Last month, after Alum Rock schools trustee Khanh Tran threatened to kick Superintendent Hilaria Bauer’s ass “right outside the district” and put “criminals like her” in front of a firing squad, she filed a temporary restraining order against him.
School board president Esau Herrera reportedly chuckled during the exchange. The outburst made headlines and prompted community members to bombard the notoriously dysfunctional school board with calls and letters demanding accountability.
One of those emails came from Jocelyn Merz, president of the Alum Rock Educators’ Association, who implored Herrera in an Aug. 25 message to rein in his unruly colleague.
“It is now time to take action and, together with the other board members, censure him,” the union leader wrote. “Please do so for the students, employees, community, and the future of Alum Rock School District.”
Herrera took more than a week to respond. And when he did, it wasn’t to condemn Tran’s conduct. Instead, he was more interested in reminding concerned constituents about the “wide latitude under the law” that trustees have to express their “opinions and sentiments, even in a manner that might be considered distasteful and disrespectful to others, especially so in the course of a public meeting.”
In his Sept. 4 reply to Merz, Herrera also passes the buck, saying he’ll relay her concerns to district staff, namely the superintendent and general counsel. He then downplays his own authority as appointed head of the board and one third of a majority bloc comprising Tran and Dolores Marquez-Frausto.
“In closed session meetings, I do my utmost to keep all participants on point and respectful of all,” Herrera wrote. “I am aware that such efforts from time to time seem to elude one or more of my colleagues on the board. I'll just keep on trying.”
Next week, a judge will decide whether to extend Bauer’s stay-away petition against Tran, which will determine whether the first-term trustee can show up in person to the next regularly scheduled school board meeting two days later. The court hearing is set for Tuesday; the board meeting, Thursday.
Both Tran and Herrera are running for re-election Nov. 6.
Below is a copy of the email exchange between Merz and Herrera.
From: Jocelyn Barbeau Merz
Date: Sat, Aug 25, 2018 at 10:56 AM
To: Esau Herrera
Subject: Please Take Action
Dear Board President Esau Herrera,
In your capacity as board president of the Alum Rock School Board, I am urging you to take action to stop the continual threats, violent outbursts, and abuses of power by board member Khanh Tran directed against the community, district administration, the superintendent, and myself!
Esau, I have known you for many years. Throughout the years we have been aligned on many issues affecting our district. In fact, I supported your campaign for reelection, and shared in your disappointment when you were outvoted by Karen Martinez in 2012. At other times, we have been on opposing sides of certain things. Obviously, we have not been in agreement on many of the matters facing Alum Rock for the last couple of years. I have been stunned by certain actions you have taken and comments you have made. However, until recently, I have never doubted your commitment to the students and community you represent.
By allowing Khanh Tran to repeatedly berate, falsely accuse, and disrespect our superintendent, district administrators, and parents in the community, while you sit silently by and listen to him name call and make derogatory, offensive, and prejudicial remarks toward public officials or anyone, is totally unacceptable! It also negatively reflects back on your leadership ability.
Tran's behavior, most recently at the August board meeting, is erratic, unpredictable, and intimidating. It is in violation of both our board policies and the penal code. I am confident that you see it and understand my concern. However, by allowing it to continue in this manner, it is perceived by observers that you condone, and even support, this behavior. I find that hard to believe.
It is now time to take action and, together with the other board members, censure him. Please do so for the students, employees, community, and the future of Alum Rock School District.
From: Esau Herrera
Date: September 4, 2018 at 3:31:55 PM PDT
To: jocelyn barbeau merz
Subject: Re: Please Take Action
Please pardon this somewhat tardy response to your email. I have been buried under a jury trial since late July, which only recently concluded this past Friday.
It is my practice to refer matters that affect the school district to the Superintendent's office. I will do so with this concern also. Meanwhile, I will also refer this concern to the District General Counsel, for advice on how to best address your concern.
I do not engage in nor condone a course of conduct that negatively impacts the ability of our school district team to deliver a high quality education to our students.
I am also mindful that an elected official has wide latitude under the law to express their opinion and sentiments, even in a manner that might be considered distasteful and disrespectful to others, especially so in the course of a public meeting. In closed session meetings, I do my utmost to keep all participants on point and respectful of all. I am aware that such efforts from time to time seem to elude one or more of my colleagues on the board. I'll just keep on trying.
Esau Ruiz Herrera