People want to know why School Board Trustees John Lorona, Roger Orosco and Gilbert Lopez are the subject of a recall campaign which will be decided on Nov. 3. Orosco keeps saying it’s based on lies spread by supporters of the recall, and then lays on his own version of things “he’s” accomplished, apparently with no help from anyone else in the city or district. Lopez’s relative sends letter after letter with blatant misinformation and attempts to smear the citizens and teachers in this city. Lorona hops on whichever bandwagon he thinks will carry him the farthest at the time. So let’s lay some facts out.
In February, these three Board members released Superintendent Mark Sutton from his contract with no cause, costing the district over a quarter of a million dollars — and that’s just the beginning of the waste of money that has occurred. This action threw the district into chaos, leaving us without his leadership at a very crucial time of year and in the middle of the educational swing to Common Core training. While we had exemplary administrators who stepped up to fill the gap, it’s impossible to do more than one job without something falling behind, which added to the chaos. The stress of employees skyrocketed while the morale plummeted, neither of which helps provide a healthy teaching/learning environment.
The day after the Board meeting in which Mr. Sutton was released (a meeting these three tried to keep out of the public’s eye, by the way), John Lorona went to the classrooms of several of the teachers who spoke on Mr. Sutton’s behalf. These teachers felt the intent was to intimidate them, a tactic for which John is well-known. These teachers have not come forward because they fear retaliation if they speak up, a fear which is obviously quite well-founded. Is Mr. Lorona aware that he must make an appointment with a teacher and have permission in order to be in his/her classroom? Apparently not, since he’s never bothered requesting my permission to be in my classroom over the years.
The day after the same meeting, Roger Orosco told a teacher she could not have a sign on her car supporting a recall of the three Board members while on school property, which is a violation of the First Amendment. This occurred at a school which is NOT in Orosco’s representation area, so why was he even there if not to intimidate people who spoke on Mr. Sutton’s behalf? Why was John Lorona there as well? It wasn’t one of his schools, either.
Subsequently, a letter citing Board policy regarding political signs was issued to all personnel, but the way these three Board members are choosing to interpret it at this time is inconsistent with past practice as well as a violation of the First Amendment. This is my 22nd year in this district, and never in all that time or any time prior to that has any employee been told to remove any type of political sign from their car — and we’ve had signs supporting every side of different political issues over the years on our cars. Currently there are still signs on cars supporting various issues, and no one has been told to remove those. Apparently, the Board policy only applies to signs supporting the recall of these three men. A recent revision to the policy generously allows us to display political signs that are no larger than a bumper sticker and are inconspicuously displayed. How does one inconspicuously display a bumper sticker or other car sign? This is still a violation of the First Amendment and the issue has now gone to a lawsuit, the cost of which to the District has yet to be determined.
During the signature-gathering phase of this recall, John Lorona stalked volunteers as they made their rounds, taking pictures of them. For what purpose? This is absolutely a clear attempt to intimidate people, just as going to classrooms of teachers who spoke against these Board members and in support of Mark Sutton is meant to intimidate.
Several violations of the Brown Act by these same three Board members have been reported to the District Attorney for investigation, charges that are being taken seriously. Hopefully, a least one of these charges being investigated is the fact that John Lorona was not even living in his area when this recall process started. How long was he not living in the area he was elected to represent? At least one member of the recall committee saw John moving back into his Selma home well after the recall process began, so there’s no dispute that his residency when he chose to misuse his authority by releasing Mark Sutton is an issue.
Let us not forget Roger Orosco and Glibert Lopez. Roosevelt Elementary is in Orosco’s area, yet he never attends functions such as Back to School Night or Open House at that school, although John Lorona certainly makes his presence known. Orosco's interests appear to lie only with the middle school, not the elementary schools that feed onto ALMS. Gilbert Lopez was a newly-elected Board Trustee who had attended one meeting in his elected capacity prior to voting with Orosco and Lorona to release Mr. Sutton. On what did he base his decision? Certainly not any information he could have gained in that one Board meeting. The Friday prior to that meeting, however, all three men were on the Selma High School campus at the same time. Why? How many meetings of those three took place prior to that vote? Of course, such meetings would have been a violation of the Brown Act. By the way, all three of those men should be aware of the restrictions placed on them all being there at the same time. Did they violate those restrictions intentionally? Or are they simply unaware that the fact of their presence at the same time gives the appearance of violating the Brown Act, if not actually violating it? Perhaps they simply believe they are above the laws and morals that guide the rest of us and can do what they want with total impunity.
Selma Unified needs new leaders on our School Board who hold the best interests of the students first and foremost. Mark Falcon, Andy Montijo, and Sara Rodriguez are stepping up to that challenge, willing to do whatever they need to do to restore order, balance, and peace to this district. These are three well-respected members of the community who have nothing to gain personally from being Board members, aside from the satisfaction they will gain knowing they are taking care of their city’s children. It’s time for Lorona and his cohorts to let go and let someone else repair the damage they’ve caused. It’s up to the voters to make this happen, because these three have steadfastly held to their personal agendas rather than considered what’s best for the children of Selma.
Teacher, Roosevelt Elementary, Selma