Today, Dr. Tony Vang officially resigned from the Fresno Unified School District Board of Trustees.

I am relieved, to put it mildly.

Dr. Vang's tenure as Board President undermined some of the good will he had built up in nine previous years of service on the Board. As the first Hmong-American to be elected to the FUSD Board, and one of the more prominent Hmong-Americans in the Valley, his Board service had met with mixed reviews on policy, but until last year no one had ever questioned his judgement or character.

That all ended when reporters for the Fresno Bee investigated discrepancies between his official residency (within FUSD boundaries) and other residences listed for the purpose of voting. Residency requirements are often skirted or even ignored by elected officials, but any chance that Dr. Vang could've defused the controversy came to an abrupt end when he stonewalled the media, issued misleading statements to the public to justify his residency, and publicly attempted to bully fellow Board members and citizens wishing to address the Board.

In a space of a few hours, Vang (using his power as the Board's President) precipitated a walkout by other Board members by denying them the opportunity to speak, selectively set limits on the time for public comment based upon whether the citizen was critical of his actions, and used police power to, in essence, throw out the local union representative when he attempted to exercise his usual perogative to address the Board. It was, as the local media reported, an extraordinarily blatant attempt to use power to quash legitimate public concerns, unprecedented as far as anyone could recall in the history of elected bodies in Fresno County.

Dr. Vang shortly stepped down as Board President, and has now read the tea leaves: no further good can be served the Hmong-American community or the electorate at large by remaining on the Board, because Dr. Vang's actions undermined not merely the form, but the substance of what is essential in local government: access and accountability. His self-serving statement does not admit the obvious, that he is stepping down largely due to his own missteps, abusing the public's trust and publicly abusing the power he was granted as Board President.

Why did he wait so long? Here is where Vang's legacy is unsettled, because he represented a key supporter of Dr. Hansen, who like all Superintendents of large urban school districts eventually make a lot of people unhappy. Hansen has a difficult job, and we are currently at the point in the "leadership cycle" where in attempts to generate evidence of progress on various fronts the administration increasingly is adopting "top-down" measures that, no matter what the good intentions, are likely to generate more heat than light from the workforce (teachers) that are expected to implement them, mid-stream, in addition to all the other bureaucratic layers that we are expected to "check off" in lesson planning, classroom management, grading and the like. To put it simply, the heat's on Hansen, and so pressure is being brought from downtown to the classroom in a last-ditch effort to put some lipstick on the pig.

With Vang gone, however, there is no guarantee that a new Board majority will coalesce around the Superintendent's agenda. It's more likely that the new Board member will be an independent voice, not commited either to the Supe or to the increasingly-restless trio of Board members (one from the Bullard area) who feel that they have been continuously sabotaged by the present administration. If Vang isn't replaced by someone who will at least give Dr. Hansen a chance to make his case, then he's on borrowed time. I'm not sure, myself, how I feel about that. All I know is Dr. Vang had to go in order to build a new Board majority, one that the public could be reasonably certain would allow it adequate access and accountability in public meetings. Please, no future dictators need apply.

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