Millville Elementary School District Board of Trustees Renews Superintendent Mindy DeSantis’s Contract, Plus Gateway and Anderson Updates


The Millville Elementary School District board of trustees unanimously agreed to renew superintendent Mindy DeSantis’s contract Wednesday night, much to the delight of 25 cheering supporters who crowded the smallish K-8 school’s library for the district’s regular meeting.

A relieved DeSantis, whose current contract expires June 30, thanked her supporters for helping persuade the board of trustees to renew the contract for another two years. DeSantis, who serves as superintendent and principal for the school’s 245 students, will earn a base annual salary of $130,000.

Millville superintendent Mindy DeSantis smiling before the vote.

DeSantis’s future at the district she has served for 26 years came into question last November when a trio of local soccer moms frustrated with DeSantis for following the state’s COVID-19 mandates, Taryn Ham, Whitney Hathaway, and Beth Watt won election and became the board’s new MAGA majority.

Millville Elementary School board of trustees Beth Watt, Whitney Hathaway, Sylvana Nelson, and Taryn Ham.

Since the threesome took control, tensions have ratcheted up in the district as DeSantis and her staff have come under attack. One public speaker read a letter from a former Millville teacher and parent who called for an end to the turmoil, the tension, the destruction, and the uncertainty that’s plagued the district since the pandemic began.

Watt, for example, joined three other local moms in a lawsuit filed in September 2020 by Washington state-based Freedom Foundation, an ultraconservative anti-union lobbying organization, that named Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mindy DeSantis as defendants. The lawsuit claimed the public health measures taken by the state to slow the spread of COVID-19 were unconstitutional. The suit was vacated in August 2021.

One Millville staff member spoke directly to Watt, who at a previous meeting had apparently asked where all the concern for DeSantis’s future employment was coming from.

Millville trustee Beth Watt listening to speaker.

“We are a tight-knit school community, everyone knows and looks out for each other,” the speaker said. “People share screenshots, social media posts. We can’t act like this hasn’t happened. We can’t act like there hasn’t been blatant ill will at our board meetings for several years. We can’t forget the lawsuit filed against Mrs. DeSantis. For months these board meetings have been used as a venue to launch personal attacks on many of our staff members.”

Tensions in the district reached a peak last month at the general meeting when trustee Kevin Anderson publicly resigned after giving a rousing four-minute speech lambasting the new board majority’s direction.

Many of the speakers were longtime members of the Millville Elementary community and spoke fondly of DeSantis’s service, which began decades ago as a Millville parent, then progressed as a volunteer, an aide, a teacher, and finally as principal and superintendent.

A big crowd for Millville, most of them DeSantis supporters.

DeSantis really seems to be that one special administrator who memorizes all the names of her students and greets them each school morning. One parent credited DeSantis, who has aggressively pursued state and federal grants for the school district, for the fact that her children were a year ahead when they matriculated to Foot Hill High School compared to students from other K-8 schools.

“I think we all know a team must have a good leader,” said one Millville teacher. “Someone who staff and students can come to in order to be heard, taken seriously, and have their concerns addressed. A leader who supports and encourages all the staff, a leader who excels at conflict resolution and strives to empower staff and students to be the best they can be. I believe we have that leader in Mrs. DeSantis.”

The teacher prayed the board would come to its senses and extend DeSantis’s contract, and after spending more than an hour in closed session, the board did exactly that, emerging to unanimously approve a new two-year contract for DeSantis.

The writer had hoped to interview Ham, Hathaway, and Watt after the meeting since they have never returned A News Café’s email messages, but the trio escaped during the boisterous celebration of DeSantis’s renewed contract.

Fact: Both Bobbie Simpson (top) and Lindsi and Elias Haynes have children in the Gateway Unified School District

Authur Gorman’s Gateway to Bigotry

It was bound to happen. A News Café readers are familiar with the story of Bobbie Simpson, a local transgender woman who struggled with dissociative personality disorder and body dysmorphia from an early age and finally found the courage to socially transition to female four years ago at age 40.

