Recently elected to the City Council, the other school board members want him to resign now. They muted his microphone, except as a member of the public.
Fireworks erupted at a virtual SMMUSD meeting Thursday night, as other school board members insisted that Oscar de la Torre had legally resigned his position as school board member. De la Torre was recently elected to the Santa Monica City Council.
School Board member Jon Kean objected to de la Torre participating as a Board member. The Superintendent of Schools, Ben Drati, explained to Oscar that he could not hold two offices simultaneously, because to do so would violate California law.
"You are a tyrant!" de la Torre said to Kean. De la Torre kept trying to ask questions and the Board kept muting him. Finally, Kean threatened to remove him from the meeting.
This was at the beginning of the meeting, an important meeting where hundreds of parents had called in to speak about distance learning and other topics.
The board then broke into executive session. When they returned, the school board's legal counsel concurred that de la Torre was disqualified from membership in the Board. Kean apologized for "the hijacking of the meeting," and de la Torre was muted.
Attorney Kevin Shenkman had a different legal opinion about it. He said they had disrespected and ignored and marginalized Oscar for 18 years
De la Torre said that very few people of color or from Santa Monica's South side serve on the school board, and that's why there's a huge achievement gap.
North side schools are wealthy and it screams of white privilege, he said. So de la Torre suggested that Maria Leon Vasquez should be appointed Chair of the SMMUSD board.
They said de la Torre could participate, as a member of the public only. They muted his microphone, except when he was speaking as a member of the public. Which was easy to do, since the meeting was held via Zoom.
No other nominees were suggested so Jon Kean was elected again as school board Chairman. Laurie Lieberman was elected Board VP.
A few more notes: The US Constitution only allows a person to hold one elected "office under the United States." Oddly, no one made this argument, instead sticking to California law.
Kean apologized for "hijacking of the meeting" i.e. by de la Torre. He invited parents to submit input on the subject of reopening the schools.
Esther Hickman unsuccessfully ran for school board in 2020. She called in to defend de la Torre.
Shenkman represents Maria Loya in her lawsuit against the city for district representation, and he represents plaintiffs who sued the school district for charging students fees when education in CA is supposed to be free. He insisted that the other members should have allowed de la Torre to participate.