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February 9, 2023

Angry exchanges at board meeting

During the Tuesday night continuation of Monday
’s School Board meeting, the lid came off the pressure cooker
and an explosion of emotion accompanied the discussion of the
vacancy created by the resignation of Trustee Tom Kinoshita March
15. “You are using your position at this point in time to take
someone down,” Trustee Shellé Thomas tol
d Board President George Panos during the chaotic expression of
hostilities from board and audience members.
During the Tuesday night continuation of Monday’s School Board meeting, the lid came off the pressure cooker and an explosion of emotion accompanied the discussion of the vacancy created by the resignation of Trustee Tom Kinoshita March 15.

“You are using your position at this point in time to take someone down,” Trustee Shellé Thomas told Board President George Panos during the chaotic expression of hostilities from board and audience members.

The brouhaha began as trustees discussed leaving Kinoshita’s seat open until the Nov. 2 election or appointing someone to hold the seat until the election.

Trustee Del Foster whipped out a letter from the Registrar of Voters office addressed to Mary Lopez, one of the volunteers who tapes the board meetings for broadcast on the following Saturday.

Foster told fellow trustees and the audience that the letter to Lopez, dated March 23, announced the end of the recall process and was copied to Jasmine Woodworth, a candidate for a board seat in the November 2002 election, listing her as a “recall proponent.”

Panos then said he had received the same letter – which Lopez said she never received – and read from a prepared statement, describing Woodworth as a “loser” and speculating on her reasons for involvement in the recall in an unflattering light.

“I would not, could not, entertain philosophically or personally, the appointment of Ms. Woodworth to the board,” he read. “There is no anti-harrassment policy for the board, but we might want to look at one … This (involvement in the recall) smacks of self-indulgence … She could not win (a seat on the board) by fair means, so she went about it in an underhanded way by starting a recall.”

As board watcher Harlan Warthen yelled from the audience, “George, you are a moron! You are a moron,” Panos went on to say that his tirade against Woodworth was driven by frustration at the critical attitude of the public.

“At this point, I’ve been taking the heat for quite some time, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I was appalled that someone who came in here as a candidate for a seat on the board would be involved in this.”

Although members of the public and district employees have recently addressed trustees in strident terms, sometimes with personal comments, Woodworth has not addressed the board since trustees were considering accepting a federal grant for small learning communities, and she at that time told them to carefully consider the issue, but did not use personal comments.

Woodworth was endorsed by The Times in the April 2 edition to fill the vacancy.

Woodworth said Thursday that she did not appreciate the personal attack against her.

“Neither Del or George have ever asked me if I was involved in the recall process,” she said. “If they had had the decency or courage to do so, I would have told them I was involved, I helped them get the initial paperwork, but I was not a proponent. They have the paperwork, they can see who the 10 proponents are.”

Woodworth said although the letter from Shannon Bushey of the county Registrar’s Department, lists her as a proponent, it was in error.

Bushey confirmed the error.

“That was an error, that she was listed as a proponent,” she said Thursday. “I do have documents in my file, dated Feb. 5 and Feb. 19, which confirm conversations we had about the recall process … I also have in my file a fax dated Feb. 27 asking me to contact either Michael Sue BrownKorbel or Mary Lopez regarding the recall, and listing Victoria Battison as spokesperson.”

Regardless of the fact that she was not an official proponent, Woodworth said she sees nothing wrong with the recall.

“This is a democratic process,” she said. “There is nothing personal about it. They were elected by the community, and a large portion of the community is dissatisfied with the job they are doing. If they want to boil it down to me, instead of the larger group, if that makes it more palatable to them, that’s their business. I’m just really disgusted by the personal nature of this. If they are so offended by the recall, then they shouldn’t be in public office. We the people who elected them have the right to call them on the carpet.”

Woodworth said Thursday that two of her children were enrolled at Archbishop Mitty High School and her daughter Ashley was enrolled for this coming fall. Her reasons, she said, are philosophical. Mitty is a Catholic school; the family is Catholic and Woodworth believes in the values the school espouses.

In an interview Thursday, she voiced concern about the future of the high schools in the district. Will Live Oak and Sobrato be equals or will there be one super and one inferior school?

If appointed or elected as a MHSD trustee, Woodworth would not be the first trustee to serve without children in the public schools. The list includes John Kennett, whose son attended Bellarmine; Hedy Chang’s two sons attended Bellarmine and her daughter is enrolled at Notre Dame school in San Jose. Larry Carr, now a councilman, sat on the school board before his son Patrick was born and Russ Danielson does not have children.

At Tuesday’s continued meeting, Thomas and Trustee Amina Khemici were in favor of appointing Woodworth, the fifth highest vote-getter from the last election in November 2002. Four seats were available at that time; Kinoshita was re-elected, and Thomas, Khemici and Trustee Mike Hickey were elected to their first four-year term. Woodworth was fifth in the voting, 252 votes behind Khemici, with 10.8 percent of the votes.

“Why do we have to have an election or choose a trustee” Khemici asked. “The community voted for Jasmine.”

Foster told her there still needed to be a vote by the board or at least a consensus.

Hickey, who ran his campaign side by side with Woodworth, said after much consideration, he did not want to subject her to the “hostile environment,” and would recommend her to wait until the November election rather than seek appointment.

Although no actual vote had been taken, it was clear the sentiment of the board was running 4-2 in favor of not filling the vacancy. What happened next took the minuscule audience, and some board members, by surprise, greeting Foster’s “evidence” and Panos’ prepared statement against Woodworth with gasps and groans.

Thomas attempted to stop Panos from reading his statement. When he finished, she told him that he should not have vented his frustration on Woodworth.

Thomas also said she believed that he and Foster were afraid of allowing Woodworth to be on the board.

Hickey said he had talked to Woodworth recently.

“I told her, ‘There is a hostile environment towards you,’” he said. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy in that situation. I would say to wait for the next election, and I believe she would win.”

The public soon joined in condemning Panos’ remarks.

BrownKorbel, who is a Live Oak High teacher, told trustees that Woodworth was definitely not a proponent of the recall.

“For the public record, Jasmine is not a proponent and never has been,” she said. “You need to get your facts straight.”

Board watcher and Nordstrom Elementary Home and School President Elizabeth Mandel told trustees she has discussed this with Woodworth.

“We have had numerous discussions about the recall, and she is not a proponent,” she said. “There were issues she agreed with and issues she didn’t … She deserves a public apology. She received a public slander, so she deserves a public apology.”

CARE Spokeswoman Battison, who was alerted to the fireworks at the meeting and arrived in time to speak during public comment said she was appalled at what she described as the vilification of Woodworth’s character.

“It just blows my mind,” she said. “This is a blatant untruth. If you had bothered doing your homework, you would see that. This is unfair, improper and immoral.”

Woodworth was not present at Tuesday’s meeting when the exchanges took place. She did attend Monday’s meeting.

CARE, or Community Alliance for Responsible Education, served the four senior board members with recall notices, citing financial mismanagement and a lack of responsiveness to the community which elected them, among other charges.

Once Kinoshita resigned and the remaining three senior board members announced they would not be seeking re-election, CARE said it had succeeded in its aims.

Battison also told trustees it was actions such as these that contributed to the recall effort.

“Changes cannot come soon enough,” she said.

During a break at the meeting, Warthen harangued Superintendent Caroline McKennan in a hallway outside the board room while others looked on.

A videotape of the Monday and Tuesday meeting will be broadcast on Channel 17 on Saturday at 8 p.m.

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