Jessica Cejnar / Friday, May 14 @ 5:39 p.m. / Education

DNUSD Board President Pledges to 'Mend Bridges', Leaves Complaint Against Colleague Frank Magarino Largely Unaddressed


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Previously:

Local CSEA Vice President Files Complaint Against DNUSD Trustee Frank Magarino

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Angela Greenough on Thursday called for mending bridges and strengthening collaboration between employees, administrators and elected officials as outlined in Del Norte Unified School District’s Board Governance Handbook.

But the DNUSD Board President didn’t address a formal complaint against her colleague, Frank Magarino, directly — except to say she discussed the issue with him — and blamed California’s Ralph M. Brown Act for hindering transparency.

“I have been in discussion with Frank about this,” Greenough told her colleagues and the public. “I cannot always address all the emails that go back and forth between board members because of Brown Act violations, but we will discuss some of those, hopefully solutions, when we discuss our board governance handbook.”

California's Ralph M. Brown Act guarantees the public's right to attend and participate in meetings of governing bodies. It also has restrictions on the use of electronic communications to discuss or take action on an item within its jurisdiction, accoding to the First Amendment Coalition

Magarino, who represents Trustee Area 3, was absent from Thursday’s DNUSD School Board meeting due to a death in his family, according to Greenough. The complaint against him was filed by Sarah Mitchell, vice president of CSEA Great Northern 178, which represents the district’s classified staff, after Magarino mentioned her name “in a mocking manner” just before the public comment period at the board’s April 22 meeting.

On Thursday, Greenough said she also spoke with Mitchell about the incident, but didn’t go into detail regarding that discussion.

Del Norte Teachers Association representative Lisa Sedgwick and Mitchell’s colleague, CSEA Great Northern 178 President George Mercado also raised the issue, calling upon the board to censure Magarino and for him to issue a public apology.

California School Employees Association President Ben Valdepeña also spoke before the DNUSD Board in response to the complaint against Magarino.

Valdepeña noted that next week is Classified School Employee Week, saying that he was glad the DNUSD Board passed a resolution commemorating that and honoring their classified employees. Valdepeña also didn’t speak too much about the complaint against Magarino, saying he hopes the issue between him and Mitchell gets fixed, but said it’s important for classified staff to feel their work is valued.

“Often times people show up and they don’t think about how the bathroom got cleaned. They don’t think about how the lawn got mowed. They don’t think about why the carpet in front of them is clean. Because it’s expected,” Valdepeña said. “The only time classified work is really really really noticed is when it doesn’t get done. Then everybody complains about it.”

Greenough, saying she wanted to “address an elephant in the room,” instigated the discussion about revising the DNUSD Board Governance Handbook. She noted that one of the goals identified in the handbook is to “strengthen a culture of collaboration between and among staff in the community.”

Most goals have targets for the DNUSD Board to meet, Greenough said, except the collaboration goal. She said she wanted to take concrete steps toward realizing that goal.

“I do believe in the last few years, there has been an environment of mistrust that has happened because of — let’s be honest — very tense negotiations in our community and because of changes that have happened with COVID,” Greenough said. “We want to have grace and respect for each other… we just have mistrust in people’s intentions and mistrust in each other and that’s really sad.”

Greenough said one target she wanted to bring back was officially acknowledging the work classified staff do. She noted that the resolution she and her colleagues approved earlier in the meeting helped meet that target.

Greenough also wanted to bring back “job shadowing” of trustees with the district’s teachers and classified staff.

Greenough’s colleague, Charlaine Mazzei, who was appointed to the Board of Trustees at the end of contentious negotiations between the district and DNTA in 2020, said she has been trying to find out why “reasonable people” couldn’t come to the table and figure out what was in everyone’s best interest.

“I would love to just sit in a room with my fellow board members and shoot the breeze and get to know everybody,” Mazzei said. “But the only opportunity we have to get together without violating the Brown Act is during public board meetings, and I have to really circumspect about expressing my opinions on negotiated items, which is really hard for me not to say what my opinion is on something.”

Mazzei, saying she’d like to find a place where trustees and the public can have “open honest conversations in a respectful manner,” also suggested training for her and her colleagues on effective communication and working styles.

“Even something as simple as saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ even if you don’t think it’s your fault can go a long way toward smoothing the waters,” she said.

During public comment, DNUSD teacher Carrie Crist, said the changes Greenough proposes have been asked for for years. Crist said her mother, Faith Crist, a former DNUSD trustee was able to meet with people without violating the Brown Act.

“I heard the term ‘reasonable people’ and I heard distrust and mistrust,” Crist said. “It’s more than problems with negotiations. It’s a lot more than that and I’m looking forward to talking with people, really talking with people, and trying to get this done. Our district really needs to work together. We’re really failing on so many levels and so I welcome this change.”

Mitchell said Greenough had reached out to her and told her she’d be addressing the mistrust issues between staff, the community and the school board. She also noted job shadowing was also a success, one she hopes can be repeated.

However, Mitchell said she’s also concerned that full accountability hasn’t been taken for the incident.

“It’s much better to address things completely out in the open,” Mitchell said. “I hope the board doesn’t use the Brown Act to shield themselves or have an excuse to not follow through with things. I’m concerned to hear tonight that perhaps there were some concerns regarding the Brown Act regarding my communication with the Board with my formal complaint.”

Mitchell noted she had spoken with board members directly before and concerns about Brown Act violations had never been raised. She said she’s always willing to make adjustments when necessary.

“I hope what we hear tonight is as sincere as it sounds and we recognize that we need to do something about this,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know how we move forward without absolute transparency and accountability for what happened at the last school board meeting. I don’t understand how we think we can sweep things under the rug — it’s still doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

Greenough promised to bring the issue back before her colleagues for a future discussion.


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