Letter: AUSD Trustee Says Racism Behind Troublesome School Board Vote

By Ellie Householder

17

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Antioch Unified School District Trustee Ellie Householder.

Many have asked me why, when I was nominated to become the vice president of the Antioch Unified School District Board of Education, I did not accept the nomination. To put it simply, I found the process of selecting the Board’s leadership to be deeply problematic — and racist.

We have 4,193 African American students in our school district and not a single African American has ever served as board president. On its surface, this may seem like a benign coincidence. It’s not.

It’s intentional.

At the December 11, 2019 AUSD Board meeting, Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White–an African American who has served on the board since 2016, who was the top vote-getter in that year’s election, and who holds multiple degrees–was denied the board presidency for the second time. It was the third time an African American was denied this position in recent memory, which reveals a troublesome pattern.

The school board’s leadership changes every year. For context, the person who becomes the president has historically been a non-issue, because it simply happened on a rotating basis. For years, that’s how the Antioch school board worked. That is, until Black women started getting elected as trustees.

Although the position of board president is more ceremonial than anything, the three times an African American trustee was up for the board presidency seat, their “qualifications” and “demeanor” were called into question. As many scholars have documented, such statements are often forms of racial microaggressions that send the message that “people of color are lazy” and “are incompetent and need to work harder.”

Some may argue that this decision “wasn’t racist” because they don’t view the trustees who voted for this as racist. This argument misunderstands what the problem is – institutionalized bias against people of color. Whether or not the trustees involved “are racist” isn’t the point. The point is that the use of coded language marginalizes African Americans and holds them to a standard that their white counterparts are not held to, which is racist. This double standard is revealing of an educational system which for decades has been unfair to African Americans.

After Trustee Sawyer-White was denied the board president position, I was nominated for vice president. I chose to abstain from the vote because I did not think it was right to vote for myself. At the time, I stated I was uncomfortable. To be honest, uncomfortable puts it mildly.

This marked the second time I had witnessed what I can only deem a corrupt process. A process that has a faint veneer of objectivity, when it is clearly anything but. I had seen the exact same thing happen to Trustee Sawyer-White last year when she was denied the role of president after serving for a year as vice president. So, I took issue with participating in a process I saw as unfair.

That is what I meant when I said I was uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable that some of my colleagues refuse to talk about race. I’m uncomfortable when my colleagues hijack a political process that is meant to serve our youth and instead use it to serve their own interests. This should make many of you feel uncomfortable as well.

As we enter a new decade, I urge my fellow residents to take note of the decisions made by your local representatives and to listen closely to the reasoning behind their votes. Sadly, some of us who are sworn to serve the public make decisions that are far from the best interest of the community. When that happens, we need to have the courage to call it like it is.

With another election approaching, my hope is that we, as a community, can stand together and hold our elected officials accountable. It is through courage, fairness, and honesty that I believe we can begin to move forward as a city and create a school system that is truly stronger and better, for all our students, regardless of their skin tone.

Ellie Householder
AUSD Trustee

17 COMMENTS

  1. This letter is an embarrassment and shame on you ECT for publishing such gibberish. Go watch a meeting, not selecting Sawyer-White had nothing to do with race but the fact she is unqualified. Don’t believe me, go watch AUSD videos of the board meetings on YouTube. Householder needs a refresher from Amy Bettencourt who last year provided some facts on Sawyer-White who felt entitled to be president last year.

    Bettencourt says through her research:

    – Sawyer-White has arrived late 68% to Board meetings since she has been seated. The board as a collective whole, has only been tardy 13%.

    – Concerns about Sawyer-Whites ability to vote independently. In just 7 occasions of 373 actions which she did not align her vote with Debra Vinson.

    – There were 11 occasions in the past year where the Superintendent had to remind her that information, she claimed not to have no knowledge of had in fact been discussed at a previous meeting or shared in a Friday board update.

