NJUHSD trustees Seeley, Drew and Hinman flunk ethics 101

By YubaNet October 7, 2022

The Nevada Joint Union High School District (NJUHSD) board had their October meeting yesterday afternoon. During the reports from Board of Trustees item, Trustee Jim Hinman, Vice-President Jim Drew and Board President Pat Seeley proceeded to campaign from the dais, endorsing appointed board member Leishman and, in Drew and Seeley’s case, Seeley’s son Jay
Adamson.

During her report, Trustee Leishman mentioned she is on the November ballot and hopes to continue to serve, having dedicated “hundreds of hours in the short time [since her appointment.]”

Trustee Hinman offered his opinion on “so many young women coming out to run for this office,” stating he was thrilled and felt good there were women entering the contest. He continued, “I want to clearly, publicly, put my support behind Stephanie.”

Trustee Drew’s remarks were in the same vein, and he also added a comment about “the young man running in district 5 [Pat Seeley’s son Jay Adamson.]

Trustee Seeley for her part referred to her notebook, reading what sounded like a lengthy prepared statement, praising Leishman and Adamson.

Even after a member of the public questioned the appropriateness of the statements, Seeley stated, “this is my time for what I want to say.” Superintendent Dan Frisella commented he thought they could discuss candidates, “you just have to be careful not to do any campaigning.”

The district’s legal counsel was not present at the meeting. Superintendent Frisella clarified for YubaNet that “like most school districts, our legal counsel does not regularly attend our school board meetings. This is a cost that we would prefer to save for other educational programs or specific legal questions.”

Trustee DuWaine Ganskie acknowledged the public’s misgivings and asked if a policy should be developed. A rather testy exchange with Seeley followed, with Seeley wanting “to move on.”

Student Trustee Amelia Glaz added that speaking in favor of candidates, during a board meeting, “if there are consequences to that, that should be looked into.”

Trustee Drew commented on the sparse audience and “the three people watching on Zoom,” adding, “I hope we haven’t stepped on too many toes.”

The meeting was held in the early afternoon to allow trustees to attend the celebration of the teacher of the year.

Board policy manual

The district’s own Board Policy manual, available on their website, has clear guidance on political processes in Policy 1160:

“No district funds, services, supplies, or equipment shall be used to urge the support or defeat of any ballot measure or candidate, including any candidate for election to the Board. (Education Code 7054)”

The meeting was held in district facilities, broadcast live and is available for on-demand viewing in the district’s video archive.

Superintendent Frisella, who works directly for the board, responded to our question as to why he did not intervene when the trustees started campaigning from the dais. “I have an understanding of our board policy surrounding political activities of employees and the role of the board. I was surprised when board members began discussing the upcoming election, especially specific candidates. I did not intervene when the first board member was presenting her board update because I believed it was an isolated mistake by a new board member. When the board agenda was put together, political endorsements was not included as part of the agenda. When a member of the public questioned the appropriateness of board member comments that were underway I interjected to caution that board members are not to use the board meeting platform to campaign for board candidates. Ultimately, the board is responsible for adhering to board policies and administrative regulations. As an employee of the board the superintendent’s role is to help the board remain in compliance with board bylaws, policies and education code. I will be working to prevent violations of board bylaws and policies as we move forward.”

The excerpt below is the trustee report portion of the meeting.

The Board of Trustees has been elected by the community to provide leadership and citizen oversight of the district, according to Bylaw 9000: Role Of The Board.

The candidates on the November 8th ballot are:

Nevada Joint Union High School District Trustee Area 1 (seat currently held by Hinman)
Candidates are: Olivia Pritchett and Jenny Scicluna

Nevada Joint Union High School District Trustee Area 2 (seat currently held by Leishman*)
Candidates are: Wendy Willoughby and Stephanie Leishman

Nevada Joint Union High School District Trustee Area 5 (seat currently held by Seeley)
Candidates are: Ken Johnson and Jay Adamson

* appointed in June 2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.