Terrence Vaughn May 9th 2016
On Friday May 6th teachers, students and parents organized a picket line at the Fort Bragg Unified School District office and a protest march in the evening. This was prompted when rumors began flying around the community regarding racist comments Superintendent Charles Bush allegedly made.
The uproar caused Mr. Bush to call a meeting/forum in the Fort Bragg Middle School Library on Friday 5:30 pm. This meeting was specifically directed at complaints from the Hispanic Community regarding perceived racism and the class size and scheduling issues for “English Learning Development” (ELD) classes.
The Library was “standing room only” after the marchers arrived. Superintendent Bush diffused a lot of the tension when he started the meeting by announcing that his son went through ELD classes for 3 years, reflective of his having Hispanic daycare and baby sitters impact on his language abilities. The room was filled with people speaking to each other in 2 languages, while a translator repeated Superintendent Bush’s statements, leaving very little space to listen.
Mr. Bush proceeded to spend 2 hours explaining the structure of the School District’s elected officials and employees while fending off attacks upon his character. Trustees Jennifer Owens and Gerald Matson attended and joined in describing the hurdles faced by the board when it comes to personnel issues, Brown Act requirements and class size decisions.
Jim Blanton, one of the ELD instructors was adamant that ELD class sizes will increase to an unmanageable level next year while Superintendent Bush assured them that won’t happen until the new incoming classes for Fall 2016 are assessed and discussed.
Discussion around other perceived slights, from the MIddle School Principal and Asst, Principle being replaced to requests for more openness and leadership was non-existant. Superintendent Charles Bush refused to discuss these personnel matters at this forum citing how inappropriate that would be. He did encourage the crowd to engage in conversation with him and his office if they have questions. He also addressed the racial slurs and epithets he was accused of making, listing most of them one by one, then categorically denying he ever made such statements. He encouraged all who attended to go straight to the people who made these accusations or who were affected by his actions and ask them directly about rumors, rather than spreading what they hear.
Issues regarding the Board of Trustees extending their terms for another year without an election, thereby disenfranchising the community from the ability to replace members of the Board, was brought up but was not discussed. Personnel issues were kept sealed while Superintendent Bush encouraged members of the crowd to attend Board Meetings in the future. He also committed to holding more of these meetings with the Hispanic community regarding the trials and difficulties of two language households.