Rightwing Extremist Candidates Target Shasta County Board of Education

Rightwing provocateur Rich Gallardo about to be ejected from the Shasta County Board of Supervisors as recall proponents Elissa McEuen and Vladislav Davidzon look on. October 2020.

Our vision for all students in Shasta County:  A supportive, rigorous education that results in resilient, resourceful young people who think critically, work collaboratively, embrace diversity, and maintain lifelong curiosity.

—Shasta County Office of Education vision statement

Shasta County Board of Education candidate Rich Gallardo is on a mission to destroy public education as we know it. Gallardo is a fanatical gun rights advocate and COVID-19 denier who may be best known for his failed attempt to perform a citizen’s arrest on the entire board of supervisors in October 2020. At a training session held Saturday at Jones Fort in Redding, Gallardo instructed a handful of local schoolboard candidates that their oath of office, should they be elected on Nov. 8, entitles them to break the law any time they see fit.

“You [get elected], you take an oath to the state and the federal constitution,” the retired military policeman who was dismissed from CAL FIRE in 2017 for brandishing a gun at work says in a video of the event posted on Facebook. “Those three things are the only things you need to claim 100 percent control of your school district, your curriculum, what you do with the money you have. … That gives you 100 percent autonomy to make the decisions you like.”

To be polite, that simply isn’t true. Individual schoolboard members, as well as county board of education members, have limited powers which are vested in the board as a whole and are primarily concerned with oversight of the school district, or, in the case of the Shasta County Board of Education, oversight of the Shasta County Office of Education, headed by recently reelected Judy Flores, Shasta County Superintendent of Schools.

According to the California School Boards Association, board members are responsible for ensuring that a common vision focused on learning and achievement for all students is maintained. The board members don’t actually do the work, nor do they supervise it. They oversee it. It’s fair to say that most Shasta County residents agree with SCOE’s vision statement that providing a supportive, rigorous education that results in resilient, resourceful young people who think critically, work collaboratively, embrace diversity, and maintain lifelong curiosity is a laudable societal goal.

But during the past half-dozen years and the rise of openly racist, sexist, and homophobic former President Donald Trump, the Republican far right, including Gallardo and his ilk, have turned diversity into a dirty word.

Locally, the angst can be traced back to passage of the California Healthy Youth Act in 2016. Cultural conservatives, including the higher ups at Bethel Church, objected to the comprehensive sexual health and HIV/AIDS instruction that’s now provided in public schools in large part because it acknowledges LGBTQ students exist, awareness that is apparently verboten at any age for some right-leaning folks.

After the George Floyd riots in the summer of 2020, Critical Race Theory — a post-graduate academic discipline — became the new conservative cultural bogeyman. Despite the fact that CRT is not taught in K-12 schools anywhere in the United States, 42 states have banned it from being taught in K-12 schools.

Rich Gallardo lectures schoolboard candidates at Jones Fort.

At Gallardo’s schoolboard training hosted at Jones Fort—ultraconservative District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones’ family gun store—Gallardo conflated CRT with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies currently being put in place by corporate America and some government agencies.

They’re far from the same thing, Shaun Harper writes in Forbes.

“Increasingly, businesses are either creating or expanding DEI education for employees. Much of it is broadly focused on topics like implicit bias, ableism, gender discrimination, and heterosexism, to name a few topics. Occasionally, workshops focus specifically on race, racism, and racial equity. Their emphasis on race don’t automatically make those trainings CRT.”

“Don’t let all these politically correct words fool you, it’s all the same stuff,” Gallardo told his audience.

To repeat, DEI, like CRT, is not taught in K-12 schools.

Perhaps that’s why Gallardo never defines CRT or DEI. Nor does he point out any local examples. His specialty is a sort of selective literalism in which he rips passages out of context from the federal and state constitutions and the education code to make his convoluted and often absurd arguments sound sensible. It’s a skill he claims he learned in the military. Being a former Navy man, I believe it.

“Just because something’s a law, that doesn’t make it constitutional, moral, ethical or any of that,” he said. He encouraged the candidates to use the two pages of random legal passages he provided at Jones Fort to take the fight to their own districts.

