Front runners are emerging as campaign cash and endorsements are trickling into the school board race, narrowing down an exceptionally long list of interested candidates that earlier this month included more than two dozen hopefuls.
Of those who dropped their names in the hat for the Nov. 6 race, 19 were qualified last week. They are running for three open seats on the board free of incumbent opposition.
Despite coming under fire in recent weeks for making transphobic remarks in 2013, Josephine Zhao boasted $77,575 in total contributions, more than any other candidate, according to the latest reports made to the Department of Ethics as of Friday.
Zhao, who is an immigrant from China, retains the backing of Mayor London Breed and state Sen. Scott Wiener, despite losing several weighty endorsements following the revelation that she advocated against gender neutral bathrooms in schools, telling the Chinese press in 2013 at the time that they would fuel incidents of rape.
Zhao apologized for the remarks earlier this month, and told the San Francisco Examiner that she had misunderstood what is now a district-wide policy. Regardless, the debacle caused Supervisor Catherine Stefani and supervisorial candidate Christine Johnson to pull their endorsements for Zhao last week, and prompted the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club to threaten to pull its endorsements of other candidates if they don’t do the same.
In terms of expenditures, Zhao ranked second in line, having spent $14,090 of her campaign contributions so far.
Trailing behind Zhao in regard to campaign finances are Monica Chinchilla, Michelle Parker and Faauga Moliga — all of whom have also been endorsed by Breed.
As of Friday, Chinchilla, a former nonprofit worker, had listed $54,823 in total contributions and $9,540 in expenditures, along with endorsements from Board of Supervisors President Malia Cohen; school board commissioners Shamann Walton and Mark Sanchez; City College of San Francisco trustees Shanell Williams, John Rizzo, Thea Selby, and President Brigitte Davila, among others.
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Chinchilla said that her priority if elected to the school board would be the district’s achievement gap with “a focus on preK-3 grade years, literacy supports, and early identification of learning disabilities,” she said.
“It starts early — 50 percent of our black and brown youth are falling behind by third grade. That makes graduation all the more unlikely and incarceration all the more likely,” said Chinchilla, adding that her eldest brother has been incarcerated since age 15.
The San Francisco Latino Democratic club, along with 14 labor unions, including The San Francisco Labor Council and SEIU 2021, have declared support for Chinchilla, as have San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi and District Attorney George Gascon.
With a total of $35,864, Michelle Parker ranks third in total contributions and highest in expenditures, having spent a total of $14,556.
Co-founder of the San Francisco Parent Advisory Committee, Parker is supported in her first run for school board by Wiener, state Assemblymember David Chiu, Board of Equalization member Fiona Ma, Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu and supervisors Ahsha Safai, Vallie Brown, Katy Tang and Catherine Stefani.
Walton, Emily Murase and Rachel Norton of the school board, as well as CCSF trustees Alex Randolph and Selby, have also endorsed Parker’s campaign.
Parker spent six years serving on the district PTA executive board, where she advocated for parents. During the 2007-2009 recession, Parker said she advocated for financial support for the district as it faced nearly $13 million in budget cuts.
If elected to the board, Parker said her priorities would include parent engagement, implementing universal preschool in San Francisco, reforming the student school assignment system and “attracting and retaining great teachers.”
“I expect that I can make a difference because I have the lens of hearing from families but also working closely with district leadership,” said Parker. “I know how the system works, I know the people, the stakeholders.”
Faauga Moliga has landed the endorsement of the district’s union, United Educators of San Francisco, as well as the SF Labor Council, the Democratic Council Central Committee, the National Union of Health Workers and the League of Pissed Off voters in his run for school board.
With a total of $25,602 in contributions and expenditures of $6,565, Moliga said that he is “the first Pacific Islander to run for school board in the history of San Francisco,” and plans to tackle the district’s “opportunity gap” with a focus on mental health and wellness services and implementing a community school model in schools and “supporting our educators and all of our staff that work for the district.”
“Community based organizations need to be able to provide resources for the schools and we need to be able to open schools up so that [they] can also be a hub for the community,” said Moliga.
Moliga said that he helped pioneer the model at Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School, where the dropout rate decreased by 50 percent over four years after “case management services, credit recovery courses, Saturday school and community events” were added on site.
A behavioral health clinician with the Department of Public Health, Moliga said that he focuses on school and community social work. Moliga has been endorsed by Cohen, Safai, supervisors Sandra Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Rafael Mandelman, Hillary Ronen; school board President Hydra Mendoza Mcdonnell, Vice President Stevon Cook, and commissioners Walton, Sanchez and Haney, among others.