It’s obvious seven months into his service on the Fresno Unified school board that Terry Slatic misunderstands his trustee duties.

A trustee’s biggest jobs are to set the vision for the district, keep a close watch on the budget, and oversee the superintendent. Stellar trustees support administrators, staff, and students in ways that move the district forward. They also advocate for the district while staying mindful of their obligations to all.

Portrait of GV Wire News Director Bill McEwen

Bill McEwen

Opinion

It’s not a trustee’s duty to run roughshod over staff, reduce students to tears, or usurp the authority of principals and others.

Moreover, a trustee has a responsibility to model the behavior that is expected of professionals and students alike — in public and behind closed doors — at all times.

Slatic’s Laudable Goals

While campaigning to represent the Bullard High School area, Slatic made clear he was on a mission to change the district’s culture of often accepting mediocrity. He also said he’d hold administrators accountable for improving academic performance. Those are laudable goals.

Slatic’s constant micro-managing and bull-in-a-china-shop manner are creating turmoil, reducing his effectiveness, and causing serious doubts about his ability to represent his constituents, much less bring about positive change.

But Slatic’s constant micro-managing and bull-in-a-china-shop manner are creating turmoil, reducing his effectiveness, and causing serious doubts about his ability to represent his constituents, much less bring about positive change.

Last Week’s Bullard Incident

Case in point: His chewing out of Bullard High cheerleaders last week, a session he deemed necessary because of lingering tensions from the nationally chronicled blackface and n-word social media post by two cheerleaders.

Slatic’s read of the situation, in my opinion, was correct. The students who made the posts shouldn’t face further discipline beyond what the district imposed. Nor should teenagers suffer unduly harsh punishment for their mistakes. In addition, the parents of the cheerleader who donned blackface and used the slur apologized in a public letter, administered their own consequences, and said their family was meeting with a counselor for cultural sensitivity training.

However, Slatic had no business injecting himself into this. That is the purview of the Bullard principal, newly hired Johnny Alvarado, who brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the assignment.

Slatic is a Trustee, Not the Mayor of Bullard

As a retired Marine major and business executive, Slatic should know the importance of chain-of-command and carrying out his assignments. Voters elected him as their trustee, not to be the self-designated, strong-armed mayor of all matters Bullard.

It’s a plus that Slatic has the time and the desire to work full time as a trustee. And all trustees should be an extra set of eyes and ears for the superintendent, fellow trustees, and other district leaders. But upon learning of a problem or a potential problem, a trustee’s duty is to alert the appropriate people and follow up on how they handled the situation. A trustee’s duty isn’t to parachute in and throw kerosene on the fire.

Will he adjust to benefit Fresno Unified and the community by adding large measures of cooperation, civility, and emotional intelligence to his obvious skills and determination?

The Fresno Bee reports that parents and community members are discussing launching a recall of Slatic. There’s also the potential for the board to censure him.

Recalls are expensive and divide communities. Better that Slatic takes stock, abandons his bullying behavior, and alters his view of what a trustee’s job is. Some of his strongest campaign backers today are questioning his tactics and fitness to serve.

The Road Slatic Should Take

Slatic is at a crossroads of his own making.

Will he adjust to benefit Fresno Unified and the community by adding large measures of cooperation, civility, and emotional intelligence to his obvious skills and determination?

If he does, these early missteps — as serious as they are — could become mere footnotes in what eventually is outstanding public service that helps elevate the district to excellence.

If not, then Slatic will fail at his mission — one he holds vitally important.

The choice is his.

8 Responses

  1. Donald Levitt

    Slatic is a hero in my mind. He realizes Bullard has become a disgrace. I agree. Teachers and staff put up with mediocrity. No one achieves excellence. Conservatives like Slatic recognized that humans need constraint as much as they need freedom, and focus their political and moral thought on the question of what constraint is for, where does it come from, and how it can be built. Constraint creates the space in which each of us can be free.
    Constraint leads to self-discipline. People need to create their own self-discipline so that the state does not have to constrain them. People who create their own self-discipline should be honored by society. Those that lack self-discipline should not be honored. But the liberal media and the schools (which are all leftist) don’t see this. They don’t see that freedom has a lot to due with constraint, self-discipline and honor.

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  2. Michael Roberts

    How about waiting until we hear all of the evidence before declaring him to be at fault and slandering his name and reputation in favor of some ratings. From what I heard he explained what could happen to some of the girls if their poor behavior continued. If they don’t like having the consequences of their bad decisions explained to them then to bad. He has done nothing wrong and is doing an excellent job. Where is it written that he can’t get involved in making sure the district and administrators do what it is supposed to be doing. The district’s policies are bland and broad at best and leave way to much room for interpretation. The more he looks for answers the more problems he finds and he is not afraid to address them no matter what or where they are. Trustee Slatic, we appreciate the great job you are doing, keep it up!

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  3. S Johnson

    He’s the Bully of Bullard. I think he really enjoys throwing his weight around. A strutter, who assumes the role of power when in fact he has none. Power comes from the people that work every day with the students and faculty. He’s a bombastic blowhard who enjoys injecting himself where he doesn’t belong.

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  4. James Mendez

    Since he began his tenure Terry Slatic has demonstrated several times that he is unfit to continue as a FUSD School Board Trustee. He needs to be removed as soon as possible. Bill McEwen’s opinion is that he should be given yet another opportunity to change, “Better that Slatic takes stock, abandons his bullying behavior, and alters his view of what a trustee’s job is.” The problem is that Slatic has no personal insight. Not only does he not think he has done anything wrong, he feels it is necessary to increase his attacks and bullying in order to get those around him to change their behavior. He knows of no other way to change others except to bully. He wants to command rather than advise, which is the role of the trustee. He needs to be recalled.

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  5. Rick

    It is really a question of what will do the maximum with the minimum required amount of time. The Bullard incident appears to be a lose or breakeven decision. You are right that the principal and the administration needed first crack and probably several after that. Chain of command. However, setting vision also means setting the tone. Right now the FUSD tone is lackadaisical when it comes to students. It needs to be results oriented. If something does not work then you change it. That accountability is lacking and his attempts to install that missing accountability are laudable. Now, how do to it efficiently and effectively is the main question. What works best? Time will tell.

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  6. Cynthia

    Slatic has a right to be an aggressive confrontational parent if he chooses but his behavior as a trustee is completely unacceptable and inappropriate. It appears he’s completely conflicted with his own personal agenda and vendetta and he should do our district a favor and resign before we recall him.

    Reply
  7. Howard

    Thank you, Bill, for your thoughtful analysis and comments. Trustee Slavic, among other things, is becoming a financial liability for the school district if he does not change his conduct.

    Reply

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