By Nick Goodrich
At the Antioch School Board on Wednesday, September 28th, voiced their support of Proposition 55: Children’s Education and Health Protection Act, and heard complaints about Trustee Debra Vinson and a call for her recall.
During public comments, District employee Nicole Cedano, once again appeared before the Board to voice her displeasure with Vinson. Cedano, who, at the Board’s August 22nd meeting, first complained about Vinson’s behavior, said that since then she has been approached by several others who have experienced similar behavior by the first-term board member.
Cedano’s complaint during the August meeting was prompted by Vinson allegedly calling an Antioch High School employee a “bigot” the day before. Since then, Cedano told the Board, Vinson has made more inflammatory comments about Antioch City Councilmember Mary Rocha.
Vinson’s more recent comments allegedly include calling Rocha “too old, too out of touch, and not qualified to run for City Council” at the internal selections committee. Then, at the Democratic Central Committee meeting, she publicly called Rocha “a racist,” Cedano alleges.
When reached for comment, Rocha was less than pleased with Vinson’s statements.
“It did happen, and I’m very upset about it,” she told the Herald.
To Rocha, it seemed to be a political move aimed at hurting her chances at reelection to the Antioch City Council.
“I couldn’t believe what she said,” Rocha said of the comments. “It really astonished me.”
Vinson was also reached for comment by the Herald and shared her view of what transpired.
“At our Democrat endorsement meeting, I reported what Mary Rocha said during our June primary endorsement process when we were choosing to endorse Federal Glover,” Vinson said. “I reported only what Mary said, and no more. This is typical of the endorsement process when considering who to endorse.”
“She was advocating for Anamarie (Avila) Farias for supervisor and speaking on her behalf,” Vinson continued. “What she essentially said was the blacks have had their turn, the whites have had their turn and now it’s for the Mexican and Latino candidates to have their turn.
“I do remember her saying ‘it’s our time,’” referring to Mexican and Latino candidates, Vinson added.
“I repeated what Mary said (in the primary endorsement meeting) at the endorsement meeting for the November election to remind people and told them ‘we want candidates who are for all people and not to exclude anyone,’” Vinson remembers saying. “I never said Mary is a racist. I never said she’s too old. I never said that. People are saying things that aren’t true. I was very short and brief. Several people will verify what I said.”
Rocha responded to Vinson’s comments and recollection of what was said at the endorsement meetings.
“No. No. I didn’t say that,” Mary said. “You can ask the people who were there, including the chairman.”
“I’ll tell you what I did do. When Federal (Supervisor Glover) called me in January, and he asked me ‘Mary can you give me your endorsement,’ I told him no,” Rocha explained. “I said ‘I covered you before. This time I have to support Ana Maria. I’ve got to support her because she’s Latina and I’ve got to at least help her make an effort.’”
“And I only said it to Federal, so how did he get it to Debra?” Rocha asked.
“She (Vinson) was endorsing Lamar (Thorpe, candidate for Antioch School Board) and then she said ‘she’s a racist’ and ‘is against black people from going forward,’” Rocha shared. “I said ‘I did not say that.’ She said that in front of 70 people she.”
Rocha then explained where the “too old” comment originated.
“Vinson said she I the ‘old guard’ and that ‘Lamar was the new one and that he would come in and take care of the city,’” Rocha added.
Cedano cited a District code that calls for any employee or official that makes comments detrimental to the District, to be punished with a fine.
With Vinson’s comments costing the District almost $3,000 in legal fees, Cedano said, there are reasonable grounds for her to be removed from the Board, and Cedano stated that a petition for Vinson’s recall is currently in the works.
Board Member Authority
Later in the meeting, Board Member Fernando Navarro brought Board Policy 9200: Limits of Board Member Authority to the Board’s attention.
Navarro proposed having the Board review the policy and make several positive changes. His concern is mostly with the language of the policy, and he stated that while he has some suggestions in mind, the Board should review the policy and present their proposed changes at the next Board meeting. The issue was tabled until that time.
At the end of the meeting, the Board discussed Proposition 55: Children’s Education and Health Protection Act, which proposes extending the temporary Prop 30 tax in California that would provide additional funds for education.
Many Trustees had mixed feelings about Prop 55. Trustee Walter Ruehlig was wary of the “temporary tax”, as he noted that several other similar taxes have been drawn out long past their original end date.
“It’s probably not the perfect solution,” Ruehlig said. “I’m voting for it, but reluctantly. It looks like the lesser of two evils.”
Vinson stated that she is voting for it now, but that ultimately, the voters will have to decide. Trustee Alonzo Terry said, “When it comes to our kids and schools, we always have to side with them.”
Navarro was the lone dissenter in the Board’s 4-1 vote in favor of supporting the Proposition. He, like Ruehlig, was wary of yet another tax.
“We have to try to live within our means,” he told the audience. “It’s a downgrade, and we’re running out of road.”
Almost 90% of the tax revenue would go towards K-12 schools, with another 11% to state community colleges. An additional $2 billion would be designated for Medi-Cal and other health programs.
Prop 55 will appear on the state ballot in November.