Student, others demand punishment; local paper picks up story of ‘netiquette.’
By Wally Perez
Community members on Tuesday urged the board of trustees to discipline Chancellor Bruce Leslie for using his cell phone during Palo Alto College’s commencement in May.
They spoke during the citizens-to-be-heard portion of the board of trustees meeting in Killen Center.
Jose Yznaga, a Palo Alto College graduate, and Monica Cruz, who declined further identification, said they were disappointed with the lack of punishment Leslie has received.
“Like everybody else who has kept up with the news, I, too, was shocked to see pictures of Bruce Leslie on his phone for an hour while students received their diplomas,” Yznaga said.
Cruz echoed Yznaga’s concerns, asking, “What could be more important to a chancellor than watching students cross the stage to receive their diploma?”
About nine concerned citizens stood in support behind Yznaga and Cruz, wielding blown-up photographs showing Leslie on his cellphone during Palo Alto’s commencement.
“Leslie’s behavior was very disrespectful to me, to the graduates of Palo Alto and to all their families and taxpayers,” Yznaga said.
Yznaga referenced an editorial published in the San Antonio Express-News Aug. 11 in which Leslie was said to have been “verbally counseled” by board Chair Yvonne Katz, who represents District 7.
According to the editorial, there is no documentation of the verbal reprimand.
“It’s my understanding that your board policy requires that whenever an employee is verbally reprimanded, it should be documented,” Yznaga said.
According to Board Policy D.9.1.1 on Progressive Discipline on Non-Tenured Employees, the final step of verbal or written counseling reads: “Document the conversation and file it with the departmental employee file, with copy to human resources.”
Katz said after the meeting, there was no documentation because it was the first level in the discipline process.
“Trustees, investigate on this matter and do what’s right; you represent this community and we want to trust you as public officials,” Yznaga said. “Please don’t let our community down and do what is right.”
Yznaga said he’s disappointed with Leslie and the way the situation has been handled.
“They’re supposed to look out for us and our best interests,” Yznaga said. “I think he should resign, or at least be fined.”
Cruz said Leslie and the board push the importance of completion rates, yet Leslie’s actions and body language made a clear statement to students that day.
“You don’t matter,” Cruz said was communicated by Leslie’s behavior.
“This is in direct contrast to the values hanging around the board room,” Cruz said, pointing to signs which read: “students first,” “community engaged,” “respect for all” and “collaboration.”
“Some of you may feel it’s time for us to put this issue behind us, perhaps we can forgive … but we will not forget,” Cruz said.
Katz clarified the counseling session in an email to The Ranger Thursday morning, which read:
“I gave him a pre-level verbal counseling session. Administrators use a verbal pre-level sessions all the time. If someone continues to commit the same problem, then you start a much more defined level. Usually, a pre-verbal counseling session cures most problems. Discipline policies are meant to be proactive in helping the employee to correct any action and grow positively within the organization.”
Katz said board policy prohibits trustees from addressing any comments made during citizens to be heard, but doesn’t see the matter escalating any further.
Leslie showed no reaction to the concerned community members.
During the call to order, Katz asked everyone in the room to put their cellphones on vibrate so each speaker was given ultimate attention and there were no interruptions.
“Board, chancellor, staff, etc., I’m asking you to abide by our rules and politeness or, as the Express-News puts it, our ‘netiquette’, during our meeting,” Katz said.
Leslie was not seen on his phone during discussion or presentations in Tuesday’s meeting and actively participated in conversation throughout the evening.