Home Antioch Sawyer-White Leaves Antioch School Board Meeting After Hack Reappointed Board President

Sawyer-White Leaves Antioch School Board Meeting After Hack Reappointed Board President

by ECT

During the Wednesday nights Antioch Unified School District Board meeting, the board voted for Gary Hack to retain the position of Board President.

The move came after an hour long discussion which the topic of whether or not vice president Crystal Sawyer-White was prepared to be president was discussed while others, such as Willie Mims (NAACP) and trustee Ellie Householder insinuated that race was playing a role in the decision to block Sawyer-White — similar to how the board blocked Debra Vinson last year after she was censured.

In the end, Sawyer-White failed to get support to become president in a 2-3 vote against. Hack was then reappointed in a 4-1 vote with Sawyer-White dissenting.

After the vote, Sawyer-White left the meeting without notice and never returned.


Prior to the board vote, the board heard from the public.

Monte Gregg, principal of Mission Elementary stated the board had to make a very important decision tonight as to who sits as board president. She encouraged the board to review the Oct. 24 meeting at the 2-hour 33-minutes,

Velma Wilson spoke about how to be a good leader, one must first learn how to be a good follower.

“You do not know Brown Act, you do not know Roberts Rules of Order and that has been very clear, tonight was another example, you will not be suitable to sit in the role of president, so I am encouraging the other trustees to make an amicable on who is to be the reflection of this district as we try to continuing to push this district forward,” said Wilson. “Crystal Sawyer-White is not ready.”

Amy Bettencourt, a coordinator in the Educational Services Department, stated Sawyer-White may believe she is entitled to be board president, but shared her concerns while providing specific details on the history of Sawyer-White demonstrating the exact opposite as to the character a board presidents should have.

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,

Bettencourt then encouraged the board to think critically and make a good choice for the next Board president.

“Do you really want the board president to be the person who came out publicly and stated I am not here for kids, I am here to grow,” stated Bettencourt.

Willie Mims called what was happening tonight was an “egregious assault” on a board member and did not hear one positive thing out of these peoples mouths about what she has done.

“No one is entitled to anything, but when it comes to fairness and equality, then she deserves an opportunity like everyone else,” stated Mims. “There was another African American woman who was slated to become board president, they found all kind of excuses not to appoint her. Now we are sitting here, the same thing. I am looking at the issue of race coming into play, regardless what these people say. The elephant in the room is race.”

Mims stated he was speaking in support of Sawyer-White regardless what anyone says and the Board she see her as a human being.

During board discussion, Hack explained he has developed a philosophy of five things that were important for the Board President that he learned over the past year:

  1. The task is to facilitate, not dominate.
  2. Being President is not a personal agenda, it’s a district wide agenda.
  3. President needs to be out and about in the district and see what is happening up close and personal.
  4. Be prepared, to attend and give speeches at community events—including graduation ceremonies
  5. Put the Districts business high on their agenda.

Householder requested clarification on the history because she was always under the impression the decision to appoint a board president was based on a rotation.

Superintendent Stephanie Anello deferred the question to the longest standing Board Member Gibson-Gray who explained they have had years where they have had a president for two-years because the vice president may or may not have been ready. Others simply do not want to be president or vice president.

“Basically, it is a conversation with the board and you nominate who you think would be best,” explained Gibson-Gray. “It is not an actual rotation, we have never set that type of precedence, if we do, that is fine, but I do not feel its my role to evaluate a board member for competency, that is the role of the voters.”

Sawyer-White brought up Board Bylaw 9100 BB which other Districts follow which is for a rotating basis.

The board began to review that policy; however, it was determined Sawyer-White was using the policy from the California State School Board Association, and not the voted on policy by the AUSD Board (Note: The School Board Association is only a guideline for school districts to base their own policies off of)

Householder confirmed upon reading the AUSD policy there was no process other than they have to hold this discussion annually.

Sawyer-White again tried to read the association policy saying its what Pittsburg Unified uses and she had researched it with the same procedure to rotate.

Gibson-Gray stated that Pittsburg had approved those bylaws while AUSD has their own bylaws that they must adhere to which were voted on stated until the AUSD board votes on something different, they needed to follow their own bylaws.

Householder expressed concerns because it appeared the board has a lot of things that were their practice, but no policy.

“I really take what Willie Mims said, it just really concerns me as we have somebody now who is up for the normal rotation based on the history of what we have done previously who just so happens to be an African American female and again we are getting this huge resistance and this very intense tension,” stated Householder.

She suggested in the future the board take a serious look at their board policies on this to avoid this in the future to become more clear for electing the president as well as roles and responsibilities so they could avoid tension.

