The Coronado Eagle & Journal sat down with 2022 CUSD Board President Esther Valdes-Clayton to look back at 2021 and forward at 2022 in the Coronado Unified School District

In one of the most remarkable years for school boards nationwide, Coronado Unified School District’s (CUSD) year was no exception. From the enforcement of mask mandates to discussions around critical race theory, the CUSD trustees faced a plethora of community members’ questions, comments, and concerns, while also balancing a packed agenda. Amid local issues, such as the notorious tortilla-gate incident and the CIF sanction matter, the board continues to respond to their aftermath. 

Members of the CUSD community are left with several questions following the release of the third-party investigation of tortilla-gate, such as why the investigation was not presented to the CIF appeals board, and why there will be no further appeal. On these matters, CUSD President Esther Valdes-Clayton is legally obligated to withhold this information, however was able to share some insights.

Valdes-Clayton asserted that the only way that tortilla-gate and its aftermath were addressed was through facts and the law. “They [facts and the law] need to be our guiding posts in everything that we do,” she said. “We have to critically ascertain and interpret facts, in accordance with the law, not the way we want to see them. And even though the truth may hurt, we have to attach ourselves to what reality truly is. And even if it’s hard as a community to understand the facts. I’m talking specifically about the CIF appeal and the results of tortilla gate—it came down to the facts and the law.”

Another lingering tortilla-gate concern among the public is the sentiment, as frequently voiced in newspaper letters, that students are being punished for adult behavior, specifically for Luke Serna’s behavior, who handed out the tortillas. On this matter, Valdes-Clayton cited the engagement of students in tossing the tortillas. “It’s not a punishment to be able to correct potential wrongdoing that shouldn’t be perceived as something other than what it is, which is remediation,” she said. “We offer children the ability to learn to do better, and challenge them to do better, and connect with them so that they don’t feel like they’re being punished, but that we’re working together towards improving our schools.”

While 2021 can be remembered as a year marked by a stark increase in public participation, Valdes-Clayton also hopes for the same degree of engagement in 2022. “I have never seen so many involved parents,” she said, “and that’s what I’ve always wanted. We’re blessed to live in a community where parents have the privilege to be able to attend school board meetings and have their voices heard. And at least for myself, I can say that I’ve been receptive, listening, hearing and being partnered with their concerns over their children, which often mirror my own.”

Along with this participation, at times came the politicization of student education, in many cases sidetracking the CUSD school board from their goal of challenging, connecting, and championing student education. Valdes-Clayton expanded on this notion. “When we are attacking each other based on political motivations, and to have a political following, that’s wrong. We can disagree, but we need to focus on doing what’s right for children, because nobody wins when we’re all fighting. Studies show that housing values go down. Property values go down. People don’t want to move where the schools are in shambles. People get unmotivated to volunteer, and be on the school board when they see this. And we don’t always have to agree, but we have to continuously do hard work. And some of that hard work is meeting those challenges with truth, with love, and staying in accord with the facts.”

Moving forward into 2022, the CUSD school board’s goals will center on their mission statement, “to challenge, connect and champion students’ education,” regardless of any national context or political climate we are living in. “Our school district is one of the most prominent, most distinguished, and best educational school districts,” said Valdes-Clayon, “and it’s still a beacon for so many people geographically surrounding Coronado. We need to focus on that, and hold onto what’s right, true, good, and what’s working in our school district, and to not be afraid of throwing out what’s not working in response to our children’s voices, the parents’ voices, and our teachers’ needs as well. To do it fearlessly.”

(3) comments


A Board Member meets with the only Adult who brings the Tortillas to the game and the only only solution provided by the law, which is not a punishment, it to strip the Championship away from the HS Team that did not take part in the incident! Why is this Board Member still on the Board? Why was the Democratic Club of Coronado not cited? But a Team of HS students and a Coach who had no part in this were labeled for life! Sad


It is untrue to say that the team and coach had no part. The decision resulted because 2 players in uniform threw tortillas (no one forced them to do so, they could have ignored any tortillas and not thrown anything, like most other students/players did) and the players did so AFTER THEIR COACH instigated an altercation and acted in a wholly unsportsmanlike manner - approaching the other coach/team and addressing them using profanity and disrespect. He could have shook hands and left, and there'd be no story.

If you read the CIF report, it is clear that the decision/outcome was all based on the coach and player actions following the game and lack of adherence to CIF rules around sportsmanship and ethics.

Continuing to attempt to apply revisionist history and distract from these facts by looking at who may have communicated after the fact shows you are not interested in accepting the truth. The coach and 2 players violated CIF policies. It is that simple.

Afterward, many people were interested in confirming who brought the tortillas, and when known, to then make clear that it was NOT students, and to have that person come forward and explain in his own words why he brought them. Those communications just show a board member trying to get Mr. Serna to make a statement at the board meeting or to provide one that could be shared. Yet you continue to fault anyone who was communicating toward that end at all as somehow "conspiring" instead of that they just can accept that the coach and 2 players broke CIF codes and received a consequence.


So 2 students who were encouraged to throw these tortillas because a Democratic Club Member encouraged them, and the fact that this member met with a Board Member, all established facts, means nothing to you. You are willing to punish the entire Basketball Team in order to achieve your political objectives, giving a pass to the Adults who were actually responsible. Shameful! The entire Board should resign in disgrace, they have failed their Students and their community.

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