Simpson is married to a cisgender woman and they have biological children that have or are attending the Gateway Unified School District. Concerned about the chaos that descended upon the GUSD board of trustees after an ultraconservative anti-trans majority took over the board after last December, Simpson has become a familiar sight at Gateway board meetings.

Bobbie Simpson and son.

One of the anti-trans trustees, Cherrill Clifford, resigned in February. But Lindsi and Elias Haynes remain, so when a group of concerned citizens recently formed the Save Gateway Committee and launched an effort to recall the Haynes couple, Simpson volunteered to be the press contact for the committee.

Not long after Simpson’s name appeared on the Save Gateway Committee’s first press release, the above meme featuring Simpson on the top and Elias and Lindsi Haynes on the bottom, appeared on Facebook, posted by Authur Gorman, the newly elected Shasta County Board of Education member who may be the county’s most ardent Christian nationalist.

“Does this represent your voice for Gateway or does this represent your voice. (sic) Say no to the Liberal Recall,” the meme reads.

The meme doesn’t really work that well. For starters, it’s a good photo of Simpson, who has become comfortable with her sartorial choices. Unless you know her story, it’s not immediately clear you’re looking at a transgender woman.

On the other hand, why is Elias Haynes sucking the brains out of the side of his wife’s skull?

The overall effect of the meme is to creep one out. Something’s wrong with whoever made this.

Christian nationalist SCOE board member and Moms for Liberty supporter Authur Gorman gets in Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen’s face on primary election night 2022.

Simpson is no shrinking violet and went to the Shasta County Board of Education meeting Wednesday to publicly call out Gorman for his bigoted post. After Simpson had spoken, Gorman approached her during a break and in front of witnesses purposely misgendered Simpson several times, referring to her with male personal pronouns.

According to one witness who has filed an official complaint to the board requesting that Gorman be censured for violating the board’s civility policy when Gorman was corrected by those around him, he yelled, “He! I do not believe in gender identity and that is my right!”

Gorman did not return A News Café’s inquiries about the incident.

Contacted by phone, Simpson was unrattled.

“Authur is the only person who’s given me grief for being who I am,” Simpson said. “I just refused to acknowledge him and walked away. I really appreciated the people who stood up for me.”

Gateway Unified School District trustees Lindsi and Elias Haynes.

Meanwhile, the Haynes took great exception to A News Café’s most recent school board roundup and posted numerous responses in the comment section, some of which were removed by the comment moderator.

“No one speaks for us! We don’t need ‘advisors’! We aren’t politicians!” screamed one comment.

A comment made by Haynes on A News Café. May or may not be Lindsi and Elias.

The Haynes are politicians and they do have advisors, namely fellow Moms for Liberty member and right-wing gadfly Rich Gallardo, as indicated in the following email between Lindsi Haynes and Rich Gallardo obtained via the public records act.

In the email, sent last December, Haynes asks Gallardo how to respond to an email inquiry about Bryan Caples from A News Café. Gallardo advises Haynes not to answer any questions.

Email between Lindsi Haynes and Rich Gallardo.

Gallardo’s monkeywrenching of local school districts began last year with a pre-election boot camp for disrupting school boards he held for prospective right-wing candidates and continues to this day. In one recent post, he claims to be advising the Haynes in the recall effort.

Gallardo’s Shasta County Citizen Journalist outfit specializes in disseminating disinformation and propaganda about issues ranging from the “scamdemic” to the stolen 2020 elections and rigged Dominion voting machines to the alleged grooming and indoctrination of students by teachers. His involvement in the Gateway fiasco ensures things will get worse before they get better.

A potential recall election of the Haynes looms in November when Gateway district voters will also select a replacement for Clifford.

Assuming Shasta County has a voting system in place by then.