“You can’t just give people the middle finger without having an explanation for it,” he said.

For example, he claims section 35145.5 of the California Education Code states that “members of the public may place any matter they want on school board agendas.”

“I want to talk about x, y, z, and I better see it on this agenda on this date!” he barked at the candidates. He encouraged them to scour meeting minutes from years past in search of things they “don’t like” to put on the agenda and to recruit parents who agree with their “controversial arguments” to support those arguments at meetings.

The problem with all this is that’s not what the code says. The code reads, “It is the intent of the Legislature that members of the public be able to place matters directly related to school district business on the agenda of school district governing board meetings.”

Shasta County Board of Education Trustee Steve MacFarland.

Those are my italics, but Gallardo is well aware of what the code actually says. You can’t put things on the agenda simply because you don’t like them. According to longtime Shasta County Board of Education member Steve MacFarland, several years ago Gallardo tried and failed to place an objection to Common Core curriculum on the board’s agenda using the same routine. He described Gallardo as an “angry bully” who brought a crowd of fuming supporters with him to “bully the board.”

It was all for naught. The board had no say in the matter, therefore it wasn’t directly related to district business and was not placed on the agenda.

“The state sets the curriculum, the districts adopt it,” MacFarland explained. Gallardo’s demeanor was perplexing to him. “ ‘Why are you so angry?’ I asked him. He just got angrier.”

Gallardo, a self-proclaimed champion of transparency, declined to be interviewed for this story.

“Apparently no one told you that working for A News Cafe gives you negative credibility in this community due to the socialist bend and the dishonest reporting seen on that site,” he said via email. “I will not waste my time with such a disgusting rag such as A News Café.”

Shasta County Board of Education trustees, candidates

There are seven trustees on the Shasta County Board of Education, which is divided into two areas. Area 1 is comprised of the Enterprise Elementary, Grant Elementary, Redding Elementary, and Shasta Union Elementary school districts. The two incumbents up for reelection in Area 1, Robert Brown and Laura Christman Manuel, have not been challenged.

Gallardo and his cohort Authur Gorman are challenging incumbents MacFarland and Rhonda Hull’s seats on the Shasta County Board of Education, Area 2.

Area 2 is comprised of the Bella Vista Elementary, Black Butte Union Elementary, Cascade Union Elementary, Castle Rock Union Elementary, Columbia Elementary, Cottonwood Union Elementary, Fall River Joint Unified, French Gulch-Whiskeytown Elementary, Gateway Unified, Happy Valley Union Elementary, Igo-Ono-Platina Union Elementary, Indian Springs Elementary, Junction Elementary, Millville Elementary, Mountain Union Elementary, North Cow Creek Elementary, Oak Run Elementary, Pacheco Union Elementary, and Whitmore Elementary school districts.

Dolores Lucero, the former Shasta Lake city councilwoman who was recalled and convicted for felony election fraud a decade ago is also running for an Area 2 board seat.

“I don’t know them, I don’t have the information, I just want to make sure we teach our kids what we know,” Lucero said when I asked her what issues she was running on. She seemed to be more focused on regaining her seat on the Shasta Lake City Council, which she is also running for again. Lucero was unapologetic about her past misdemeanor conviction.

“What I learned was what happened to me could happen to anybody,” Lucero said. “I had no idea what I was getting into. I do my own research. … They railroaded me for exposing them.”

Both MacFarland and Hull are longtime Shasta County Board of Education trustees. MacFarland, who retired from Remi Vista Inc. in 2012 after working with at-risk youth for 35 years, has served a total of 25 years on the board during two separate stints. Shingletown resident Hull started at the Black Butte Union School District board in 1996, and was elected to the Shasta County Board of Education in 2005, where she’s served ever since.

“We have a very harmonious board right now,” MacFarland said. “The board fully backs Schools Superintendent Judy Flores, who really earned our support during the pandemic because she was not easily flappable. Almost everything we do is unanimous. Gallardo would destroy our current board, all of the board harmony we’ve built up.”

