PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Jul. 13.

To start the meeting, Roman Muñoz, Attorney with Lozano Smith, provided legal guidance for Public Comment during meetings, including English to Spanish translation, board responses to public comment, prioritizing members of Paso Robles community during public comment, and virtual call-in comments.

In previous meetings, the public has complained about the inaccurate English to Spanish translation. 

Getting through this together, Paso Robles

To address the issue, Board President Chris Arend suggested the only way to get the best word-to-word translation is for the Board to speak about one sentence at a time for the translator.

Superintendent Curt Dubost read a statement before beginning Public Comment. Below is Dubost’s typed statement for the meeting:

“We are in a politically charged moment. As a result, some of the rhetoric at recent board meetings has become extreme. Name-calling and images of lynchings have appeared in local media and flyers. This must stop. Those of us in the schools as well as in the general community must show our children how adults can engage in civil discourse and develop consensus and compromise or at least arrive at decisions after

all sides have been given a fair hearing.

I am giving a fair warning. We expect members of the public to conduct themselves in a respectful manner. Any speaker or attendee who repeatedly speaks out of turn is profane, or substantially disrupts the conduct of the Board’s business, or who uses this opportunity to make personal attacks on staff may have their public comment time cut off. Complaint forms and the formal process are available at the back of the room for

that purpose. 

I also remind the speakers that if they make a specific allegation that an individual student may have been mistreated, we are unable to respond publicly without violating that minor’s privacy rights. Our silence does not mean we have no response or necessarily agree with the complaint. If a complaint has merit, we will take the appropriate action. I will, however, zealously defend any teacher unfairly attacked.

Please let’s all show how we can find common ground and/or agree to disagree without rancor. We also need the Board to be able to have time for serious debate rather than sit by for hours of often redundant public comment. I, for one, will listen attentively to anyone making a reasonable argument. Yelling and name-calling make me, like most people, tune out and conclude the speaker does not have any logical argument. We have been given legal parameters for public comment and its translation this evening.”

Later, a quick public hearing was held for renaming a facility.

Four proposals were presented for renaming facilities:

  1. William Fred Stroud Jr. – PRHS Welding Building
  2. Mrs. Bertha Phillips – PRHS Library
  3. Mr. Randy Canaday – PRHS Woodshop/Building Trades/BITA Classrooms 601 & 602
  4. Don Edward Parish (deceased 5/9/2018) – PRHS Field (Practice Field)

For those watching the meeting virtually, there were some technical difficulties when the Board reached the consent agenda. 

The meeting was cut off and then continued in a second video stream which picked up at the approval of a donation from the Paso Robles Community in the amount of $2,180.21 to help repair the Lewis Middle School garden.

Board members Lance Gannon and Nathan Williams were absent for the vote.

Board members voted to table, for the next scheduled meeting, item K.2: Approve Pool of Architects and Engineering Services Firms, to give trustees time to go through the materials provided.

Item K.2. addresses the Boards direction of staff to establish a pool of architects for Measure M bond projects. 

At the end of the meeting, the Board briefly discussed proposed new start and end times for the 2021-2022 school year to comply with recently passed California State Law SB 328 (Approved by the Governor on Oct. 13, 2019).

The new law requires secondary schools to start later (High School at 8:30 a.m. and Middle school at 8:15 a.m). The District will also be moving their collaboration and early out day to Monday (rather than Wednesday).

The SB 328 changes are required by the 2022-2023 school year, but the District is implementing the changes sooner to limit the transitions. 

The new school start times were only a discussion item, and no actions were made at this time.

Finally, just before adjournment, the Board discussed Item O.1. Potential Study Session for Continued Critical Race Theory (CRT) Discussion.

Before opening the discussion, Superintendent Dubost read the following statement:

“Before we again discuss Critical Race Theory and other controversial issues related to Ethnic Studies, I would like to recall how we got here. Some people say that these issues are recent and a diversion to distract from other recent national matters. That is simply not true. We have had various racial incidents in recent years, especially at the high school. One result was the Board resolution condemning racism, which was based

on the teachings of Martin Luther King.

Another result was a legitimate request from students and members of the community to introduce an Ethnic Studies course. Members of our faculty, administrators and Board members discussed the course and reviewed materials over an extended period of time. The extent to which Critical Race Theory might find its way into the course was a major issue of that discussion. I frankly knew little about CRT at that time, but the more I learned about it, the more I felt that it was not appropriate in a K-12 curriculum. The Board eventually approved the new Ethnic Studies course after making sure that the course would be a high-quality history elective.

COVID and distance learning have also played a role in putting this issue at the forefront of the public’s mind. Parents began to watch classes online and expressed

concerns. Some complaints had merit, and others didn’t. I immediately sent out a directive on the limits of academic freedom and freedom of speech for staff and

students, which clarified the legal situation, copies of which are at the back table. I also reminded our staff about established board policy on how to deal with controversial issues during instruction. There must be a connection to the subject of the class, and the teacher must respect all sides.

CRT and its role in K-12 education have developed into a major issue throughout the country since our last school board election. Some of my friends on the “left” have wrongly assumed that my opposition to CRT in K-12 education is not borne of my own belief but that the newly elected board members have somehow forced me to accept their position. Let me remind everyone that the three members elected last November ran on a platform that specifically included prominent concerns about curricular issues, a partisan slant in the presentation of the existing curriculum, and a lack of oversight of that curriculum. They stated their concerns and were elected. They are doing what they promised they would do. I have disagreed with some of their positions. Others I have found compelling. However, let me be very clear: I will never recommend nor sign something with which I fundamentally disagree, regardless of the personal

consequences.”

There were again some technical difficulties with the live stream during Dubost’s statement. The sound was cut off, and the screen read “Public Comment Line.”

The stream picked back during a Public Comment.

Public Comments were mixed on whether or not to pass the drafted Resolution 21-27 PRJUSD Prohibiting the Teaching of Critical Race Theory, which was discussed during the Jun. 22 meeting

Trustee Nathan Williams said, “I appreciate everybody’s opinions on this one way or the other—but when we get back down to the facts of it when you look up the California State Board of Education History of Social Science content standards for California Public Schools, the curriculum that is out there, kindergarten through grade 12 as well as our own curriculum or any proposed curriculum for our schools, CRT is not in any of it.” 

Trustee Dorian Baker later said, “There is not a lesson plan in our curriculum called Critical Race Theory, but it’s in there. It’s being taught.”

A motion was made to direct staff to set up a study session and present options to the Board, which failed with a 3-4 vote—Arend, Williams, Baker, and Gannon all voting no.

Trustee Chris Bausch immediately adjourned the meeting after the vote. 

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 10.