Third public hearing held to discuss By-Trustee Area Election System  

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles, Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) Board of Trustees met for their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Jun. 22.

In what was a heated meeting from start to finish, during general public, residents raised concerns that ranged from issues with the Spanish to English translation, teachers asking for students’ pronouns, critical race theory, and potential closure of the Georgia Brown Elementary School campus.

Superintendent Curt Dubost has clarified that no decision has been made to close Georgia Brown in previous meetings.

Jesus Cendejas, a former trustee at Cuesta College, called in to address diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“I want to start off with a history lesson. In the 1930s in Frankfurt, Germany, there came a group of Jewish intellectuals that came up with the school of critical thought in response to the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. They were then banned and exiled from that country because they were Jewish and they held leftist views. 

Critical Race Theory is something we need. But I don’t want to focus on that because the white supremacy that has been allowed to boil in this district is unacceptable, hearing the translator. This is a clear violation of the civil rights, non-discrimination statute that has been passed down decades ago. 

If this is your warning that this Board is failing in its commitment to its students and parents, Chris, Dorian, I know you hear me. We are watching you. And there will be measures taken against this Board and its continued civil rights procedural violation.”

Cendejas continued with statements criticizing the Board and then was stopped because his three minutes for public comment was over.

President Arend then reminded the public that comments regarding discussion item J.3. Discussion of Board Policy 6144 and Critical Race Theory (CRT) will need to call and comment when the Board gets to that item.

Item J.3. description says: 

The attached Board Policy and Administrative Regulation 6144 – “Academic Freedom/Controversial Issues” describe the Board’s role and duty in addressing the discussion of controversial issues in the district’s classrooms. Staff believes the subject of Critical Race Theory (CRT) should be debated or discussed in a class solely as a controversial issue not presented in any way as fact. Care, in particular, must be taken in ANY discussion about CRT to conform with AR 6144, which stipulates in particular, “6. The discussion does not reflect adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, handicap, or occupation”.  

Staff asks for Board direction on the applicability of BP/AR 6144 to any discussion of CRT.  

The Board has also expressed interest in discussing a resolution related to CRT, one draft of which was presented as a starting point to that discussion should the Board decide to direct staff to prepare such a resolution.

After public comment, the Board moved into the third public hearing for trustee area scenarios which includes maps that will be used when the district moves to a “By-Trustee Area Election System Commencing with the 2022 Governing Board Election.”

Brad Pawlowski provided an update and overview of the trustee area scenarios.

The maps are currently based on the 2010 census data because there has been a delay in receiving the 2020 census data. Once the 2020 data is available, the maps will be updated.

Pawlowski said, “After two public hearings to gather community input on the trustee area map creation process, the district published two maps prepared by the demographer. After two additional public hearings in which the Board received public input on draft maps, the district published scenarios two and four with multiple election sequence options for final map considerations. Scenarios one and three were eliminated from consideration because they do not create trustee areas that increase Hispanic/Latino representation and influence.”

Yessenia Echevarria said during public comment, “As you can tell, there is no person of color sitting in those seats you are sitting in—Mapping is something that needs to be done and needs to have Hispanic representation. I’m still not seeing the Hispanic representation.”

Echevarria continued to say she offered her services to Pawlowski but did not hear anything back from him.

No one who spoke during public comment gave reasons for why the scenarios do not represent the Hispanic community or who would be running in the next election. 

PRJUSD Board of Trustees are voted in term by the residents of Paso Robles. 

Trustee Dorian Baker asked if there could be another public hearing on the trustee scenarios. Now that the meetings are fully open in person, there is more interest in the public on the trustee maps.

There have now been three public hearings since the maps were developed and two public hearings before that. 

The public was asked to create and submit their own maps. However, staff did not receive any maps or input from the public.

Item I.2. Adoption of Resolution No. 21-26 Initiating a Proposal to the San Luis Obispo County Committee on School District Organization for the Adoption of By-Trustee Area Elections was moved to follow the public hearing.

Trustees motioned to propose scenario four, sequencing A to the San Luis Obispo County Committee on School District Organization for consideration, which passed with a 5-2 vote, Baker and Jim Reed voting no.

The final discussion item on the agenda was J.3. Discussion of Board Policy 6144 and Critical Race Theory (CRT).

Superintendent Dubost started the discussion by saying, “First of all, let me clarify that this is not an action item this evening. This is a discussion item only. We are seeking direction from the Board on what they wish for us to put or not place on the next agenda for Jul. 13.”

In the last week, the district received over 70 letters from parents asking what the district’s stance is on CRT.

There were over 50 comments from the public for the meeting, both in person, phone-in, and email. District policy is 20 minutes of public comment per item.

To allow everyone to speak their comments, the Board would cut off public comment at 10:50 p.m. and extended their meeting to 11 p.m.

Superintendent Dubost said he received requests from the public to prioritize public comments from Paso Robles residents before comments from residents outside of Paso Robles residents.

Comments were made by the public in support and not in support of CRT and went on for over an hour.

Trustee President Chris Arend drafted Resolution 21-27 PRJUSD Prohibiting the Teaching of Critical Race Theory.

President Arend said, “I find it extremely important that we take a stand on this position because of the extremely divisive nature of CRT. It does not mean whitewashing history. We made sure in our ethnic studies course that we will not whitewash history. There is no reason to do so. It’s the history the way it is, and we will teach the facts.”

He continued, “I put language in the resolution saying that we should teach about it. Not teach CRT but inform students what it is about–but we are not going to indoctrinate them in CRT if I can say anything about it.”

Trustee Nathan Williams responded by saying, “I respectfully feel the resolution is misguided—If we pass a resolution to ban CRT in our schools, we are deliberately impeding academic freedom.”

The Board agreed not to have this item on the next agenda. 

In the future, the Board may have a study session meeting on where the district stands on CRT and the possibility of creating a resolution.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jul. 13.