MacFarland said Gallardo attended the last board meeting in August for 20 minutes, standing in the back of the room and glaring at the trustees.

Shasta County Board of Education Trustee Rhonda Hull.

Hull saw the angry agitator at the back of the room as well. She stressed that her powers as an individual board member are far more limited than Gallardo understands.

“We have to abide by the code, state regulations set by the California State Board of Education,” she said. “People don’t realize we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing. If they do get on the board, they’re going to be disappointed.”

“We actually are in charge of setting the superintendent’s salary, but that’s about it,” she continued. “We oversee the budget and OK it, but [SCOE staff] do the budget. We don’t have any control.”

Hull said she receives a $200 per month stipend for the position. Her favorite perk is reading Dr. Suess to students at Principal of the Day events. She hated Zoom meetings and is grateful to be meeting in person after two-and-a-half years of pandemic. She agreed with MacFarland that the board is closer than ever having emerged, at least partially, from the COVID storm.

“We haven’t had a problem [getting along] for a couple of years,” she said. “We do get along very well.”

The school board’s current harmony is subject to change should Authur Gorman be elected to the Shasta County Board of Education.

Shasta County School Board candidate Authur Gorman at a vaccine mandate protest last year with District 5 Supervisor Les Baugh.

Gorman, a registered nurse who works at Mercy Medical Center, first gained local notoriety last November, when he started a petition against vaccine mandates for health care workers. Despite the fact he’d already been infected with COVID-19 twice, Gorman claimed that natural immunity from previous infections negated any need for vaccination.

“I’m exposed all the time, but I practice evidence-based medicine and take care of myself with PPE and state-of-the-art infection control measures,” Gorman told the LA Times. Nevertheless, he’s against mask mandates too. He does, however, get an annual flu shot as required by his employer. Go figure.

Last fall, Gorman was joined at local vaccine mandate protests by his wife Katie, a teacher at Buckeye School for the Arts who also opposes vaccine mandates. On the night of the Primary Election in June, the Gormans joined rightwing agitator Carlos Zapata and some members of his Red, White, and Blueprint cohorts in harassing Shasta County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen and her staff as they attempted to count votes in the crowded Registrar of Voters office.

Authur Gorman confronts Shasta County Clerk Cathy Darling Allen at the Registrar of Voters office on primary election night in June.

Like Gallardo, Gorman declined to be interviewed for this story. But he laid out his three-point campaign to Win Carpenter on the Jefferson State of Mine podcast in late August.

The school shooting in Uvalde, where 18 students and two teachers were shot and killed by an 18-year-old with an assault weapon, had just occurred. Gorman’s solution to the school shooting problem? Arm and train teachers, janitors, bus drivers, administrators, and other school employees. He also recommends bringing in the National Rifle Association’s School Shield program.

“It’s a free program,” Gorman said. “They’ll actually come to whatever school, do a free training with all the staff. They go around your school and look at the deterrents and weak links on your campus and tell you all the things you need to do to improve the safety of your campus. When they identify all those things, they will find grants to help you pay for the solution.”

The immediate problem with Gorman’s “more guns” plan is the NRA’s School Shield program is currently mothballed, according to a recent report by NBC News.

“The NRA has not granted any money to schools to increase safety since 2019 due to the pandemic, according to NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam,” the report said. “Since then, the NRA’s website for School Shield grant information has remained dormant, encouraging schools that need funding to submit email addresses for future grant program updates. According to an NRA adjunct instructor, the School Shield office was shut down in March 2020 and all three of its employees were ‘furloughed.’ Grant and training activity has not resumed.”

(Interestingly, Hull, who has a concealed carry permit and believes everyone should get one, doesn’t think it’s an issue that can be brought up before the Shasta County Board of Education. She hasn’t carried her gun to board meetings, at least so far.)

Gorman next turned to what seems to be his genuine concern for victims of Adverse Childhood Events, otherwise known as ACEs.

“We can teach you everything you need to know about ACEs, but we don’t have a solution,” Gorman said somewhat erroneously given that Shasta County has a fairly well-developed network for ACEs treatment. “It’s like I’m going to teach you about this horrible problem that’s going on, that we’ve known for decades, but we’re not doing anything about it.”

