SSUSD School board forced to relocate due to disruption

SSUSD School board forced to relocate due to disruptionIt was not business as usual at the Thursday, September 16, meeting of the Sierra Sands Unified School District Board Meeting (SSUSD).

The unwillingness of some attendees to comply with the sign on the entrance of the chamber door that required masking before entering called for a change in the meeting procedure.

Bill Farris, Board President, addressed the situation by stating that the law of the State of California and the policies of SSUSD would require that they must comply. “As a responsible party of the board, we must see to it that our staff and students are safe and we intend to do that,” he said. He explained that the notice on the front door states, “Masks are required,” and they are respectfully asking that people mask up if they intend to stay in the room. Farris called for a fifteen minute recess noting that masks were provided and if they chose not to mask, anyone wishing to be a part of the meeting could wait in the lobby and listen to the meeting where forms would be provided for those wishing to provide input. Farris said, “Process and procedure are in place in this country to provide for public input, legal challenges, and participation in the electoral process but also relies on the rule of law. We are going to enforce the law.

We are asking again to mask up so we can continue this meeting.” With the audience refusing to comply, Farris said, “I am sorry. This is the choice you have made. If you don’t want to step outside or mask-up we are going to recess this meeting and reconvene in fifteen minutes, at which time we will clear the room. Once we clear the room you may return if you mask up.”

After the fifteen minute break, Farris gave another opportunity, saying, “We would like to hear what you folks have to say. We have this on the agenda for your participation, otherwise, we will follow the law of the State of California and the policies of the board. The board will relocate in a closed meeting with only the press and staff admitted.” The board then vacated the dais relocating in a side room and proceeded with the meeting.

During the closed meeting District Superintendent Dave Ostash told the board that there are currently 5,080 students not enrolled compared to 4,910 last year. He added that out of 600 staff members six have tested positive with COVID 19. He reminded the board that at the August 19 meeting some members of the public had requested that board include on this month’s agenda the discussion of State Mandates as they related to the wearing of masks and vaccines. He stated that the recent California law would be followed (masks are required at public meetings) and no action of the board would be taken and clarified that by saying they would comply with the Law of the State of California and the policies of the SSUSD.

There was some discussion regarding the concerns of the We the People group as it relates to the wearing of masks and vaccinations. “We want to find ways to accommodate those who do not want to wear masks or be vaccinated; they can be tested instead of vaccinated” said Farris. “There is an option to do online classes ...

There are other places who do approach this differently. Our system, for over 200 years, allows for recall elections that give people an opportunity to make a change so that board members can be replaced. We need to work together to meet the needs of the kids and community, God help us move forward.”

Kirk Rockwell read the public comments: Gil Martin expressed support of the board and did mention that some of the We the People members are recommending a recall of members of this board. He stated, “To be clear, if my son or my wife contracts COVID due to the district disregarding masking requirements, I will hold it financially liable.”

Kelly Karakas, a SSUSD teacher, submitted, “I know you are between a rock and a hard place and you have to follow certain policies and mandates because of legalities for funding so I know it is not easy” She included in her comments, “Are we looking at the real guidelines and the mandates or do we know what we are doing is improving our students social, emotional, mental and physical health? Or are we simply following along?” Adding, “voluntary consent is positively essential.”

Debbie Taliaferro highlighted the fact that judges are blocking the mandates in other parts of the country, she noted the status of FDA approval of available vaccines and stated, “More deaths from the COVID vaccine than from all of the vaccines from the last thirty years. To enforce universal obedience with an unwanted, ineffective, potentially dangerous medical intervention is undemocratic and anti-American.”

Karen Taggart submitted, “As a public commissioner I am informing the board that they are in violation of the Brown Act by denying public access without prior notice.” Farris responded, “The Brown Act does allow boards to meet in alternate locations with limited access when there is obstruction.”

Several board members commented on the issue. The board meeting can be watched on YouTube by searching SSUSD 9/16/21.

Laura Austin photo: The board of education meeting began in the City Council chambers but moved to the council conference room behind the dais.

Story First Published: 2021-09-24