Commentary: Sawyer-White offers her side of the story as an Antioch Unified Board Trustee

Crystal Sawyer-White. Photo courtesy of AUSD.

As an Antioch Unified School Board Trustee since November 8, 2016, I am compelled to share my side of the story. My tenure has been a total abyss of despair that is impacting our Antioch student’s education with racially intimidating practices. The day that I was elected on November 8, 2016, I was humbled and excited to serve as School Board Trustee for the students of Antioch Unified School District. I never thought I would experience deceitfulness to undermine my good intentions to fulfill my fiduciary responsibilities.

As an educator and a proud parent of a young adult who graduated from the district in 2007, I am very passionate about education and felt I was ready for the challenge. I looked forward to attending the first board meeting. However, almost every board meeting for the past two years has been stagnated by a lack of collaboration to accomplish goals. The progress of the board to work as a collaborative body was impeded by other members who use their position as a “bully pulpit” for workplace racial intimidation. In addition, my authority as Vice President was constantly challenged, overruled and outright disrespected in this role. I was elected as Vice President a year ago and was considered for the role of President on December 12, 2018.

The role of the President is to enforce the conduct of the Board meetings. President Hack has not enforced Mrs. Velma Wilson’s conduct who is an African American parent of students in AUSD. Mrs. Wilson has continuously spoke in a disrespectful manner during public comments badgering the African American female Board Trustees. Mrs. Wilson exhibits premeditated hostility and bias toward African American female Board Trustees intentionally. Mrs. Wilson publicly stated that I was absent from the most recent Brown Act training. To clarify the Brown Act training invitation that was sent to all Board Trustees, Superintendent Stephanie Anello specified, for new members to attend. Once again, Mrs. Wilson does not know what she is talking about. I have attended two Brown Act trainings thus far.

My focus has been on our students from day one. Here is a list of agenda items to be placed on the agenda that were ignored or disregarded:

1) Safety-Sandy Hook’s Promise-Presentation (asked three times pertaining to student and staff safety)

2) Revolutionary Foods-Nutritional breakfast and lunch programs that are a decrease in cost

3) California Dashboard-To be transparent of our homeless and foster youth.

4) Facility Fees-primarily African American parents and Antioch residents of color pay higher fees.

The following listed below exhibits lack of support, disrespect, and mistreatment:

1) The first month of my term (November 2016), then-Board President Diane Gibson-Gray called me on my cell phone to encourage me to be sworn in by the superintendent, privately. I refused. All public officials are sworn in publicly.

2) In November 2016 I was given a binder of the AUSD 9000 Board Bylaws. I informed the public within a couple of weeks that the new Board Bylaws were revised without Board adoption. The California School Board Association is the key component pertaining to applicable and foundational It is important to update the Bylaws that are 39 years old. Board Trustee Debra Vinson agreed.

The California School Board Association informed me that 30 Board bylaws and policies have been revised. 100 bylaws and policies are outdated since 1989.

3) It’s a steep learning curve, without training, to be a board member. I asked the board to attend the Master of Governance training for Board Development once elected in November. I didn’t attend the first workshop for New Board Trustee training until April 2017 in Anaheim, California.

Here is a list of the trainings:

MIG Course 1 Resources

COURSE 1: Foundations of Effective Governance | Setting Direction

MIG Course 2Resources

COURSE 2: Policy & Judicial Review | Student Learning & Achievement

MIG Course 3 Resources

COURSE 3: School Finance

COURSE 4: Human Resources | Collective Bargaining

MIG Course 5

COURSE 5: Community Relations and Advocacy | Governance Integration

For the past two years all Board Trustees have voted against my attendance to attend professional development except for Debra Vinson. What is wrong with this picture? The Antioch Board of Education is not about educating their students nor Board Trustees to meet their full potential.

4) Superintendent Stephanie Anello recently replied to my text message. She replied to me within minutes by accident sending it to the wrong person. This gave me great insight into her thought process. The text stated, “Should I reply to Crystal’s text or should I ignore it?”

The last Board meeting on December 12, 2018 was the most hostile meeting I ever attended. As Vice President, I was continuously disrespected and intimidated during the meeting. The attendees in the front row were the ex-Chief of Police for the of City of Antioch and Mrs. Velma Wilson, an African American parent of two Antioch Unified School District students. Mrs. Wilson stated I was not worthy of becoming President. I motioned to move up the Action Items A President Elect and B Vice President Elect one the Agenda in front of consent items. Ellie, the new Board Trustee, seconded my motion. It was voted down 2-3. I felt the hostility more than ever after the final vote.

Hearing Mrs. Wilson’s statement coming as an African American woman was intentionally staged. Her conduct during the meeting should have been enforced by President Gary Hack, but he continues to sit idly by.

I have decided to inform my constituents, parents of the City of Antioch, and friends the truth pertaining to the Antioch of Board of Education Board meetings. I believe justice will prevail. Based on Board Bylaw 9100 that states that the Presidency is based on rotation and I was the Vice President for one year, I am deserving of the Presidency of the Antioch Board of Education.

It is obvious that I have experienced racial practices and intimidation as a fear tactic to embed on my human psyche. This tactic is intentional to imply that as an African American woman is not worthy and not qualified is clearly base on race. The public needs to know the truth and advocate for the students of Antioch Unified School District. If given the opportunity to be President, I will continue to lead with integrity and follow the appropriate Board Bylaws that will lead our students for a better education.

Crystal Sawyer -White, MS

Board Trustee, Antioch Unified School District

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