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News Update

Deputies called after tense board meeting turns physical in Fresno County

Sheriff’s deputies were called to West Park Elementary School after tensions at a board meeting turned physical on Monday, The Fresno Bee reported.

The school in rural Fresno County has experienced high staff turnover, including having three different superintendents since December 2021. Parents have voiced their lack of confidence in school leadership, including the fact that board president Kimberly Vivenzi is married to board trustee Mark Vivenzi.

The meeting became contentious Monday as parents demanded answers and board members tried to maintain order. Juan Benavidez, the husband of trustee Anna Benavidez, said he told parents to be quiet, The Bee reported.

An altercation between Benavidez and a parent began in the cafeteria where the board meeting was held, and ended in the parking lot, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said, where the parent grabbed Benavidez’s arm and pointed her finger in his face.

Benavidez then pulled away and left the meeting, but called his granddaughter, according to The Bee. She arrived at the school and got into an altercation with the same woman.

No one was arrested and neither side wanted to press charges, The Bee reported.

Dozens of teachers and staff have left the one-school district within the last year, and parents have questioned whether personal relationships between board members and school leaders have gotten in the way of teaching the district’s 600 students.

Some are hoping the school can merge with a larger district nearby, according to The Bee.

“There is a divide between our board members, and it is clear that they are not united in their vision for West Park. I don’t even know what that vision is anymore,” one teacher said.