Authur Gorman on the Jefferson State of Mine podcast.

Gorman’s solution is to attach a requirement for four therapy sessions to students with ACEs who are participating in an Independent Education Program, known as an IEP. The therapy sessions would be provided by school district psychologists or “private industry.” It all sounds fairly above-board until Gorman says, “We want to be able to come alongside you and walk with you in life at least for four sessions,” and you realize he’s talking about his own faith-based treatment program. He’s been practicing his approach on potential clients at youth football camps.

“We’re a religious based organization so the people that come to us, if it’s a community thing, they say, ‘Oh, you guys are Christians!” he said. “Yeah, we can all play together and hang out and we get together and play football. So, I have a resource out here, you can go to Biblical counseling if you like. Or I have some resources out in the community, psychologists that I know and whatnot, and you can just pick one of them if you want.”

Needless to say, providing Biblical therapy services does not generally fall under the purview of a board of education trustee.

Finally, Gorman turned to the third leg of his wobbly campaign stool, something he called “CRT and equity inclusion development.”

“What is equity inclusion and development really saying?” he asked Carpenter rhetorically. “They’re saying that things in the past were kinda bad and we’re angry about that.”

That set up a line of circular reasoning that spiraled downward into a call for censoring anything that offends Gorman & Co.

“I can’t do anything about past history, you can’t do anything about past history, the past is in the past,” he begins somewhat hopefully.

“But we can focus on a solution. Great things came. We had the Civil Rights Act. We had women’s suffrage. We had a couple more things that happened throughout history where, OK, we always wanted everybody to be equal eventually. We’re achieving that as time goes on.”

Then the downward spiral commenced.

“But you can’t have one group of people say to the other group of people you’re hateful you’re wrong and you owe me something. Because I can do the same thing to the other side. You hate me you’re wrong and you owe me. We can do this song and dance which the government really likes because they like us to be divided.”

Therefore, anything branded CRT or DEI by Gorman, Gallardo and their merry band of censors will be forbidden when they take charge.

“When that curriculum comes in, if it has that kind of stuff in it, I’m not going to OK it,” Gorman continued. “I want things that are data-driven, based on evidence and there are people out there in historical societies that already have this stuff done and they actually are credentialed and they’re doing curriculum, they already know what the stuff is.”

Data-driven? Evidence-based? So much for the Bible. Toss it!

“So just because the state of California says, ‘well this is a new book you can have everybody read’, no, that’s fine, you can take those, we already have books available to us, we’re not going to OK those books,” Gorman said. “If anybody wants to read those books, they can go on the California list of approved books and read as many books as they want.”

That sounds fairly authoritarian, and make no mistake, the MAGA Republicans aren’t just semi-fascist, as President Joe Biden would have it. They’ve flat-out abandoned democracy, which Gallardo defines as “three wolves and two chickens at the table and they’re going to vote who’s for dinner tonight.”

Rich Gallardo and District 4 Supervisor Patrick Jones stand outside the Registrar of Voters on primary election night.

“Democracy isn’t much higher than socialism and the other tyrannical types of governments,” he told his small audience at Jones Fort.

Candidates attending the training session included Cherrill Clifford, who’s running for Gateway Unified Area 2; Don Spurgeon for Gateway Unified Area 2; Christa Munns for Cascade Union School District, Kelly Martin for Enterprise School District, and Jackie Labarbera for Anderson Union High School District.

Panning democratic principles was perhaps an odd approach for candidates embarking on their first free and fair election in what used to be known as the world’s greatest democracy, but Gallardo is a rather odd and undisciplined duck.

“Multiple schoolboard chambers should have been burned down long ago,” Gallardo muttered at one point during his hour-long seminar. “The County office of Education, if I told you how many people are working there and how much they are getting paid, you’d want to throw a brick in the window.”

