D209 school board member Claudia Medina issued a letter of apology addressed to “Proviso Township Citizens,” on March 12, prompted by board president Rodney Alexander reading, at the March 9 school board meeting, an email she’d sent him a few days prior.
In Medina’s letter of apology, she called her original letter to Alexander “angry and intemperate.” But Medina said she is hurt and upset that Alexander publicly accused her of bigotry and racism, and she stands behind the questions she’s been asking about recently hired Superintendent James Henderson.
“While I stand by my outrage over the massive changes Mr. Alexander seems OK with, the language I used was abusive and inappropriate. I apologize to all who were offended by my harsh language,” wrote Medina.
She went on to say, “I do not, however, apologize to Mr. Alexander or Supt. Henderson for my pointed criticisms of their behavior, or the questions I have raised about Supt. Henderson’s past conduct” and she said that Alexander’s decision to read the email during a public board meeting was a “cheap ploy.”
During the March 9 meeting when Alexander read Medina’s letter, the public was witness to one of the most obvious displays to date of the growing friction and infighting between board members, which commenters on a Proviso Facebook group called “immature,” “embarrassing,” and “unprofessional,” though many came down hard on Medina specifically for the content and name-calling in the email Alexander read. Others questioned whether the email should have been read in the first place.
Alexander effectively equated Medina’s email to racism, setting the stage prior to reading her email with examples of racism in the 1900s. He began by talking about the 1915 movie Birth of a Nation, in which the Ku Klux Klan was portrayed, Alexander said, “as saviors of the American culture” and “portrayed Black men as misogynistic, crazy about white women, and the Klan had to save the day.”
“The images and portrayals of Black people from that movie have been handed down since 1915. Actually before, but they really doubled down,” Alexander said. He added that there are actions that white people can take that could be deadly for a Black man.
“What does this have to do with school board stuff?” he asked, then answered by saying he’d woken to the email from Medina on March 2.
“I’m going to read this letter, because I want you to know the truth of what we’re dealing with up here,” Alexander said and added: “I’m going to tell you 100% [Claudia Medina] is a bigot; if the person ain’t got enough power to be a racist, it’s bigotry. And I’m gonna prove it to you. It’s a fact that this is a bigoted letter, and this person on the board is a bigot and I’m gonna prove it tonight.”
Alexander said his proof that Medina is a bigot is that the letter was sent only to him and board members Amanda Grant and Ned Wagner.
“She only sent it to me and the two white board members,” Alexander said.
Medina, however, said she sent it to Alexander and Grant, the two Proviso Together members and to Wagner, with whom she’d run in the past on that same slate. Board members Della Patterson and Sam Valtierrez are currently running on another slate, supported by Theresa Kelly, said Medina, so they weren’t included on the email. It had nothing to do with race, she said, but with previous and current alliances.
The letter begins: “You misogynistic, xenophobic, righteous liar, you perpetuated a cover up and had us hire [Supt. James] Henderson, as the Board of Education from Holmes county (Mississippi) informed you of malfeasance in Holmes County and you covered it up and lied to the board.”
The letter, demanding Alexander’s resignation, went on to say the following: “You’ve betrayed the committee and have spent nine months on your high horse. I’m going to expose you for the heinous human you are” and “I will expose you for the xenophobic intimidator who you are. You’re not going to know what hit you.”
Alexander responded to that last bit with, “That sounds like a threat.”
Medina’s letter also called Alexander “repulsive,” and Medina wrote, in saying how disrespectful he had been to a woman from Holmes County who allegedly reached out to Alexander, “You have no concept of respecting a fellow human being or a fellow board member, and your mother will be so ashamed of you.”
Alexander peppered his reading of the letter with commentary and reminders to the audience that a copy of the email will be provided to anyone who asks.
There were also multiple comments from Medina during the reading, which prompted Alexander to bang his gavel repeatedly, the two of them attempting to talk over one another.
This was not the first time board members have displayed unbecoming behavior during meetings.
And Alexander, who often quotes the board member’s oath of office, has also exhibited disrespectful behavior during board meetings or allows other board members to make fun of or laugh at Medina without repercussions.
During this same March 9 meeting, for example, board member Della Patterson made a comment about Medina having “some type of mental disturbance,” and board member Theresa Kelly giggled audibly.
At the Feb. 27 meeting, Medina made a comment suggesting she and board member Amanda Grant were asking for the same reports, and Grant interrupted, saying, “You don’t speak for me.”
Alexander turned to Grant, laughing. A few seconds later, he whispered something to Kelly, and they fist-bumped one another. The whisper isn’t audible.
There are many more examples of disrespectful behavior during these and previous board meetings.