More than 300 concerned, but respectful parents and teachers packed the Bishop Unified School District (BUSD) board meeting on Thursday night after several emails and texts were circulated accusing the new Superintendent Jon Ray and the BUSD board of plotting to implement their own private agenda. This along with a host of other accusations drew a throng of parents who sat on the floor, stood along the walls, stood in the hallway and even inside the library.
The board listened to dozens who spoke during public comment for more than 90 minutes. Board members appear to have been blindsided, as well as somewhat offended by some of the accusations.
An anonymous email was sent to over two dozen advocate and news outlets (including The Sheet) accusing Bishop Unified School District Superintendent Jon Ray of preparing to present to the school board at the September 19th meeting, “an array of racist and illegal policy changes to our district.”
It was quite a startling list. There was no supporting evidence offered, just accusations. And the public comment offered no further enlightenment – more of a kneejerk than informed reaction.
There were reports of other messages being shared between parents which also contained several separate accusations.
The anonymous “Whistleblower” accused Superintendent Ray (and by extension, the School Board) of having the following agenda:
• The removal of undocumented children from our schools. (This is simply not legal … nor was there any suggestion that this was ever discussed, but it is possible undocumented children were most likely confused with students from out of district.)
• Purchase of a quarter million-dollar math testing system from his wife’s company. (Ray’s wife does work for the company that sells the software, but according to Ray, she works as an independent contractor for $20 an hour with no benefits, and any work she does for the school district in helping create rosters, etc. would be as a “volunteer.”)
• The removal of a football captain for alleged homosexuality. (No one at the meeting appeared to know what this was about.)
• Refusal to pay substitute teachers. (This did not even come up, sounds like a union issue, and is patently illegal.)
• Nonunion staff termination threats. (Nothing was said at the meeting along these lines.)
• Violations of the Williams Settlement. (A ruling that all students be given equal access to public education without regard to race, color, or national origin.
• Secret and daisy chain board meetings in violation of the Brown Act. (Board members flat-out denied that this was happening. This was their first board meeting and that they have never met with other board members other than one-on-one and have never violated the Brown Act.)
• The removal of handicapped students to a “Community Day School.” (This was not addressed but sure sounds illegal, never mind expensive.)
• Native American bias in discipline. (It is hard to say where this is coming from. School just started and the board is generally involved in many disciplinary actions. A Bishop Tribe Board member spoke highly of the superintendent meeting with them and listening to their concerns. He said they look forward to working with him in the future.)
• Supporting open Christian recruitment by adults on campus. (Nothing was said about this at the meeting that would confirm such an activity. It is highly unlikely that such a thing would be allowed.)
Also, the anonymous source claimed in text messages to other parents that a simple online search of Superintendent Jon Ray will return examples of a lengthy career in bigotry. (This appears to be a matter of interpretation, but The Sheet will be looking further into the matter and report back to our readers.)
Furthermore, the anonymous source accused the board and Superintendent of “working hard to keep many of these issues in closed meetings.” (This is highly unlikely. This is a new school board with at least two new members who were literally attending their first meeting, and they have not held any closed meetings on the topics listed in the anonymous letter.)
From another text source, later attributed to parent Lisa Coleman, the superintendent was accused of shortening the school day, not supporting the Dual Language Program, and eliminating the Advanced Placement Program. He is also accused of wanting to impose an online learning program called Edgenuity and increasing testing.
The parent’s text admitted that the list of accusations and concerns “may sound incendiary, rumor-fueled, and unsubstantiated.” The source of the text message told parents that “We need to demand transparency from John (sic) Ray.
If there’s any takeaway to Thursday’s circus, it’s that the meeting proved many parents are hyper-vigilant about their children and want to know as much as they can about the schools they attend.
Problem is, as several parents, teachers and students pointed out, poor communication and late implementation of schedules have been confusing and frustrating and obviously fueled suspicion.
The board and the superintendent will be addressing many of the issues that raised concerns in future meetings.