LANCASTER – Antelope Valley Union High School District Board members Victoria Ruffin and Amanda Parrell voted against a provisional internship permit for Palmdale High School pupil services technician Anthony Hunt, who wants to become a special education teacher.
The permit would have allowed Hunt to teach special education for the 2020-21 school year until he can pass the California Subject Examinations for Teachers to qualify for an intern program.
Hunt supported last year’s unsuccessful recall effort against Ruffin, Parrell and former member Robert “Bob” Davis. Hunt also addressed the Board multiple times last year following controversial decisions made by the former Board majority.
Hunt’s permit failed on a 2-2 vote at the July 23 meeting, broadcast on the District’s YouTube channel, with Board Clerk Jill McGrady and trustee John Rush voting yes. Student trustee Elijah Johnson also supported the permit.
Ruffin previously rejected the provisional internship permit at the June 11 meeting when Parrell was absent.
Rush asked Parrell whether she recalled when they attended Palmdale High School’s Professional Career Day event last year.
“Yes, I do remember that,” Parrell said after a lengthy pause.
“Do you remember talking about what a great job Mr. Hunt did putting that together, and how impressed you were with that?” Rush said.
“Yes,” Parrell said after a brief pause.
“OK, I’m just wondering; that’s just a sample of what you’re going to get when you vote to approve him, thank you,” Rush said.
Hunt started working for the District nine years ago as a tutor. He has worked in the counseling office at Palmdale High School since 2016, McGrady said.
“We know him,” McGrady said. “We know he’s an excellent employee. He has received exemplary reviews. According to the interview committee, he was the best candidate for the job. He’s kind; he works well with our students. He’s continued his education by going to school to become a teacher. We need male teachers. We need African American teachers. And he is an African-American male. And he’s already proven himself to be an excellent employee. For transparency purposes, what possible reason can we give for not voting for him?”
Ruffin and Parrell did not respond.
“No reasons,” McGrady said.
McGrady continued after a long silence.
“The only reason that comes to mind for me would be the fact that he’s exercised his First Amendment right of protest, and he’s spoken out at Board meetings,” McGrady said. “But if we are retaliating against him for that, that could be considered a personal vendetta.”
Johnson said he was thankful that Hunt’s provisional internship permit was back before the Board for approval.
“I was very saddened that it did not pass at the June meeting,” Johnson said. “I’ve seen Mr. Hunt’s dedication and care for the students in our District and at Palmdale High School.”
Johnson added Hunt has attended Interschool Communication Council meetings in the past.
In preparation for the July 23 meeting, Johnson reached out to Palmdale High students to tell him more about Hunt.
“An incoming senior at Palmdale High School said, ‘Mr. Hunt just brightens your day,’ ” Johnson read. “ ‘I have worked with Mr. Hunt through Link Crew and other after-school activities at PHS. He has great leadership skills and shows inclusiveness and care to all Palmdale High School students. Mr. Hunt would do anything for students at PHS as I have seen with many friends of mine in the past.’ ”
The student said Hunt would the type of teacher a lot of students need.
“The student did not want me to share their name and I can assume it is because of the rude treatment that the member of Area 5 (Ruffin) has exhibited to many students who share their opposition for her opinions, including myself,” Johnson said.
Ruffin said she is open to a level of collaboration and any form of disagreement from anybody.
She said, incorrectly, that Hunt’s permit should not go back before the Board because under Robert’s Rules of Order, a manual of parliamentary procedure, only the prevailing party can bring an item that failed back before the Board for a vote.
“I didn’t bring it back,” Ruffin said.
Ruffin said the permit should not be an item to discuss.
Attorney Jay Fernow said he looked through the Jan. 19, 2019, presentation by his firm, Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, and there was no statement that the Board is subject to Robert’s Rules of Order.
“I’ve looked through the Board bylaws,” Fernow said. “I’ve looked through the Brown Act, and again, rest assured, this Board has not adopted Robert’s Rules at its operating procedures, and you are not subject to follow Robert’s Rules of Order.”
Toward the end of the 2019-20 school year, with school campuses closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hunt and Palmdale High teacher Cathy Calvert kept the classes of 2020 and 2021 engaged and committed to their school with an opportunity to win a gift card during the last two weeks of school.
Hunt sent out daily random questions about Palmdale High; the first two students to respond with the correct answer won a gift card.
New American Funding gave the school $25 gift cards to graduating seniors that met the requirement. They also got donations of gift cards for places such as Starbucks or for weekly drawings.
Students could win only once. Hunt personally delivered the winning gift cards to the students.