Tuesday night’s Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) School Board meeting lasted ‘til after 1am on Wednesday, as the Board issued a unanimous vote to censure Member Michael Tsai for, per the resolution, “violating Board Policy and Board Agreement.”
The item was under discussion for about 90 minutes.
The purpose of the Board’s censure is to officially reprimand one of its members when said Board Member violates “state or federal state or federal laws applicable to the District, Board Group Agreements, or the policies and bylaws of the Board of Education,” as stated in the Board’s bylaws.
The Censure Resolution was brought to the Board by Vice President Kelly Yip-Chuan following their January 26 meeting, wherein Tsai accused her of seeking to use MUSD students as “free labor” because she’d recommended students volunteer for the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce, of which she is a Board Member.
Last night, Tsai attempted to table the item, suggesting that rather than censure him, the District hire a third-party mediator to attend to the dispute. Among his arguments, Tsai recalled the February 9 board meeting, where it was decided that the censure would be presented again at the next Board Meeting. Then on March 2 came a Special Board Meeting strictly related to COVID-19. Tsai argued that since the censure hadn’t come up at the single-issue special March 2 meeting, it should not come up again.
“This was a surprise attack on me,” said Tsai, in reference to the censure he had learned about on February 9. “This is a sucker punch and I do not believe I am being afforded due process, or time to reconcile or time to respond.”
He added that no attempt at “good faith reconciliation” had been made before the censure was placed on the agenda, and that the rules mandate there has to be such an attempt. He did state that Yip-Chuan wrote him an email attempting to reconcile last Friday at 3pm, but then added that at 5pm the same day, the forthcoming meeting agenda, complete with the censure item, was released. Tsai asserted that two hours was not enough time to respond.
But Yip-Chuan countered that Tsai had had days to respond before the meeting, yet never did.
Vice President Yip-Chuan told the Board she hoped that as a result of the censure Tsai would realize his conduct was not acceptable: “His hostile action is visible to the public and he has been a distraction to the Board, the district, and the community,” said Yip-Chuan.
During the meeting’s Public Comment section, one community member noted the late hour and discouraged the vote from proceeding. However, several other community members urged the Board to move forward in censuring Tsai.
Said Gwan Alisantosa, a former 8-year MUSD board member, the censure was necessary, as he saw that Tsai was showing a “repeated pattern of behavior.”
Alisantosa went on, “Such behavior is not appropriate. The pandemic is not over. MUSD still has more important business to take care of instead of wasting more time dealing with this inappropriate behavior. I urge all the school board members to vote Yes to censure Michael Tsai and to move on.”
Toward the end of the meeting, Tsai claimed to be in possession of documents that might impact the other Board Members’ thinking. As he did so, he waved paperwork around in front of his camera. Board Clerk Hon Lien noted that Tsai had had a couple of weeks to submit such documentation for the Board’s review.
Lien made a motion to approve the censure, with Yip-Chuan seconding it.
Board President Chris Norwood issued an amendment to Lien’s motion, saying that the consequences for the censure would be determined at a future meeting.
In the resolution, the recommendation was to remove Tsai from “representing MUSD, including his board assignments,” which refers to certain schools that he, as a Board Member, represents, as well as his committee seat on the Metropolitan Education District Board. However, this did not sit right with Norwood, in part because the language left Tsai’s removal from his board assignments open-ended.
In making an amendment to the motion, President Norwood stated that should the censure pass, Tsai would still have the opportunity to send his documentation to Superintendent Cheryl Jordan for review and follow-up.
Vice President Yip-Chuan, President Norwood, Clerk Lien, and Board Member Minh Ngo voted unanimously for the censure. (According to policy, Tsai is unable to vote on his own censuring.)
The reasons for the censure in the resolution cited Tsai’s comments as to Yip-Chuan’s character surrounding her Chamber of Commerce idea, his absence at half of his Brown Act development training, his other assorted absences and latenesses, and his social media posts asserting Board or Board Member misconduct without evidence or legal grounds. The document can be read here.
This is the first time the MUSD Board of Education has ever censured a Board Member, since the new bylaw was adopted over a year ago.