Trustee Arend receives criticism from Cuesta College Board Student Trustee during public comment

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) School Board met on Tuesday night for their regularly scheduled meeting. During general public comment for items not on the agenda, caller Jesus Cendejas addressed a statement made by Board President Chris Arend during the Jan. 12 meeting in response to public callers calling in to speak in Spanish.

See our previous article for the comment made by Arend and the context of the meeting. 

Cendejas said, “Hello respected members of the board, this is Student trustee, Jesus Cendejas, from the San Luis Obispo County Community College District or in shorter the Cuesta Board, and I’m calling on to speak on an addendum, not on the agenda item. When it came to trustee Chris Arend’s inappropriate comments saying that California was in English only state. Which stock is inaccurate. Yes, Proposition 22 was deemed a racist law, and I’ll be the first to say it, Chris, you need to go. I order you and humbly ask that you resign effective immediately due to your inflammatory and discriminatory comments and while violating Brown Act procedures and interrupting public comment. This should be a clear indication of institutionalized racism in this District. I do not believe that as public institutions that were given money by the government, we should abide by non-discrimination statute, and I don’t see that to be the case here, which troubles me.

I wanted to speak on Chris’s prior behavior. You are, I don’t know if you’ve thought to notice, and I’m speaking at Chris directly here, you are a walking liability for your district, and you haven’t even cared to notice everyone literally wants to put their backs on you, but they don’t want to say anything to Chris. So I just wanted to let you know that, and I am speaking as a citizen of this county, not in my official capacity with the district, but as an individual, that I’m deeply troubled that you and this board have shown no indication to want to include our Spanish only Community. I don’t think, quite frankly, your comments that you said legally on the record, Chris, you should recuse yourself of any decisions or reports or actions that come out of the 7-11 Committee. The 7-11 Committee has a member that is part of Californiaian’s for Stabilized Population, a known hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It’s gross.”

Arend responded to Cendejas’s comment with the following:

“I’m not going to address the substance of the young man’s comments. I will say that the young man completely misrepresents my position. I have rarely seen it so misrepresented except maybe recently in a Tribune headline, and I invite the young man, I’ll be glad to sit down with him at any time to have a nice, calm, personal discussion instead of having to be lamb-basted here, in public – I advise the young man, and I would ask you to contact me. You contact me through my school board email address. I’ll be glad to meet with him at any time, and I’ll think you’ll find I’m not quite the monster I’ve been portrayed to be. Thank you.”

Superintendent Curt Dubost provided an introductory statement for the Presentation of the 7-11 Surplus Property Advisory Committee Report to the Board of Trustees.

Dubost stated, “First and foremost, I want to express my personal and professional commitment, and I believe the commitment of all seven board members and I know all of the administration that we will always endeavor to have a district that prides itself on tolerance on combating unkind behavior, racism, bullying, anything that makes it difficult for children and older students to come and get an education here. 

I think that our actions in the last 18 months informing the race relations task force and moving forward and the endorsement of the board in moving to voting districts for trustees. Any number of other actions that we have taken is to have shown that that is a commitment of the entire board. 

Secondly, a lot of questions about the legality of the process that was followed. You haven’t provided with the legal opinion that we do have a legally defensible position at this point, a strong position, strictly because this is not an item this evening to clarify again that closes school does anything other than accept a report that’s all it does that would be the appropriate time at a later date to question anything like this I believe.

Lastly, I would like to thank Mr. Krum and the other ten members of the committee who did their darnedest to do an awfully good job over lots of meetings, a full Saturday, and did all of this at no charge to the district whatsoever. Mr. Krum-did the facility’s Master Plan update for us at no charge also. 

So with those three statements, I absolutely commit to this district being one of tolerance and to combating racism, hatred, in any way, shape, or form commitment to providing translation services as required and is appropriate at all times and I do want to thank the volunteers that are coming forward in being a part of the process that can lead to taking some shots for this, that or the other thing. Remember that these people are volunteers doing the best they can, giving up an awful lot of their own time. Thank you for allowing me that.”

Several public members called in asking the board not to accept the 7-11 Committee’s report, which includes the suggestion to close the Georgia Brown campus but not close the dual immersion program.

Arend made it clear that if the board accepts the report, it does not mean they agree; it just means accepting/receiving the report’s information.

Bill Krum, 7-11 Committee Chair, presented the report to board members. At the end of the report, he stated, “Our mandate, our job, was strictly limited to real estate, and so that’s what we looked at.”

The report reads, “Given the age, size, condition, and cost to renovate Georgia Brown Elementary School, the case to close Georgia Brown is stronger than any other elementary site in the District, and the Committee recommends that Georgia Brown Elementary School be closed.”

According to Brad Palowski, to rebuild Georgia Brown from the ground up like Bauer Speck would cost a $25 million ballpark estimate. 

If the district decides to sell the Georgia Brown campus property, Chris Bausch made it clear, “We will keep a dual immersion program.”

The board motioned to receive the 7-11 committee report, no other additional action to be taken to develop additional committees and input, bilingual where appropriate. 

Motion passed with a 6-1 vote, Lance Gannon voting no.

The board approved a 7-0 vote to hire Kim Holmes as Interim Executive Assistant to Superintendent Dubost. 

Holmes was hired with the approved rate of $40 per hour and not exceeding 960 hours, equivalent to $38,400.

A special board meeting will be held on Saturday, Jan. 30, from 8:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. to discuss how the district will respond to the Grand Jury report. 

The board moved to table agenda item I.13, which asked the board to determine whether future board meetings should be held via Zoom. It was unclear why the meetings should move to Zoom meetings if the need were because of COVID restrictions or because the public often has a hard time hearing members speak during the meetings. 

Because the meeting ran out of time, members adjourned during the Staffing Review informational item.

The board will return on Feb. 9 at 4:00 p.m. for their regularly scheduled board meeting. 

Getting through this together, Paso Robles