    – Sawyer-White has participated in discussion on board items for 86-minutes, of that, 73-minutes were spend on her personal growth as a board member and her desire to have a conference and travel budget,

    I rest my case.

  2. Why does Ellie Householder think this is a problem? So what if there are 4,193 black kids in the school system. What does that have to do with anything. Ellie should stop worrying about such things and concentrate on getting a decent haircut and style to look more PROFESSIONAL.

  3. There most certainly has been an African American in leadership positions on the board. Do you research before you write letters. You show your ignorance

  4. She has white guilt, and because of it probably is very attracted to black men. Did you know Women’s suffrage was expedited because black men got the right to vote before white women? This made them get out of the kitchen and in the streets.

    • You’re probably right. Maybe because a white man wouldn’t give her a second look. Kind of reminds me of the Kardashians.

      • White men are attracted to little kids, blowup dolls, animals, and fake animals. Meanwhile the kardashians have a fashion empire and have impacted beauty standards worldwide. Soooooo you’re dumb.

  5. Dear Ellie,

    I hate to break it to you but you are part of the problem and divisive with your comments at the dais and in this letter. I urge you to stop grandstanding with meaningless dialogue to self promote and springboard your elected career, and instead work to make this community better, not further divide it. This letter highlights your inexperience, unwillingness to work with your fellow board members and willing to push an agenda without knowing how to count to 3 votes. As someone who abstains from a vote, you get no say in this. I hope to never see you in a elected position again on AUSD School Board or Antioch City Council. You don’t even have your facts right in this letter. When in doubt, go to the video.

    Love
    Jim

  6. Since I have no kids in Antioch schools I don’t pay much attention to these politics. Except that AUSD keeps coming at me with parcel tax elections. However, if Ms. Sawyer-White is really as incompetent as the first writer contends she should be voted out of office. I suspect, however, based on other writers on this thread, that there is definitely some racism behind the slights. If, traditionally, the top vote- getter gets the presidency and she has been snubbed TWICE, we have a problem. As for the writers denigrating Ms. Householder, shame on you. It certainly gives credence to what she wrote.

  7. Maybe we should stop identifying as “African” Americans and we are all just Americans. I think the problem is that we separate ourselves by race and thee is no need too. We Ned to just start treating each other as Humans first, we know what are race is and that is all that matters. This lady does look very unprofessional and using this as a publicity stunt to make friends. She looks like she lives at home alone with 50 stray cats.

    • Dan, you hit it just right. This race crap is only dragged on by those seeking to take advantage. The race crap has made a lot of people a lot of money. It needs to stop because it also continues to divide our communities and label. We are all people. Here we are all illegal or legal, yet still Americans. Get over this race label and let’s enjoy life period.

    • Dan, cats are cool. As the French writer (Collette) said, “One never has too many cats.” If someone owns cats, they are no longer strays.

  8. I just LOVE Antioch’s very own Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. A young and clueless social justice warrior who isn’t afraid to blabber off about things she has no idea about just to draw attention to herself. Go, Antioch! You elected a real winner there! I guess I’m not surprised, since you’ve also elected Debra Vinson and Crystal Sawyer-White. The trustees of AUSD couldn’t care less about the school district. They see it as a stepping stone to further their political careers.

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka, AOC) looks like she’s related to a beaver (TEETH) and an insect (EYES) … some people refer to her as a Occasional Cortex. She, along with the two muslim women and one black one are known as The Four Maggots.

  9. Wow. I can’t believe that PC culture has really taken over our society. Like the comment above, its Antioch’s very own AOC.

  10. Elsie do you realize you took a seat from an African American causing your own racial microaggression? Perhaps you can ask to step aside and promote the next African American looking to enter politics or reentering politics with the AUSD. This is best for your SJW medal. Since you support the notion that the Presidency at AUSD is ceremonial you should also understand this is a popularity vote. With no bias on race one would select the person they feel will listen to them and take action to support them. How embarrassing for you if Chrystal neither wants to listen to you or take action to support you on behalf of your people.

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