“It seems like we have this historical thing that keeps going on and then when it comes to African American women who are going to take this leadership position, all of a sudden its no,” said Householder. “We don’t actually go by this historical precedent, it should be by their qualifications. It just doesn’t seem like there is a fair standard.”

Gibson-Gray provided more historical context on keeping the same Board President where one time they replaced a Superintendent, a few years later, same thing. She then explained with Vinson how she was censured.

“In my 40-years, I’ve never had to censure a board member for their treatment of employees, no participation in an investigation, 25-days no response, you can go back and review the minutes, it was not an easy decision,” stated Gibson-Gray. “But when you censure a vice president, I don’t think the next year its appropriate to vote them into office of president.”

Householder made a motion for Sawyer-White, who then seconded the motion.

Prior to the vote, Gibson-Gray explained why she would vote no.

“While I respect the rotation process, I have concerns that Crystal has not learned enough about Roberts Rules of Order, Brown Act, I think there is some education that could happen, so I will be voting no,” said Gibson-Gray. “I am sorry, but its been a challenge.”

Sawyer-White replied.

“Either way, this has been a rough two-years and I am disappointed,” stated Sawyer-White. “I support the entire community as a whole. My daughter graduated from Deer Valley. I attended many PPIBS meetings, this is not easy, this is not a salaried position, you volunteer. I studied many hours, but I had a feeling this was going to happen. I am not surprised.”

Sawyer-White explained the next president needed to be more open minded to what is going on in the 21st century, such as charter schools and declining enrollment.

“There is an issue with Antioch Unified School District, I hope the next person will realize that,” said Sawyer-White.

Householder called for protocols and procedures about what they were supposed to do, but right now they should follow the historical precedent.

“I just feel like everybody should be given the chance to learn, but if we want to make it about a merit system or something else, then let’s write a procedure about it. But until we get to that point, there is just a historical precedent that we should follow,” said Householder. “Crystal Sawyer-White is coming into her third year of serving, so why not give her a chance to blossom into the role and be a leader for our population of students who are primary students of color. That is just a reality we are living in now. I would like to see leadership and would like to see us giving people of color the opportunity to be leaders in this community.”

She stated the voters elected Sawyer-White and everyone should get a fair chance and should all come together to support her.

The board then voted 2 in favor (Sawyer-White & Householder) with 2 against (Gibson-Gray & Rocha) with Hack abstaining. Hack then changed his vote after calling it a “cop-out” and voted no.

Gibson-Gray then made a motion for Hack to retain his seat as president. The motion passed in a 4-1 vote with Sawyer-White dissenting.

After the vote, the board took a 5-minute break. Sawyer-White left the meeting and never returned.

Towards the end of the meeting, the Board selected a vice president of the board.

“My thought was to nominate Crystal for VP and give her another year, but I don’t think we can do that if she is not here,” stated Gibson-Gray.

Superintendent Anello stated Sawyer-White indicated earlier in the meeting she would not accept it which was confirmed by Hack and Rocha.

The board then voted 4-0 in favor of Diane Gibson-Gray as vice president.



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Jennifer Johnson Dec 13, 2018 - 7:38 am

Good choice AUSD Board. Sawyer-White was not ready. I was not looking forward to every meeting where she would request to travel or get a new laptop. This woman was all about herself and what she could get out of the position, not the students.

Arne Dec 14, 2018 - 3:03 pm

How childish!! Must be part of the “entitlement” crowd. Too bad. Time to grow up. The AUSD board majority did the right thing.

Greg Dec 14, 2018 - 4:14 pm

Ellie Householder needs to get a clue. This isn’t about African American women, this is about qualified people. I agree with Diane Gibson-Gray, you do not reward a censured VP with becoming president of the board just as you do not reward an incompetent board member with a promotion who cannot even make the board meetings on time 68% of the time.

Melissa Dec 18, 2018 - 7:32 pm

Agreed. I also thought Ellie made some good points. Seems like their needs to be some written procedures. She is young and finding her place. I give her a pass this time after emailing her directly and letting her know how I felt.

Laura Canciamilla Dec 14, 2018 - 6:41 pm

PUSD bylaws require that, to be President, the member must have finished Masters in Governance and have attended CSBA President Workshop. De’Shawn Woolridge just finished a second year as President. I was VP and nominated him for the second year as he had been effyand was moving into a year where he would face re-election. I think the requirement of training has served us well.

Laura Canciamilla Dec 14, 2018 - 6:43 pm

He had been effective!!

Melissa Dec 18, 2018 - 7:34 pm

Agreed. I also thought Ellie made some good points. Seems like their needs to be some written procedures. She is young and finding her place. I give her a pass this time after emailing her directly and letting her know how I felt.

Comments are closed.