Gateway Addendum: New MAGA Board Axes Superintendent Jim Harrell

Gateway Unified School District Superintendent Jim Harrell was fired Tuesday night. Photo by R.V. Scheide.

As expected, the new MAGA majority on the Gateway Unified School District Board of Trustees summarily fired superintendent Jim Harrell Tuesday night as a packed crowd of teachers and parents angrily jeered the decision and threatened to recall trustees Cherrill Clifford and Elian and Lindsi Haynes.

From left, Gateway majority trustees Cherrill Clifford, Lindsi Haynes and Elian Haynes endure jeers from the audience. Photo by R.V. Scheide.

Husband and wife Haynes were deer in the headlights of their angry constituents. When asked to voice their votes to fire Harrell in public they choked, forcing Clifford to acknowledge the votes for them. Harrell, playing peacemaker, cautioned the raucous crowd not to follow the three trustees out of the building.

The meeting adjourned without incident.

The new board planned to meet in closed session starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday but were forced to allow the public to speak before they voted. An overflow crowd of perhaps 250 people filled the cramped room as dozens of speakers took to the podium; the vast majority of them supporters of the beleaguered superintendent.

A crowd showed up to express opinions about the firing of Superintendent Jim Harrell. Photo by R.V. Scheide.

The fake opposition was on hand in the form of newly elected Shasta County Board of Education trustee Authur Gorman and fascist gadflies Lori Bridgeford, Rich Gallardo and Delores Lucero.

Transphobic Gorman gave his standard why-can’t-we-all-get-along speech, fact-free Bridgeford claimed she was there for the future of the children, and goofy Gallardo played walkie talkie with his buddies.

This group of alt-right political activists has been terrorizing school board meetings for more than a year with lies and rude behavior. Many in the audience were familiar with who they are and weren’t putting up with their shenanigans; shouting them down when they attempted to disinform the public.

By the time the board went behind closed doors to vote, Clifford and the Haynes were well aware they were going against their constituents’ wishes. The most poignant comment and biggest applause of the night: “If you had told us you were going to fire Jim Harrell when you were campaigning, no one would have voted for you.”

The board, with Phil Lewis attending remotely by Zoom, deliberated in closed session for nearly an hour. About halfway through, Harrell came back into the room looking grim. Next came trustee Dale Wallace, frustration written on his face.

Gateway Unified School District Trustee Dale Wallace. Photo by R.V. Scheide

Clifford and the Haynes entered the room sheepishly but somehow defiantly at the same time. Lewis made an impassioned plea on Zoom, pleading with the new board members to change their minds. The Haynes balked on voicing their vote, so Clifford played mother hen and voiced it for them. Lame.

Near the end, Harrell asked Clifford about the terms of his dismissal. Was he being let go immediately, or would he be placed on administrative leave while they negotiated his severance package, which includes the six-figure buy-out for the year remaining on his contract?

Clifford indicated he was being dismissed immediately.

For the first time since he came out of the room, Harrell’s face lit up. Apparently, the rookie trustees messed up. You can’t fire a superintendent like that. At least, that’s what Harrell thinks.

“My attorney will be seeing you in the morning,” Harrell said.

A News Café can confidently predict that Harrell’s attorney won’t be the last lawyer Gateway’s new MAGA board of trustees will be meeting.


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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