San Francisco school board recall

San Francisco School Board Recall: Down to Wire in Final Month

Joel Engardio
4 min readAug 1, 2021


By Joel P. Engardio

Butterflies in the stomach are common when anticipating the start of any school year. But there’s high anxiety this year as parents and kids hope for a return to real, in-person learning.

Will the delta variant derail getting kids back in the classroom? So far, public health officials say being in school is the safest and best place for a child’s well-being.

Yet anxious parents don’t trust that San Francisco’s public school board will put children first — especially after it spent the past year more concerned about renaming schools than safely reopening them.

The issue became a national embarrassment while a cascade of debacles led to multiple lawsuits and a recall effort.

Our school board suffers from a self-inflicted “ crisis of governance.” Reform is needed, which starts with recalling the most problematic school board commissioners.

Well-run public schools are essential for a city to function and thrive. San Francisco’s future depends on being able to retain families, but too many are moving away because of our mismanaged public schools. That’s why every resident should care about the school board.

Down to the wire
There won’t be a school board recall if organizers can’t get 52,000 valid signatures by September 7.

On August 1, they had 40,000.

But they need 70,000 to ensure there’s enough to actually qualify for the ballot. The Department of Elections typically throws out 20 to 30 percent of signatures as invalid (duplicates, non-residents, not registered voters).

Organizers must collect 30,000 more signatures before September 7.

If you aren’t a fan of school board Commissioner Alison Collins bullying educators, tweeting racist remarks about Asian Americans, pushing to rename schools while refusing to hire consultants to reopen them, and suing the school district for $87 million — imagine how emboldened she will be if the recall fails.

A recent poll shows that the recall will win — if it can get on the ballot. But without 30,000 more signatures by September 7, there won’t be a recall. Do you want Alison Collins to win?

Here’s what you must do now to ensure the recall can move forward:

The case for recalling the school board
There’s a strong case for recalling the San Francisco school board. Here are the reasons:

The greatest indictment against the school board is that it neglected its core job: Getting students safely back into classrooms to avoid the harmful learning loss and mental health stress of being isolated at home on Zoom for more than a year.

And we can’t forget that the school board didn’t bother to start planning to reopen schools in earnest or back off its school renaming debacle until faced with lawsuits, recalls, and protests from frustrated and exhausted parents.

Read the full case for recalling the school board. It lays out the argument point-by-point.

The difference between school board recall and reform
Fixing the San Francisco school board requires a multi-step process:

School Reopenings
Decreasing the Distance is a group led by parents. They’re on top of getting San Francisco and the entire state to offer full-time, in-person instruction to all students this fall. Read their compelling report on how San Francisco’s public schools failed families. It catalogues the learning loss and mental health effects of a year in Zoom school. What will happen to the group once schools are fully reopened? Founder Meredith Dodson says: “We plan to stick around with a new name and the same values. Going forward will be all about picking up the pieces and holding our school leaders accountable to centering our students.”

School Board Recall
Read the full case for recall. We can’t forget that the school board didn’t bother to start planning to reopen schools in earnest or back off its school renaming debacle until faced with lawsuits and protests from frustrated and exhausted parents. Download and sign a recall petition here. Donate to fund the signature gathering effort here. There won’t be a recall unless there are enough signatures to put it on the ballot. The deadline is September 7.

School Board Reform
Better SF Public Schools is a group led by parents working on a long term structural solution for our public schools. After the recall, they want to redesign how our school system is governed so we don’t end up in the same situation again. Read their full vision statement. They are working to amend our city’s constitution with an initiative on the June 2022 ballot that would make the school board an appointed body with certain qualifications for running schools. Also read their excellent research paper that makes the case for an appointed school board.

Originally published at on August 1, 2021.



Joel Engardio

Forward-thinking + pragmatic Democrat, civil liberties advocate, award-winning journalist, Westside SF homeowner. My local views at