Updated June 9, 2022 - 11:45 am
Clark County School District trustees clashed at a board meeting Wednesday over social media posts that the board president called unprofessional, negative and out of control.
The meeting served as the latest flashpoint for the board that leads the country’s fifth largest school district, a board whose dynamic has been marked by tension and controversy over the last year.
The board was discussing — but not taking any action on — its policy governing how trustees should communicate on social media, a policy that Board President Irene Cepeda said had seen a lack of compliance from several board members.
“When we break our policies, we erode the work of the board, we erode public trust,” Cepeda said of recent social media posts by trustees. “It is insane that I spend so much time disciplining trustees when that should not be the case.”
But Trustee Danielle Ford, who has been critical of the superintendent and various aspects of the district’s operations on social media, immediately confronted Cepeda over what she called hypocrisy and bad leadership.
“Every single month there’s been some item … some form of item in some way with the intent to limit the way the board communicates,” Ford said. “This should be the very last time anybody tries to shut down our free speech.”
Of the social media posts Cepeda chose to highlight Wednesday, a majority came from Trustee Katie Williams and from Ford, in addition to tweets from trustees Linda Cavazos and Lisa Guzman.
The tweets were organized by theme, themes like insulting other trustees or the superintendent, commenting on sensitive matters, and advocating against district or board positions.
They included tweets from Williams in which she advocated against government-run public education and said “communists” were trying to take over education.
There are literally communists trying to take over your child's education!
— Katie J. Williams (@realkatiejow) March 2, 2022
In one tweet where Williams mocked the resignation announcement from longtime district teacher Alexis Salt, Ford responded by repeatedly telling Williams to “Shut the f*ck up.”
I’ll go ahead and repeat what I said to you at a recent closed session:
“Shut the f*ck up, Katie.
Shut the f*ck up, Katie.
Katie… shut the f*ck up.”
— Danielle Ford | Clark County School Board (@TrusteeFord) May 25, 2022
In one of the tweets, Ford alleged a conflict of interest between Trustee Evelyn Garcia Morales and the district’s independent auditing firm Eide Bailly. The tweet was marked by Cepeda in Wednesday’s presentation as “spreading misinformation or conspiracy theories.”
Anyone notice that trustee Garcia Morales disclosed a conflict of interest with her employer and our auditor, Eide Bailey, a few meetings ago? 🤔 She only said the agenda item number- the item was to renew Eide Bailey
— Danielle Ford | Clark County School Board (@TrusteeFord) May 30, 2022
Cepeda took responsibility for organizing the tweets for the presentation, something she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she “could have hashed out more.”
Ford, who called into the meeting remotely on Wednesday along with Williams and Trustee Lola Brooks, slammed Cepeda for not providing the tweets to board members ahead of time and for being unable to see which tweets were being referenced during the meeting.
Ford told the Review-Journal that Cepeda had stopped her from discussing reference materials at a different meeting last year when the materials weren’t viewed by board members beforehand.
“You are a hypocrite. I’m going to go tweet about it,” Ford said to Cepeda at Wednesday’s meeting.
Cepeda said during the meeting that the materials would be updated to BoardDocs, the platform the district uses to post its agendas online. The materials were available on BoardDocs shortly after the meeting.
Cepeda told the Review-Journal that the board president sets the agenda and is in charge of making sure reference materials are included, but acknowledged that she did not follow best practices in making sure the materials were initially included with the agenda online.
Pleading for decorum
The board has endured a year of divisive and often hostile meetings where trustees have had to navigate the closure of schools during the pandemic, concerns over a hostile workplace, and the controversial firing and subsequent rehiring of Superintendent Jesus Jara.
Cepeda was the swing vote that ultimately decided Jara’s fate, voting first to fire him and then to rehire him.
But despite the board’s contentious relationships with one another over the last year, Cepeda told the Review-Journal it shouldn’t be controversial to ask for board members to be professional in their communications.
“I am pleading for folks to just have decorum,” she said. “I don’t think it should be so controversial to ask for professional communications.”
Contact Lorraine Longhi at 480-243-4086 or email@example.com. Follow her @lolonghi on Twitter.