On Dec. 12, 2018, Tom Panas, member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education, was chosen by fellow members as the Board’s president for 2019. In the following opinion piece, Board member Mister Phillips responds to this selection.
By Mister Phillips
In 2015, the school board amended its bylaws to state that “[i]t is the intent of the Board that all Board members have an opportunity for Board leadership. In order to fairly rotate the offices of the President and Clerk among the five members of the Board … [t]he Board Clerk will replace the outgoing President.”
The bylaws go on to state that “[t]his format will be followed except in unusual or exceptional cases.”
In 2018, I became clerk of the board. In 2019, I should have become president of the board according to the bylaws. However, the board passed over me.
I would have been the first African American to serve as president of the board since Charles Ramsey in 2013. Instead, I was the first clerk of the board to be passed over since the rotation of the presidency was enshrined in the bylaws.
Although I have accepted that I am not president of the board, everyone has not. Recently, an African American parent told me that she lost hope when I did not become president of the board.
That woman’s feelings were real. I saw the despair in her eyes.
Nevertheless, I ask that mother to continue to believe in the promise of public education. We do not need the presidency to make a difference in our schools. All we need is each other.
I also ask everyone to give thanks. If I had become president of the board, I would have spent less time helping children and more time managing adults due to the present dynamics of the board.
That would have been a great disservice to our community. For the greatest gift I have to give is the gift of voice. I am an advocate now and forevermore.
Therefore, do not be discouraged that we did not obtain the presidency this time. We are where we need to be at this moment in history.