Gallardo’s other achievements include filing an almost-successful lawsuit with State of Jefferson head Mark Baird to make open-carry legal in Siskiyou and Shasta Counties. Also, he was seen at one Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting giving a straight-armed Nazi salute toward the supervisors’ dais in a show of dissatisfaction with a supervisor’s statement. Plus, he co-founded the fake news organization Shasta County Citizen Journalists with his colleagues Lori Bridgeford, Corey Allen, and Eric Gallardo, Richard Gallardo’s identical twin. During the pandemic, the group broadcast their protests at vaccination clinics where they wore hi-viz yellow “press” vests and shouted COVID-19 disinformation at people waiting in line for their jabs.

Self-described “citizen journalists” Lori Bridgeford and Eric Gallardo (Richard Gallardo’s identical twin) pose as “press” while they harass people at a vaccine clinic last year.

Gallardo, who calls the state board of education a Soviet-style bureaucracy, is infamous for filing over-reaching California Public Records Act requests against his government targets that mainly serve to gum up the office works. He advised the candidates to do the same to their districts, again, to find things they “don’t like” so they can be brought up at board meetings, preferably attended by the aforementioned contingent of angry parents. Just follow his rules, he assured his candidate/students, and everything will turn out fine.

“You’re covered,” he said, before immediately hedging. “I’m um n-n-not a lawyer but there’s qualified immunity that comes into play as long as you’re not just being … how do I say this … again I’m not a lawyer … so I really can’t go down this road, but you do have some qualified immunity.”

He’s aware his chances of victory are slim. They, meaning the establishment, the status quo, the RINO Republicans (not to mention the Democrats and the independents who’ve been paying attention) have his number.

“They do not want me on any elected body in this county, trust me,” Gallardo said. It may be the truest statement he’s ever uttered.

“I’m still running, I don’t expect to win, but I’m still running,” Gallardo said. “If I do seat, I’m going to do what I think is right, moral, ethical, constitutional and lawful. I’m going to say ‘come and get me’. Come and get me! What are you going to do about it?! We need all our school districts to come on board with that attitude.”

The good news is, even if Gallardo, Gorman, and the other rightwing schoolboard candidates somehow squeak on to boards, they simply don’t have the unlimited power that Gallardo imagines—at least not this election cycle. The even better news is that contrary to Trump advisor Steve Bannon’s proclamation last year that MAGA Republicans would take over the country through the schoolboards, extremist candidates are faring poorly in schoolboard contests across the nation. According to a recent article in The Hill:

“GOP candidates running on scorched-earth education platforms have fared quite poorly in school board elections. In places like Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire and New York, voters have rejected culture warriors running for school board, often doing so by wide margins. A recent Ballotpedia review of more than 400 school board contests in Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin found that race, gender and COVID were indeed influential in determining election outcomes, but not in the way one might expect. As they found, candidates who ran in opposition to a ‘conflict issue’—sexual education curricula, for instance, or a focus on race in the district—were more likely to lose their races.”

Less than two months away, the general election for schoolboard seats in November is shaping up to be a replay of the June primary election. In that contest, Shasta County voters chose the more experienced moderate candidates for county clerk, district attorney and school superintendent over their less experienced rightwing counterparts.

The fact that the three winners were women and the losers were men shouldn’t be downplayed as the general election approaches. For the first time in California since the U.S. Supreme Court’s momentous Dobbs decision earlier this summer, abortion rights will be on the ballot.

The heat wave may have broken in Shasta County, but the political action is just starting to heat up.

If you appreciate journalist R.V. Scheide’s reporting and commentary, please consider contributing to A News Cafe. Thank you!

R.V. Scheide

R.V. Scheide is an award-winning journalist who has covered news, politics, music, arts and culture in Northern California for more than 30 years. His work has appeared in the Tenderloin Times, Sacramento News & Review, Reno News & Review, Chico News & Review, North Bay Bohemian, San Jose Metro, SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, Alternet, Boston Phoenix, Creative Loafing and Counterpunch, among many other publications. His honors include winning the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s Freedom of Information Act and best columnist awards as well as best commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists, California chapter. Mr. Scheide welcomes your comments and story tips. Contact him at RVScheide@anewscafe.com..

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