Just days after superintendent Michael Hanson announced he would be ending his term next summer, one of his chief critics was selected as president of the school board.
In a somewhat awkward process, Brooke Ashjian received enough votes among the seven-member board to take the reins of the Fresno Unified School District board. He has been a tough critic of the policies of Hanson over the past two years.
Among many of his critiques, Ashjian is unhappy with the federal investigation of Hanson and the district over deals to award school construction contracts to Harris Construction. Ashjian has also hammered district leadership over educational policies. In turn, Hanson has retorted with barbs and zingers on Ashjian in plenty of media interviews.
Hanson himself presided over the nominating and voting process. He noted it is the only time of year he gets to run a board meeting.
Right off the bat, fellow critic and trustee Carol Mills challenged Hanson’s handling of the nomination process. Hanson first recognized trustee Valerie Davis. Mills objected, citing that tradition calls for taking nominations in alphabetical order. Hanson rebuffed that request saying that they haven’t always done it that way.
Davis nominated trustee Christopher De La Cerda. Cal Johnson seconded and appeared to call for a close to nominations, before Mills interjected that there were more nominations. She brought forward Ashjian’s name.
After the closing of nominations, a roll call vote was taken for De La Cerda. Davis, Johnson and De La Cerda voted for him being president. Mills along with Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas voted no. Ashjian and Claudia Cazares abstained. With four votes needed, De La Cerda’s bid failed.
Then the vote came for Ashjian. He voted for himself, along with Mills, Jonasson Rosas and Cazares. When De La Cerda was asked to record his vote, there was a 20 second pause as he whispered in Hanson’s ear off mic. De La Cerda wanted to hold a discussion, but the request was denied by the board clerk.
The rest voted against.Thus, Ashjian received enough votes to take the gavel, even though the clerk incorrectly stated there were three votes in his favor (she quickly corrected herself).
Earlier in the evening, Cazares, Jonasson Rosas were sworn in as new board members. Mills also was sworn in having won re-election.