator, Deborah Maddux.  Ms. Maddux’s investigation found that you engaged in intimidating conduct towards the two District employees, that you improperly attempted to exercise administrative responsibility and command over the services of the two District employees, and that you used your position to pressure the two District employees into making a decision that was contrary to Board Policy.

Based on Ms. Maddux’s investigative findings, you are hereby directed, effective immediately, to refrain from communicating directly with District Office and site-level administrators, other than the Superintendent, regarding District business for the next six months.  Should you require information from the District in your capacity as Board member, please direct your inquiries or requests for information to the Superintendent, who will communicate with the necessary staff members to get you information in response to any appropriate inquiry in a timely manner.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Respectfully,

Walter Ruehlig

Board President”

The second vote was for a letter sent to all administrators at the schools and the district office that they are not obligated to communicate with her, either. The draft of the letter also contained a limit of six months, was extended to the end of the current school year, as well. Following is the letter:

“September 14, 2017

By E-mail

District Office and School Site Administrators

Antioch Unified School District

510 G Street

Antioch, CA 94509

Re:       Communications from Board Member Debra Vinson

Dear Administrators:

Last month the Antioch Unified School District (“District”) completed a factual investigation into a complaint filed against Board Vice-President, Debra Vinson, by two District employees.

Based on the findings of the District’s investigation, Ms. Vinson has been directed, effective immediately, to refrain from communicating directly with site-level and District Office administrators, other than the Superintendent, regarding District business for the next six months.  In the event that you receive any direct inquiries from Ms. Vinson within the next six months, please forward them to the Superintendent, who will respond to Ms. Vinson.  You are not obligated to respond directly to Ms. Vinson or provide her with any information.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Respectfully,

Walter Ruehlig

Board President”

The third action was the actual censure of Vinson, in which it states, “That the Board does hereby censure, disavow and formally express its disapproval of Trustee Vinson’s conduct” and “direct Trustee Vinson to comply with state law, Board Policy, Regulations, and Bylaws; and cease and desist from engaging in intimidation of District employees, commanding the service of District employees, and/or exercising excessive administrative responsibility.”

The resolution also states that a “censure by a public body is a collective judgment of stern condemnation of one of its members for behaviors or actions that violate laws or policies” and that “it is a formal public act of disapproval of a member’s unacceptable conduct.”

The resolution also offers the board’s reasons for taking the action. Those reasons are based on two parts of the Board Bylaws, numbers 9005 and 9200:

“Board Bylaw 9005 states that ‘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.’ Board Bylaw 9005 also sets forth…standards for ‘building unity and creating a positive organizational culture’…and “Board Bylaw 9200 states that ‘Board trustees shall hold the education of students above any partisan principle, group interest, or personal interest,’ and ‘individual members of the Board shall not exercise any administrative responsibility with respect to the schools or command the services of any school employee,’” as well as Board Bylaw 9000 and Police 4119.21, for which the resolution didn’t provide details.

The board determined that “the investigator made the following findings: Trustee Vinson engaged in intimidating conduct towards two District employees; Trustee Vinson improperly attempted to exercise administrative responsibility and commanded the services of two District employees; and Trustee Vinson used her position to pressure two District employees into making a decision that was contrary to Board Policy; and Trustee Vinson’s behavior towards the District employees and her conduct during the subsequent investigation exceeded her role and influence as a Board member; and “Trustee Vinson’s coercive behavior, language, and conduct toward District employees fail to meet the professional standards for an elected representative or the minimum standards expected of any District employee or trustee, and violated District Policies and Board Bylaws, including Board Bylaws 9000, 9005, 9200 and Board Policy 4119.21.”

Vinson Denies Intimidation, Opposes Board Actions

In a statement given during the previous board meeting on August 23, Vinson denied her actions were intimidating. (See related article) During Wednesday’s meeting, she denounced the actions as possibly retaliation and racism. Vinson is the black and the three trustees who voted to discipline and censure her are white.

Sawyer-White called the actions illegal stating the censure resolution referred to board policies that don’t exist.

Please check later today for more details including comments by the public and board members.

 

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4 Comments to “Following long, contentious meeting Antioch School Board censures, disciplines Trustee Vinson”

  1. RJB says:

    Finally, a step forward in the AUSD. Glad the real leaders showed courage to discipline Vinson!

  2. Sherra says:

    Justice finally. Sawyer-white, you lost my vote. Birds of a feather flock together. When you actually read what vinson did, she really should have been recalled. Anyone who would stick up for her should not be trusted. She shows absolutely no remorse for what she did and frankly should not be around children if she is saw nothing wrong with the behavior towards employees of the school district. When we vote people into office, they are to serve not treat others as thier servants which is exactly what she did. Thank you board for doing your job.

  3. Julio says:

    Vinson was a supporter of Mrs. Sawyer-White in the election and that is why Mrs. Sawyer-White did not receive my vote. Neither of them will ever or have ever received my vote.

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