Today I want to talk a little bit about CVUSD school board trustee Sandee Everett and local politics here in Conejo Valley. Sandee Everett was elected in 2016 to the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) in Conejo Valley. She won in large part for a few reasons: 1) People weren't aware of her history within the CVUSD schools (I'll dive in on this later), 2) She had cute little apple signs, and 3) She had enormous financial support from church supporters and well-known GOP politicians — like Mike Huckabee — who hosted a meet & greet/fundraiser for her.
On August 10, 2019, Sandee Everett attended, participated in and spoke at an anti-public school forum titled — per its official press release — "BATTLEGROUND THOUSAND OAKS: PARENTAL RIGHTS AND OPT OUT MOVEMENTS" hosted at Godspeak Calvary Church in Dos Vientos — church of current Thousand Oaks mayor and pastor Rob McCoy. If you're not familiar with Rob McCoy, it's time to get familiar folks. I'm going to splinter off here for a second to give you some overall context that will be helpful as you examine behavior and motivations behind Sandee Everett's actions. You can learn a bit about Rob McCoy's mission via this article: Let the 2020 Race Begin: Evangelicals, Pastors Set To Mobilize, Change America.
The article highlights Rob McCoy's affiliation to Westlake-based resident David Lane, founder of the American Renewal Project (which is on the Southern Poverty Law Center's hate watch list.) David Lane's name may ring a bell if you were following our local elections here in 2016, when it was reported he donated $5,000 to former school board candidate, Angie Simpson, who lost both in 2016 and 2018. Mike Huckabee is also mentioned in the linked article above.
To be clear, here is the goal of ARP: “What we’re doing is the mobilization of pastors and pews to restore America to her Judeo-Christian heritage. That’s our goal.” – American Prospect, 1/23/2008." The ARP is designed specifically to drive evangelical pastors into politics in an attempt to establish a Christian theocracy in America.
And it looks like Thousand Oaks is ground zero — on all fronts.
Take a look at this article: Texas Fracking Billionaire’s Foundation Buys Church For Christian Nationalist’s Pastor in California
Rob McCoy was recently in the line of fire earlier this year after a flyer was distributed to our public schools, that advertised a for-profit Youth Academy on faith-based civics ... with a tour of city hall from Mayor Rob and a special signed certificate of completion from Mayor Rob ... should these children attend the faith-based lessons at his Godspeak Calvary Church and pay for the course. Now, as pastor, Rob McCoy is welcome to host such an event at his church. However, to blur the lines of his role in the community, using his title of city mayor to help promote this event through our public schools is inappropriate and an abuse of power. Rob McCoy was able to explain it away, because as a cover, they used "History Makers" as the event organizer, instead of listing GodSpeak itself. History Makers /Mike Hernandez host events frequently at Godspeak Calvary, and Michael Hernandez is a reporter for the far-right online website, Citizens' Journal, which has a history of frequently publishing hit pieces about community members and teachers in our community, under the guise of "journalism." They are immersed heavily in GOP territory and host fundraisers regularly for GOP candidates.
Here's an Acorn letter about the incident.
And below is the flyer that was distributed to student on school sites.
Side note: Rob McCoy also made a $1,000 contribution to Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy in support of her unsuccessful 2016 campaign against Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin. If you'd like to learn about Ronda Baldwin-Kenney (she recently dropped the "Baldwin" and is running as "Ronda Kennedy" for 2020 Congress against Congresswoman Julia Brownley), I have a very lengthy personal experience with her that you can read about here. (and you should because it'll blow your mind.) I'd also like to note, that in a recent poll on my page which asked the question: would you rather vote for a can of Chef Boyardee or Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy in 2020, the results came in at 175- Chef Boyardee, 0- Ronda. It also appears that Ronda can't be counted on to appropriately file paperwork.
But let's get back to Sandee Everett. At the anti-public school forum (and literally, former board member John Andersen gave a public comment at a followup school board meeting affirming it was a forum for people who want nothing to do with our public schools), she had former board member, Mike Dunn, who lost his seat in 2016, officially announce her re-election campaign for 2020, during his keynote speech, in which he took the aggressive stance that parents must opt out of public schools for Christian private schools. I mean, you're not surprised right? The forum is literally titled as an opt out movement. You may recall, in January 2018, Mike Dunn emailed my employers and threatened retaliation against them if they didn't silence me from speaking at school board meetings in regard to my opposition of his far-right, evangelical agenda. Mike Dunn was censured for this threat — his second official censure as a school board member.
