San Francisco Board of Education

The Case for Recalling the San Francisco School Board

By Joel P. Engardio

An effort is underway to recall three school board commissioners: Alison Collins, Gabriela Lopez, and Faauuga Moliga. They are the only three commissioners of seven currently eligible for recall. The rest were recently elected and recall proceedings cannot begin for them until six months into their term.

70,000 verified signatures of San Francisco voters must be delivered to the Department of Elections before September 1 for a recall to qualify for the ballot.

Click here to visit the official school board recall website for instructions on where and how to sign a recall petition. Signatures must be pen on paper. Online petitions do not count.

Reasons for recall
Commissioners Collins, Lopez, and Moliga are being recalled for the following reasons:

  • Voting to fire top administrators not in line with the school board’s ideology, which created instability and left a vacuum of expertise that made navigating the pandemic even more difficult.
  • Voting against hiring a consultant to create a plan for reopening schools.
  • Voting to rename schools with a flawed process before making any plans to reopen schools.
  • Voting to dismantle one of the nation’s top high schools rather than focus on reopening high schools or creating more high schools with high academic standards.
  • Commissioner Collins wrote racist tweets about Asian Americans in 2016 that resurfaced in 2021. She then sued the school district and her fellow commissioners for $87 million after they censured her for the tweets.

Putting ideology over the needs of students
The greatest indictment against San Francisco’s 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.

Before the pandemic, commissioners Alison Collins, Gabriela Lopez, and Faauuga Moliga fired the school district’s chief academic officer along with a number of administrators who did not fit their ideology. Superintendent Vincent Matthews relied on the expertise of the people in these positions. Losing such valued administrators undercut his ability to run the schools effectively — especially when COVID hit.

The chief academic officer that San Francisco’s school board let go for not meeting its ideological litmus test was quickly hired to lead the schools in Berkeley.

We must remember which school board commissioners voted to fire the chief academic officer for reasons that weren’t in the best interest of students:

  • Alison Collins
  • Gabriela Lopez
  • Faauuga Moliga
  • Mark Sanchez

We also cannot forget the school board’s fateful decision in June 2020 to not hire a consultant to plan for reopening schools. Superintendent Vincent Matthews begged for the hire, even telling the school board that rejecting the contract would be a “body blow.”

Reopening specialists were in short supply because every school district in the nation faced the same problem. But our school board refused to hire the consultant because they had previously done work for charter schools. Watch a compilation video of the remarks commissioners made when rejecting the consultant.

Our school board chose to put ideology over the needs of students. They promised to create a plan on their own. But the Chronicle reported all the ways they had procrastinated and flunked the task. Our school board didn’t bother to start planning to reopen schools in earnest until faced with lawsuits, recalls, and protests from frustrated and exhausted parents.

We must remember which school board commissioners voted against hiring a consultant to create a plan for reopening schools:

  • Alison Collins
  • Gabriela Lopez
  • Faauuga Moliga
  • Jenny Lam

Renaming schools took priority over reopening schools
The woes of San Francisco’s school board became national news when a profoundly flawed school renaming process was revealed. It became a source of embarrassment and mockery.

Yet our school board voted to double down on a process that relied on cursory Wikipedia searches, historical inaccuracies, and didn’t know whether Roosevelt Middle School referred to Teddy or FDR (they found reasons to remove both presidents). Only after intense public pressure did the school board announce it would “ pause” the renaming until it could reopen the schools. And only after a lawsuit and a ruling by a superior court judge did the school board move to rescind its vote to rename the schools. But the school board still refused to acknowledge the flawed renaming process, saying it was “deeply grateful for the work of the [renaming] panel.”

We must remember which school board commissioners voted to rename schools with a flawed process before making any plans to reopen schools:

  • Alison Collins
  • Gabriela Lopez
  • Faauuga Moliga
  • Jenny Lam
  • Mark Sanchez
  • Matt Alexander

Ending merit-based admission at a top high school in the nation was more important than reopening high schools
Lowell High School is San Francisco’s only academically merit-based high school and its student population is majority Asian. As one of the best-ranked schools in the nation, Lowell is a popular option for families who can’t afford private school. More than one-third of Lowell students belong to low-income families.

Yet our school board ended merit-based admissions at Lowell in a rushed process with little community input. The stated goal was to increase diversity of the student population and address a culture problem. A study by Families for San Francisco used school district data to show that Lowell is not the only high school with a demographic imbalance. Others are worse and Lowell falls in the middle. The same can be said for Lowell’s culture/climate scores on district-wide student surveys.

Many parents ask why not create more high schools like Lowell with high academic standards?

We must remember which school board commissioners voted against the low-income families who rely on Lowell:

  • Alison Collins
  • Gabriela Lopez
  • Faauuga Moliga
  • Mark Sanchez
  • Matt Alexander

Anti-Asian tweets and a frivolous lawsuit by Alison Collins
Much outrage is rightfully focused on the tweets by school board commissioner Alison Collins that disparaged Asian Americans with racist remarks. They resurfaced from 2016 to cause a political earthquake in 2021. Nearly every elected official in San Francisco has called for Collins to resign and she was censored by her colleagues.

No one believed the school board could become any more dysfunctional than it already was. But Collins took the chaos into uncharted territory. She filed an $87 million lawsuit against the school district and her fellow commissioners for censoring her for the tweets.

Collins claims she was defamed and her First Amendment rights were violated. She is seeking $87 million in damages for herself when the school district faces a $169 million budget deficit and students haven’t been in classrooms for more than a year.

A recall of Alison Collins can’t come soon enough.

Perspective
As the school board descends into ever-more chaos and controversy, we must keep perspective on why the call to replace the school board was raised in the first place.

It’s important to remember how a majority of school board commissioners had failed parents long before the tweets by Collins were exposed:

  • Decisions and distractions that hindered the ability to safely reopen schools.
  • A profoundly flawed school renaming process that took priority over getting kids back in classrooms.
  • The end of merit-based admissions to Lowell High School, which was rushed with little community input and ignored the pleas from low and middle-income families who relied on Lowell because they can’t afford the academic experience offered by private schools.

And we can’t forget that the school board didn’t commit to reopening schools or back away from the school renaming debacle until faced with lawsuits, protests, and recalls.

Alison Collins, Gabriela Lopez, and Faauuga Moliga are being recalled because they all participated in disastrous decisions for San Francisco families and our public schools.

Click here to visit the official school board recall website for instructions on where and how to sign a recall petition.

Originally published at https://www.engardio.com on April 5, 2021.

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

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