Father’s Day 2022 is the one-year anniversary of the now-infamous CHS Tortillagate fiasco. It is appropriate to reflect upon what it revealed about CUSD’s elected leadership, school administrators, and what it suggests about where our School District is headed. I offer these lessons learned to the Coronado community:
1. The incident was purposefully distorted. A 40-year-old Hispanic Coronado resident, Luke Serna, with a history of political activism, brought tortillas to a State Championship basketball game. He, and he alone, encouraged high school students to throw tortillas in “celebration.” Only 2 young athletes were naive enough to believe him.
2. The ill-informed, knee-jerk reactions of the Board of Trustees caused the real damage. Their panicked response serves as an indictment of the disturbing national trend to “do something” fast, rather than doing the “right thing.” Less than 24 hours after the incident, on Father’s Day morning, now-President Esther Valdes Clayton publicly condemned our own students, without a shred of evidence to support the claim that “the perpetrators were racist, classist and colorist.” The other Board members followed. Our community struggled to know what that even meant.
3. Facts never mattered. What did? The “Lived Truth” of Esther Valdes Clayton (aka “My Truth”). Equally as irresponsible was the Trustees’ failure to provide any semblance of due process to Coronado’s CIF Champions. Their priority? Sending out a speedy, CYA response; let facts be damned.
4. Hubris - the vice of pride. The ONLY reason the Board backed off of these false assertions was because brave local citizens threatened to sue the Board for violating the Brown Act. Following the Trustees’ 3-2 vote (Valdes Clayton and Antrim voting against) - months later - to remove the “racist, classist and colorist” language, the Trustees still refused to apologize. No corrected letter was ever released acknowledging the falsehood of their initial public statement.
5. The Trustees rush to judgement erased the State Championship of a remarkable group of student athletes. CIF acknowledged it was the initial public statement of CUSD Trustees that provided the evidence justifying abdicating the State Championship title. To add insult to injury, the results of the CUSD investigation were purposefully withheld from the CIF decision authority. The full investigation was never released to those who paid for it – Coronado taxpayers.
6. The incident brought out the best in many of our neighbors. Mayor Bailey, Trustee Keszei, Mike Giorgino, Paul Lull, Brad Couture, Eli Steele (of Fox News), Jen Settle and We the Parents Coronado are but a few examples of many beacons of light and truth in a dark time for the Coronado community. They showed up and stood up, despite over-the-bridge cancel culture mob actions (recall “protesters” claiming Antifa affiliation marching down Orange Avenue). It takes courage to refuse to bow to the mob. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. I’m glad to count them as friends.
7. We have reason for hope. The time for accountability draws near. On November 8th Coronado voters will send a clear message to CUSD Trustees: Coronado stands for THE truth. We will elect Trustees who will assume the best of our students in the absence of real evidence to the contrary; Trustees who will be champions of our students, not their critics. Let voters redeem what cowardice dishonorably took from both our CHS Championship Basketball Team and the entire Coronado community, our reputation.
VOL. 112, NO. 24 - June 15, 2022