On Friday, the campaign to recall Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustee Debra Vinson moved forward as signatures are now being collected.
Nicole Cedano, who is leading the recall effort, says she has collected around 100 signatures within a weeks time. She needs a total of 8,220 before the November 1 deadline—but says she is planning to collect around 10,000.
This is Cedano’s third attempt at a recall which was first issued last October, however, it was thrown out because it exceeded the county’s 200-word limit by 26 words. The second was a formatting error.
She called both instances technicalities that only delayed the process, but the effort will move forward as planned.
Cedano believes she can still be successful and plans to hold signing events throughout the rest of the summer at local coffee shops and other locations.
“I want to make it a point to the public that disrespectful behavior, bullying, and abusing power of authority should not be tolerated or allowed,” said Cedano. “We all work together as a community and as a district, the main focus is our children, not degrade those who work with them.”
Cedano admits that during the summer, it’s difficult to reach a large amount of people because of summer vacation and people are busy with other things, but says that other employees are ready to run with this recall once school is back in session. She also stated another well-known elected official within the City of Antioch took several pagers to also begin collecting signatures. Former elected officials are also helping gather signatures.
“Whether or not she is recalled, there is no way she should ever be re-elected to the school board or elected to another seat,” says Cedano. “The recall is to raise awareness that she is unfit for public office.”
Last fall, Cedano publicly accused Vinson of disrespecting a school employee at Antioch Middle School after making what she believes to be a racist comment—the incident cost the District more than $3,000 in legal fees. The letters and accounts from both the employee and Vinson have been released via a public records act request (see below)
“When I was the police chief, I had the opportunity to meet with Debra Vinson with then City Manager Steve Duran. During that lunch, there was a conversation in which she referred to the City of Antioch as Ferguson (Missouri). At that point I realized I took her views as racist and I don’t feel it’s appropriate for someone whom I perceive to have those types of racist views to be sitting on our school board especially having a child in the school district,” said Cantando.
When asked about the context of her statement, Cantando explained that she was comparing the City of Antioch to Ferguson when we were trying to compare cities within our county. He says she was talking about a large city in our county and what they were doing in a positive manner.
“I said we were doing those same things,“ said Cantando. “She said we cannot compare ourselves to that city. I asked what city we should compare ourselves to and at that point she said Ferguson. At that point I realized I was dealing with someone with issues and who I believe has racist views which is why I signed the recall papers.”
For signatures to be eligible in the total count, they must be from residents within the boundaries of the Antioch Unified School District which includes the cities of Antioch and portions of both the City of Oakley and City of Pittsburg.
For those who want to participate in the recall or seek more information, you are encouraged to visit the Facebook Page – Debra Vinson Recall.
Vinson’s term on the Antioch School Board expires in December of 2018.
Public Records Request
According to a Public Records Request, the following information was obtained in emails which highlighted the August 23 exchange between a school employee and Debra Vinson.
The following is the “employees version” of what transpired:
On August 23, as I was walking through the quad toward the office, I noticed Ms. Vinson and two other ladies in our fenced-in entrance. Since the gate was locked, I walked toward the gate and pushed it open and allowed the visitors in. As I did, I greeted them, saying “Hello, how are you?” They entered, I walked them to the office door, and opened the door for them to enter. As I did, I asked how I could help. Ms. Vinson asked me if that’s how I greet people and if so, I had very poor customer service. I told her I didn’t understand. She continued to let me know that I lacked customer service skills and that she was “all about customer service”. I was taken aback as I feel my customer service skills are pretty good. Customer service is very important to me and I know that is 90% of my job. She then asked me if I had taken “Facing History and Ourselves”. Mr. Cannon came up behind me and was listening to our conversation and mentioned that he thought I had. I reminded that I had not. I am not sure why she asked me as “Facing History and Ourselves” as it Is not a customer service training. She referred to this training several more times. Ms. Vinson then asked who the principal was. I told her Lindsay Wisely. She asked to speak with her. I told her she was not in the office at the moment, we had a Williams Visit and Mrs. Wisely was with them. I told her I would be happy to radio Ms. Wisely. Ms. Vinson was speaking with Mr. Cannon so I took the opportunity to walk away. I was very upset at the way Ms. Vinson spoke with me, continuing to tell me about my poor customer service in an open office. I was starting to feel very emotional and felt I needed to get away. I calmed down and returned to my desk. Ms. Vinson asked to visit the Opportunity class. I asked her guests if they were parents. Ms. Vinson answered for them and said “they were advocates as well as parents.” It is our policy to ask for ID of parents visiting classrooms and to also call the teacher to let them know they would have a visitor. At that point, Ms. Wisely walked into the office so I let her take over.
This all happened in an open office area. My co-worker on the other side of the office asked me who was complaining about who regarding customer service. I let her know the complaint was about me. I feel that it was not Ms. Vinson’s place to berate me. If there was an issue, she should have spoken with my supervisor.
I looked up the website for “Facing History and Ourselves” to see if it offered customer service training. The tag line reads “Every Day, reports of incidents of bigotry and hatred across the globe show us how fragile democracy can be,” That made me feel as though Ms. Vinson was insinuating that I am a bigot.
Staff Member (name withheld)
The Antioch Unified School District has confirmed it has completed an investigation into Vinson’s comments with a cost of just over $3,000. The determination was Vinson should issue an apology.
The letter was emailed to the employee by Diane Gibson-Gray after the employee never received it from Vinson. It was uncovered that Vinson had misspelled the employees name in the email address which is why the employee received a delayed apology.
