Faauuga Moliga, a candidate for the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education, speaks at a forum at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood Center on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Breed appoints candidate to school board weeks before election

Mayor London Breed on Monday morning appointed Faauga Moliga to fill a vacancy on the school board.

The appointment could give Moliga, one of more than a dozen candidates vying to serve on the body this November, an edge in the Nov. 6 election. Early voting has already begun.

“It’s not about politics, it’s about the work,” Breed said at the June Jordan School for Equity in the Excelsior, before swearing in Moliga.

“What I am most proud about today is that Moliga is the first Pacific Islander running for the school board,” Breed said. “He got actively engaged in the schools because of the challenges that existed with his community.”

Moliga, who grew up in San Francisco and attended public schools, works as a therapist with students in need. He was appointed to the seat vacated by Hydra Mendoza, who resigned late last month to take a job as deputy chancellor in New York City.

SEE RELATED: Board of Education president will not seek fourth term, to step down from role in Mayor’s Office

“I grew up in the projects,” Moliga told those who attended the swearing in.

Those in attendance included school board members Stevon Cook, Shamann Walton and Matt Haney, and supervisors Sandra Fewer, Hillary Ronen and Ahsha Safai.

Moliga spoke of the difficult time he had in school and the benefits of wellness centers and therapists. He also spoke of working out differences to address challenges.

“We are at a time in San Francisco where we all have to work together for the benefit of our kids, from the [nonprofits], to the Mayor’s Office to the school district to neighbors down the street to the churches,” Moliga said. “We all have to work together.”

Moliga introduced his “great mentor” Manufou Liaiga-Anao’i, a member of the Jefferson Elementary School Board in Daly City and executive director of the Pacific Islander Community Partnership. She said that “while many Pacific Islanders and other ethnicities alike move away from San Francisco … the families that struggle to stay here that call San Francisco home need to have a voice at the table.”

And that is what Moliga brings, she said.

SEE RELATED: School board candidates debate solutions to SF’s achievement gap

Haney, a school board member and District 6 candidate for supervisor, said “I can’t think of anybody who is more qualified.” He said that the school board is likely going to be “unanimously happy” since they have worked with Moliga and he is someone “we have seen in the trenches.”

Haney called Moliga a “consensus” appointment. Moliga has broad support across the political aisle and from the local Democratic party.

“We have important work to do over the next three months. It’s important for us to have a full board there,” Haney said. The winner of the November election takes office in January, and Moliga will need to win in that election to continue serving past December.

“You still have to vote for him,” Breed said.

Ronen, who has endorsed Moliga, said, “he has the experience and the perspective that we need on the school board.”

“I think it sends a really great message,” Ronen continued. “The kids that are suffering in the San Francisco Unified School District are kids of color and particularly the African American and Pacific Island community and we got to change that. The statistics and the gaps are shocking and unacceptable.”

As for the timing, Ronen said, “It’s San Francisco city politics. Since I’ve endorsed him I’m excited about it. If I hadn’t endorsed him maybe I wouldn’t be.”

She added, “I don’t know that it will influence the election one way or another — it is so late in the game.”

Safai said it would likely give him a boost. “It sends a strong message that this is someone that we can all rally around and to give him the additional momentum to carry him across the finish line. I’m 100 percent behind that,” Safai said.

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