Former Paso Robles school board member hired as critical race theory ‘expert’ in Temecula

Temecula Valley schools will pay a consultant $15,000 to make presentations to teachers on critical race theory, though many voiced opposition to the idea during a crowded Tuesday night, March 14, meeting.

Approved on a 3-2 vote by the school board’s new conservative Christian majority, the move was proposed by Temecula Valley Unified School District board member Danny Gonzalez. Joseph Komrosky, Gonzalez and Jen Wiersma voted to hire Christopher Arend, a former school board member in Paso Robles; Allison Barclay and Steven Schwartz voted no.

Arend will teach six, two-hour, sessions for two days covering the history of critical race theory and will discuss the Temecula school board’s December resolution banning the academic framework. Temecula schools’ ban was based on a 2021 resolution passed in the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District.

The sessions will occur during the day, meaning that many teachers will have to leave their classrooms and be replaced by substitutes or other teachers. Edgar Diaz, president of the Temecula Valley Educators Association, said the average rate of $140 per day for substitutes taking over for each teacher attending the seminars could cost the district an estimated additional $15,000 — and bring the total estimated cost to a maximum of $30,000.

Temecula Valley schools spokesperson James Evans said Wednesday, March 15, he could not confirm the union president’s estimates on the extra costs.

On Tuesday, more than 15 speakers voiced concerns over the use of taxpayer money, what they called Arend’s lack of expertise and what they see as the misconception of critical race theory by the school board and the public.

Temecula Valley school officials have said the district does not teach critical race theory.

Carrie Burdick-Rutz, a science teacher at Temecula’s Great Oak High School, said teachers are feeling threatened, citing board President Komrosky’s appearance on Fox News in which he addressed how the district would ensure the framework is not used. Komrosky said in the interview that Temecula administrators would ensure teachers won’t insert their ideology and that the district would assess what’s being taught in classrooms.

“One of my other concerns is the intimidation factor that teachers are already feeling,” she told the board. “The intimidation that (the board) is trying to put on teachers where they’re worried about the words they say in class.”

Teachers voiced concerns on how the critical race theory ban would affect their instruction. The ban previously led to student-led walkouts and protests at Temecula Valley, Great Oak and Chaparral high schools.

Jack Dickinson, an 18-year-old senior at Great Oak High School, read past statements he attributed to Arend and said he found them questionable.

“I think it’s disgusting and, frankly, it’s a waste of money,” Dickinson told the board. “You should be spending the money that you already misuse on things that we care about … and stop overspending on things that are non-issues in this district.”

Though much of the crowd cheered for those against the consultant’s hiring, a few spoke in support of the resolution and plan.

“The thing that we’re working on here … (is) enlightening the school and teachers on a different way of thinking,” parent John Montiel said. “We got a lot of stuff going on around the country right now and, the last I heard, our education system wasn’t doing very well, so why do we even have time to teach racism?”

The three board members who backed the move defended Arend and explained why they believe his presentations are needed.

Gonzalez said he wanted to hire Arend to address concerns many have mentioned about the board’s resolution against critical race theory.

“Arend is an expert and can walk our staff through the resolution line by line, inviting conversation and questions on how the resolution is intended to work,” Gonzalez said. “This information is needed so we can address these concerns.”

Four hours had passed by the time board members were concluding their discussion. Wiersma said that, through her research, she concluded the school district paid for different kinds of training in a variety of fields.

“I think as important as the discussion is on a local, state and national level, it is important to have somebody that comes to the table” and lead these sessions, Wiersma said as many in the crowd shook their heads in disapproval. “I think it’s important to keep moving through it, we’ve done (contracts) in the thousands and it’s because we believe in investing in the next couple of years.”

At one point, Barclay was on the verge of tears.

“This is sowing division in the community,” Barclay said. “And this will continue to divide us. It’s not even a topic that needed to be addressed at our first board meeting, nor does it now.”

The term critical race theory is used for a college-level course that conservatives have used to attack K-12 lessons on slavery and U.S. race relations. Trustees who voted for the ban in Temecula have said the theory is divisive. The board’s resolution adopted in December states that “critical race theory assigns generational guilt and racial guilt for conduct and policies that are long in the past.”

Komrosky, Wiersma and Gonzalez were backed by a local Christian conservative political action committee during the November election and unseated incumbents to win a board majority.

This story was originally published in The Press-Enterprise ( and is republished here courtesy of Southern California News Group/The Press-Enterprise.