Turlock Unified votes for virtual school board meetings

In a special Monday morning session that turned chaotic, Turlock Unified School District administrators voted unanimously to allow virtual school board meetings.

The 7 a.m. virtual meeting was called only to vote on the electronic meeting resolution and lasted 30 minutes. This follows the board’s cancellation of its Jan. 4 meeting because people weren’t wearing masks or agreeing to participate remotely, spokeswoman Marie Russell told The Bee.

Deputy Superintendent Barney Gordon III on Monday identified Administrator Jeffrey Cortinas as repeatedly failing to follow directions from the California Department of Public Health.

“At the end of the day, we have to tighten that up,” Gordon said. “And it has to start with the leadership structure. “

Cortinas was the first to comment in favor of the resolution and dominated the discussion that followed.

He pointed out that some children and adults have attended board meetings without a mask for the past few months. He said he attended a social event this weekend with around 200 people, around 10 of whom wore masks. “Which is good,” he added. “I think people have to do what they have to do to protect themselves.”

Cortinas said he was able to witness such events and that “nothing is happening”. The district did not have an “incident” in the council chamber as people attended without masks, he said.

Directors Daniel Benedict, Mary Jackson and Jose Sanchez said they were disappointed with the need for the resolution.

“It’s quite disappointing that few – very few – people are able to get us to this resolution,” said Benedict. “But that’s where we’re at, so I guess we’re going ahead and making the most of it.”

Jackson said it is “extremely frustrating” when adults cannot act as adults.

“We shouldn’t be in this situation,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t matter if you attend events and people are masked or unmasked. There are guidelines that we are asked to follow as elected officials.

Cortinas said the “kind of bold statements” by the trustees illustrated the bullying.

“We shouldn’t treat people as children because they have exemptions,” he said. Cortinas said he requested a medical exemption not to wear a mask.

Gordon said the district has an interactive process to review employee exemption requests. The most common alternative is a face shield with a sheet, he said.

Medical exemptions for schools require a note from a licensed physician or health care professional, Gordon said.

“I don’t know of any exemption that causes a person to be in a public space without some sort of face covering or face shield or other accommodation when it comes to remote working,” Gordon said.

He said people who don’t wear masks were able to watch board meetings on YouTube and submit comments via email. Administrators were able to participate in remote sessions, he said.

When meetings are in person, people can watch from a separate room, Gordon said. They can email comments from this room or put on a mask to address the board in the conference room.

Gordon said it’s difficult to have conversations with people who resist following the mask guidelines when board leadership is not following those same guidelines.

“So you are telling me that someone from the steering committee is not following instructions?” Cortinas replied. “Who is it?”

“Mr. Cortinas, you often haven’t worn a face cover,” Gordon said.

“Are you implying that I am not following the guidelines up there?” Are you going to state publicly in a public hearing that I am – accusing me of not following directions? Cortinas replied.

“You don’t take the housing that the district offers,” Gordon said.

From there, board chair Lori Carlson tried to intervene, but Cortinas continued speaking because he said Gordon had “made it personal.” Cortinas and Carlson argued, talking to each other occasionally, for the next two minutes.

“It’s getting ridiculous,” Jackson said. “And it doesn’t have to be done that way.”

Carlson quickly offered to ask for a motion to vote on the resolution.

Resolution details, meeting logistics

The resolution states that “participants in recent Board meetings have indicated that they are unwilling to adhere to the current CRPD masking requirements and that they are unwilling to participate remotely in as housing established by the district and used successfully in the past “.

In-person meetings “may present imminent risks to the health or safety of participants and / or the state of emergency continues to have a direct impact on the ability of members to meet in person safely, due to the potential continued non-compliance with the mandates of the CRPD, including mask-wearing requirements, when meeting with participants, ”the resolution reads.

Such a resolution is a requirement of a state law called AB 361, Gordon said at the meeting. Governor Gavin Newsom signed it in September, legislative documents Pin up.

Regular board meetings are held in the evenings, but Monday’s session was scheduled for 7 a.m. to accommodate the working hours of board members, administrative assistant Shari Rocha said on Friday. Fraga by email.

The administrators met on Zoom. Members of the public took to YouTube, which listed 40 people live at the end of the meeting.

The board invited members of the public to submit their comments by email. Superintendent Dana Trevethan read the names of seven people who submitted messages for public comment ahead of the meeting, but did not read their messages.

District officials did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The next council meeting is scheduled for January 18 according to his schedule. He will include the items on the agenda for the meeting that was canceled, Russell had previously told The Bee.

Emily Isaacman is the equity reporter for The Bee’s community-funded Economic Mobility Lab, which includes a team of journalists covering economic development, education and equity.

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Emily Isaacman covers education for the Modesto Bee Economic Mobility Lab. She is originally from San Diego and graduated from Indiana University, where she majored in journalism and political science. Emily interned with Chalkbeat Indiana, the Dow Jones News Fund and Reuters.

Perry A. Thomasson