Now, this wouldn't be the first time Sandee Everett has been called out for questionable behavior and forum choices as a public school board trustee. In fact, in 2017 she was scheduled to give a presentation on “Saving Our Children’s Minds — Fighting the Public School System,” (source). Upon community backlash after it was publicized that she would be speaking on this topic, Ms. Everett withdrew from attending the event, feigning ignorance. She did not withdraw from attending the forum that took place on Saturday, Aug. 10.
Far before Sandee Everett was elected, she was laying a foundation and groundwork for her candidacy. Anyone recall the Newbury Park Panther Prowler article on SEX that had conservatives in this community literally foaming at the mouths? Sandee was one of the parents at the helm of the movement to have the students and Panther Prowler adviser punished. Here, she's quoted in an article from the Acorn. You might be interested to know that stemming from this, she landed herself on the committee to write/oversee new journalism handbooks for our district.
When Sandee Everett launched her campaign in 2016, she advertised herself as a school counselor, even submitting "school counselor" as her ballot designation. For those who don't know, you get to choose three words for your ballot designation. Now, Sandee is a licensed K-12 school counselor. That means she completed the hours to obtain her license. However, she has never been employed as a school counselor upon obtaining her license. To claim such in order to deceive voters at the polls was reckless and purposely deceitful. However, Sandee Everett recently supported candidate Amy Chen for school board, who lost in 2018 — after creating a paperwork shell of a nonprofit (Top Goal Education) that doesn't actually exist, in order have herself listed as educational nonprofit director on the ballot. So ... can't say I'm all that surprised.
CVUSD board trustee Sandee Everett has had quite the record in her three years as board member.
1) In January 2017, she stalled the implementation of The FAIR Act.
2) In Sept 2017 — she circumvented the process the board voted on, trashed the teacher's policy, and wrote and submitted her own highly controversial literature policy that would change the way the curriculum committee approved books and asterisk books she felt were inappropriate based on her own personal definition of decency. More than 3,000 community members petitioned to have this policy rejected.
3) In 2017, during one of the meetings regarding her literature policy, which went nearly six hours, Sandee Everett cut off speakers — students who had been standing for 6+ hours to speak — in order to vote to give herself time to talk more (she had already spoken at length on her policy with a presentation earlier in the evening.)
4) In 2018, after the CDE removed its annotations from its website upon hearing that Sandee Everett's literature policy was using them to justify warning labels and opt-outs, she had to revise her policy. She submitted 17 pages of amendments the night of the board meeting and ordered the board clerk not to make them available to the public (A Brown Act violation that the district attorney's office eventually reprimanded the board for) — and of which she attempted to blame the board clerk for. We haven't seen or heard from that board clerk since. She only allowed her fellow board members five minutes to read these amendments before forcing through a vote. I bet you're not at all surprised that neither Mike Dunn nor John Andersen (who helped her form board majority at that time), had a single question about the 17 pages of amendments!
5) In 2018, she submitted a request to censure Dr. Connolly for social media comments. Sandee Everett arranged for community members who opposed Dr. Connolly to come to the meeting early and wage verbal warfare on Dr. Connolly during public comments. Then, Sandee Everett stalled the meeting by asking series and series and series of questions, hoping to thin out the crowd before the censure item hit the agenda, hours later due to her questions. When it was time to call the motion to order for the censure, Sandee Everett attempted to drop it. (You see ... she didn't have a case. She just wanted a convenient opportunity to invite a hoard of her supporters to come and criticize Dr. Connolly to boost her own ego in an insanely reckless move that wasted HOURS of school board meeting time.)
6) Sandee Everett has been caught taking photos of parents in the audience she disagrees with, as well as has used her position behind the dais to respond to and criticize parents' opinions after their public comments to the board.
7) Sandee Everett was caught texting community members from behind the dais during school board meetings. Then, she refused to cooperate with the PRA from The Acorn.
8. MOST RECENTLY: at the Aug. 20 school board meeting, Sandee Everett verbally attacked students she disagreed with from the dais. A brave CVUSD senior, shared this comment to the board:
"My name is Jasen, I am transgender, and my pronouns are he/him. I’m the kid whose existence you told your listeners to reject a couple weeks ago. I’m the kid whose gender identity you told them was all about my “feelings,” not about anything medical or scientific or real.
