H-SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Aug 1, 2011 9:38 PM by Ariel Wesler

School board drama intesifies in Santa Maria

It's getting ugly among some school board members. An ongoing feud between Santa Maria Bonita School District leaders and board member Will Smith has escalated after Smith files for a restraining order against the school board president.

Now, Smith filed for a restraining order today against School Board President Ike Ochoa. He claims Ochoa is harassing and intimidating him. When we asked Ochoa what he had to say, he laughed and said he would rather not get involved with an individual that he says he needs to be careful with. Meanwhile, Smith is concerned for his own safety.

"I'm not going to take any chances with someone that I know is irate and has been yelling and hollering at me, so I'm going to make sure that I'm protected," Smith said.

In a separate matter, two weeks ago, the school district got a restraining order on behalf of the principal at Arellanes Junior High. District leaders say Smith verbally abused her. Smith said he agreed to stay away from the principal for a year and the judge granted the order, but never found a credible threat of violence or stalking.

Some are questioning whether Smith is trying to get even after the restraining order was filed against him. Smith says a judge is supposed to decide tomorrow whether to grant his restraining order.

Smith taught 7th and 8th grades in the district for six years. During that time, the district suspended him for 82 days for unprofessional conduct. Both parties eventually reached a settlement and he left last August. Three months later, he was elected to the school board. Since then, tensions have mounted on all kinds of issues.

Back in March, police were called to a school board meeting because district leaders say they were concerned for their safety. They say Smith acted aggressively, but he says the discussion heated up over a personnel issue in closed session.

There are clearly unresolved issues on the board, but district leaders say they are not affecting student education.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for August 17th.

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