The apology by Vinson stated:
“I am sending this email because I learned that my interaction with you on August 23rd left you feeling that I was rude and not respectful or caring of you as an Antioch Unified Employee. I want to express how troubled I felt when you expressed your feedback of how you felt. My interactional intent was positive but the impact was negative. It was certainly not my intention or desire to treat you in a manner that was disrespectful or rude and to imply that you are a racist. I value you as an employee of the District. My regrets to you for any hurt that you experienced from the situation! I look forward to more positive interactions with you in the future. Thank you for your service to Antioch Unified School District.
Debra Vinson, MA, DPA, BCPC
Antioch Unified School District
Vinson said she considered the matter closed and has been resolved.
On Wednesday (Oct. 26), the CSEA Antioch Chapter 85 took to social media highlighting the lack of apology from Ms. Vinson.
The petition to recall Ms. Vinson is based on a series of incidents that highlight her mal-treatment of District employees. One incident resulted in the District paying $3,000 in legal fees to instruct Ms. Vinson to issue an apology to a District employee. She did not apologize but alluded to a misconception of her behavior.
During the same public records request, it also uncovered an email from Debra Vinson on August 25 to Jessica Romeo asking about the incident and telling her side. Vinson also stated in the email that she had some student safety concerns with Cedano after her actions at the board meeting.
The email was entitled it “Employee At tonight’s Board Meeting”
Yesterday evening when I entered the board room there was a woman sitting there glaring at me I asked Stephanie if she knew who I was as I had not seen her before. She persistently glared at me in a very hostile manner in which she held a stare without blinking. I had not seen this woman prior to tonight. I was very surprised to hear that she was an employee and (teacher?) employed by AUSD. I thought she was a parent at first because this is the behavior that is often seen with angry parents and rarely with employees especially at board meeting. If I smiled or did anything she would glare at me and shakes her head back-and-forth. I will have to think about the employee’s behavior and see how I want to proceed as her hostility towards me may warrant a higher level of care.
1) Was it known then employee (Nicole) was going to come and publically complain about me as a board Trustee? Did either of you have any prior knowledge of or warning at the board meeting tonight from staff or the school principal that Nicole was coming to voice a public complaint? It seems odd and someone may have possibly known that she was going to be there because of the emboldened behaviors and the target hostility and aggression aimed at me. I was not sure if she was going to approach me to physically hit me or what she was capable of. Strange! Was this issue addressed with her principal? Did her principal tell her to come to the board meeting and make a public complaint? What is interesting is that she continued to exhibit hostile behavior after the meeting was over.
2) The employee vision is one-sided considering that I did not ever interact with her while at the site. I do not feel that my communication which was brief with outside of a Board Trustee role. I did not make any demands on the employee that I interacted with but simply tried to match my response to hers. The unprofessional, rude behavior that boldly continued is unacceptable from any employee. So much work has been done in the District regarding “systemic racism” and “implicit bias”, so, I am often disturbed when in employee feels that he/she don’t have to provide basic courtesy and customer service interactions with parents when they arrive on campus especially if you are the first point of contact.
3) I am not sure if this type of public complaint has happened before; what is the board policy for employees when they have had no direct contact with a Board Member and they bring a complaint to the Board as if they have had direct contact? What is the protocol for employees in these types of situations? (BP 4040)
4) I am concerned about the “defamation of character” that happened at the Board meeting as a relates to the public comments. Not only did this employee accuse me of bullying, she mentioned that there were other instances where staff was bullied by me. What if any are those situations? Has any staff filed previous complaint that I spent time at their site believe in them? Defamation of character is a serious matter.
Bullying is a targeted harmful behavior that occurs over and over again usually catching and isolating someone before it occurs over and over again in groups to the same person by the perpetrator. Bullying often leads to suicide in students and usually makes one feel hopeless and helpless. Usually, with adults, bullying in the workplace happens with someone that the individual worked with and often, it is a supervisor or individual that has plus access to the person on a daily basis. The targeted actions of a bully in the workplace involves making demands on a person that blackmails or threatens a persons job and seeks further harm if the individual does not follow through with the demands that are being made. Bullying behaviors are very specific in the workplace and can last for years. Once again this is a very strong accusation to be accused of.
5) Our students and their parents are our most valued asset. If we do not respect them and make them feel welcome at their child’s school site they will not return the respect and will be welcomed into another district. Secretary/Receptionist and all staff must work to treat everyone with courtesy whether they are someone we want to see or be bothered with or not. Creating chaos does not take away from that. There is not a one size fit all expectation from parents or committee members of any Ethnic background. This same rule applies to students.
6) I am concerned about student safety and interaction and the experience of “constant harsh engagement” on a daily basis with the teacher that showed up at the meeting if she is a classroom teacher. (I think she’s a teacher). Restorative Justice practices always lead to respectful problem-solving skills. What happened with this employee that she did not utilize the protocols that are in place? Is the employee trained in PBIS or Restorative Justice practice?
I believe that Lindsay is doing a fine job at AMS and change is hard for employees that are used to having no accountability, etc. I support what Lindsey doing at AMS. and do not feel that I’ve overstepped any boundaries. With some exceptions, everything that I saw in the classroom and teachers that I interacted with was very professional.
I was with two parents while at AMS that would let me know right away if I knowingly intimidated or bullied a staff member which I have never done. I have also received numerous complaints of the staff that I interacted with at AMS but a Board Member always encourages parents to follow the proper channels to resolve school site matters.
Please let me know how you decide to move forward on this. This is unfortunate as I was approached by the media already.
–end of email—