Well, Mrs. Everett, the hormone shot I take every week is real. The surgery I had a couple years ago was very real.
I’m standing right here in front of you, a senior at Westlake High and president of the choir program and the GSA, whose driver’s license, passport and student ID say “male.” I’m as real as it gets.
You know what’s NOT real? You know what’s just “feelings”? Your refusal to accept the reality of someone who’s right in front of you -- or the dozens of other trans students in CVUSD’s schools for whom you were elected to advocate, just like you’re supposed to advocate for every other student.
You might call your feelings “religion.” I call them “bigotry.”
I have to be honest with you: I haven’t experienced a lot of bullying or persecution at Westlake High. My friends didn’t blink an eye when they learned I’m trans and I didn’t even experience much nastiness at the all-girls Catholic school I was at when I first recognized that I'm transgender. I didn’t experience it from the kids there, or the administration, or even the nuns.
But I know people who have. People who are called fags and trannys daily. People who you are supposed to be protecting.
I've been one of the lucky ones that hasn't been persecuted by many kids, but now I'm being persecuted by you.
Uninformed people raise uninformed children, and that is why we need this.
There is no reason to think CVUSD students won’t benefit greatly from a curriculum that helps them understand the reality of trans identity. After all, the society all around them still offers barriers to their understanding, just as it creates all sorts of barriers to my ability to lead a normal life.
I see those barriers in a president who says trans people can’t serve their country.
I see them in a political party that says “religious freedom” should mean people can deny me a job, or an education, or even service in a restaurant just because they imagine their Bible tells them to.
I see those barriers in the one parent at La Reina who launched an inquisition after I cut my hair and changed my name.
I see them in the person who, after my dad talked about gender-diversity training for teachers and staff last winter, looked up our address and anonymously sent us an article about a trans person who regrets her transition. I have it right here — and I bet that person is here tonight.
And I see those barriers in a school board trustee who tells parents they should think of my sexuality and gender as a “theory,” and that positive portrayals of lesbian, gay and especially trans people are some sort of “new belief system” they should reject.
Mrs. Everett, you may think you were covering yourself at that meeting with your disclaimer that “all students should be treated with kindness, respect and dignity.” But your real message came through to me, loud and clear, and it had nothing to do with any of those things.
That disclaimer sounded to me like you were saying “No offense, buuuuuuuut…” Well, Mrs. Everett, no offense … but your presentation at that forum was out of line. And our public schools need to educate all our students in the science of transgender identity in order to protect them, and me, from the influence of people who don't believe i'm real."
Do you know how CVUSD school board member Sandee Everett responded? Directly after his comment, she accused him of lying. And then later on in the meeting, in another comment, she said that this student and the other students that spoke were bigots and were bullying her because of her Christianity.
How on earth did this woman ever obtain a counseling license? Thank god she's never been employed as a school counselor ... but could you imagine?? How on earth would she make any student feel safe if this is how she treats students she disagrees with???
And that's just a small taste.
MORE BEHIND THE SCENES
Now, the Sandee Everetts and the Rob McCoys wouldn't be here without supporters, right? Who exactly are these supporters? A large contingent belong to a closed Facebook group called Conservative Moms of Conejo Valley ... but there are tons of smaller groups from which they operate in as well. In addition to using these Facebook groups (and new "publications" that keep springing up), I want to make sure you understand that a large part of their strategy is to post misinformation on platforms like NextDoor, under the guise of naivete and "I didn't know better." These fear-mongering posts don't need to stay up forever — just long enough for them to scare uniformed community members and parents with false information. I know this because I've seen the threads in which they discuss using these platforms to push the needle in their favor on controversial topics.
I wrote this blog back in May 2018, so it's slightly outdated, but highlights more context behind what is happening here in Conejo Valley.
Here's the good news — we overturned the CVUSD board majority in 2018 because we woke up and fought like hell. Don't skate on that. It takes actual work. It takes donations. It takes canvassing. It takes emailing your friends and family and making sure they're informed. It takes going out and voting.
Don't get lazy in 2020. Give it everything you've got. Hold our elected representatives accountable and back those who will do the job right.