Dennis Areias spent about 17 minutes furiously defending his nearly 17-year tenure as a trustee during a Los Banos Unified School District board meeting last week.
Areias continued that defense in an interview with the Enterprise.
“I have done nothing but support the district, and now there are people trying to recall me,” Areias told the Enterprise on Friday.
Areias is the second board member this year who is facing a potential recall. Trustee John Mueller is facing a recall in an effort led by resident Baldo Salcido. Last month, a date for Mueller’s recall election was set for Aug. 23.
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It is the second time Areias has faced a preliminary recall effort. A different group of citizens tried to recall him three years ago. However, the initiative was dropped.
Now residents say they are upset with Areias’ perceived lack of respect and the school district’s direction during his time on the board.
Areias and other board members were presented with a letter on June 9 from resident Anahi Rodriguez stating that she and other residents of his district have formed a precursor committee to recall him.
The reasons for the recall range from statements made by Areias at board meetings and in the press, to general outrage over current construction projects and poor academic performance scores.
According to the letter, “Areias has repeatedly shown disregard for public input, has directed caustic, condescending remarks to anyone that publicly expresses their views.”
It points out that two teachers have been accused of sexual relations with students while he was on the board. It also cites low test scores of the 2013 California State Standards and Common Core Smarter Balance Assessment tests.
According to last year’s state test scores, Los Banos ranked in the bottom half of Merced County in math and in English and language arts.
The letter criticizes Areias’ past support of lease-leaseback agreements, including for the new Creekside Middle School, and his willingness to pay the school contractor an additional 3 percent, $750,000 overrun.
The last point of the letter references Areias’ “outbursts” against community members and organizations.
Areias’ heated board comments after receiving the letter last week were an example of those outbursts, Rodriguez said.
“It’s pretty much a reflection of what other people in my area, District 1, need,” Rodriguez told the Enterprise on Friday. “We need somebody who can take time to be impartial, not explode. That’s not who we are.”
Rodriguez, who has an elementary school-age child in the district, said the recall process hasn’t started. But the letter was meant as an indication of what she and other residents are feeling about Areias.
Areias vigorously defended his record against the complaints. The trustee said he was only one person on the board when the child sex allegations of former teachers Gary Bettencourt and Dusty Norris occurred, so blaming him for that was out of line.
He defended the school district’s academic profile by noting that test scores and other metrics of academic success are better than before.
“It’s not where we want to be, but we have been improving,” he said.
He also backed the work and decision-making behind Creekside, accusing other board members and the Community Advocacy Coalition, a self-described community support group, for misrepresenting the facts. Rodriguez said she has received support from the coalition for her recall efforts.
“I’m a loud person by nature,” Areias said, acknowledging his penchant for giving long speeches on the board. But Areias denied that he has ever disrespected innocent community members or organizations.