AUHSD trustee Jackie LaBarbera

Do Teachers Have Confidence in AUHSD Trustee Jackie LaBarbera?

In the meantime, at the Anderson Unified High School District, trustee Jackie LaBarbera appears to have shifted her mischief-making from reassigned-then-reinstated Anderson High School principal Tom Safford to the man who did the reassigning and reinstating over a 10-day period last month, AUHSD superintendent Victor Hopper, who’s out on administrative or medical leave, depending on who you talk to.

LaBarbera is certain there’s something “systemic” going on here. Her apparent turn on Hopper is fairly sudden, considering emails obtained via the public records act show LaBarbera encouraging Hopper to run for county superintendent of schools, Judy Flores’s job, as recently as mid-March.

Text between AUSHD trustee Jackie LaBarbera and AUHSD superintendent Victor Hopper.

Like her Moms for Liberty colleague Authur Gorman, LaBarbera is an unapologetic right-wing Christian proselytizer who makes no distinction between the practice of her religion and her duties as an AUHSD board trustee. She admitted as much on Shasta County Supervisor Kevin Crye’s KCNR 1460 radio show in late March.

“The last three years I realized something was wrong with our country,” said LaBarbera, who began preaching the false gospel of Christian nationalism at Pathway Church after the pandemic kicked in. She claims to have trained more than 100 people in “Biblical citizenship” which she describes as a “marriage between patriotism and Christianity.”

The Anderson Union High School Teachers Union, an affiliate of the California Teachers Union, has already attempted to thwart the formation of LaBarbera’s ad hoc committee on LGBTQ+ rights.

The union has also filed a complaint that the AUHSD board and staff did nothing at the April 11 board meeting to reign in the blatantly transphobic rhetoric of anti-trans provocateurs Lori Bridgeford, Rich Gallardo, and other public speakers as more than a score of LGBTQ+ students sat in the audience. The complaint remains active.

LaBarbera signed anti-LGBTQ+ activist group Moms for Liberty’s pledge.

Now the union is circulating a vote of no-confidence resolution on LaBarbera, with plans to recall the right-wing trustee if more than 80 percent of the teachers in the district sign the resolution. The CTA plans to officially introduce the resolution at the Tuesday, May 16 general board meeting. In part, the resolution reads:

“Whereas over the last several months Ms. LaBarbera has engaged in a series of behaviors and actions which have left AUHSD employees, students, and community members deflated, broken, and divided; and whereas the behaviors and actions leading to the current state of relations between employees and the board have included:

  • Spreading propaganda that teachers are ‘groomers’ and ‘promoters’ of a ‘trans-agenda.’
  • Failing to adequately follow state law.
  • Committing multiple Brown Act violations.
  • Abetting the insulation of the Board of Trustees from any sources of information other than what she provides by intentionally failing to include the sources of her proposed resolutions.
  • Working for an outside agency that is well known to be anti-public education and anti-teacher union.
  • Refusing to acknowledge and rectify Brown Act violations.
  • Promoting discrimination against some of our most vulnerable populations.
  • Actively engaging in unethical practices in backdoor dealings with the superintendent.
  • Making arbitrary changes in policies without consultation or prior communication with teaching staff.”

The resolution further notes that LaBarbera’s actions are taking place “during a time of a nationwide teacher’s shortage; she has failed in her responsibility to create a positive and rewarding work environment in order to attract and retain highly qualified teachers.”

The final verdict?

“The Anderson Union High School Teachers Association members and undersigned employees ask the Board of Trustees of the Anderson Union High School District to urge Ms. LaBarbera to resign from her current trustee position, as the students, staff, and community of Anderson Union High School District deserve better.”

LaBarbera has declined to answer inquiries from A News Café. Perhaps she’s taking advice from Mr. Gallardo.

If you appreciate journalist R.V. Scheide’s in-depth investigative reporting, please consider a gift 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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