Collins, Lopez, Moliga lead in San Francisco school board race

Alison Collins, Gabriela Lopez and Faauuga Moliga are in the lead Tuesday night after initial rounds of results were made public in a highly competitive race for three open seats on the San Francisco Board of Education.

The departure of three incumbents left a total of 19 candidates to vie for three open seats on the board.

The diverse slate includes the city’s first Pacific Islander candidate, Chinese and Spanish speaking immigrants and two transgender candidates, as well as special education and charter school advocates.

First results on Tuesday reflected largely mail-in ballots and showed Collins in the lead with 14.12 percent of the votes. Collins continued to lead with 14.53 percent of the votes in a second count, results of which came in minutes before 10 p.m. A third count at 10:45 p.m. showed Collins pulling 14.82 percent of the votes.

“Regardless of whoever wins, I’m excited to be doing the work, we’ve been campaigning for a long time and I want to get busy and create change in schools,” said Collins, who watched the results at an event hosted by the San Francisco Democratic Party in the South of Market neighborhood. “I’m going to keep doing it whether I do it on the board or in another capacity.”

An educator and public school advocate, Collins supports a proposed charter school moratorium for the San Francisco Unified School District on the grounds that charters lack oversight and divert resources from The City’s public schools. A vocal critic of many charter schools, she is also author of a blog, San Francisco Public School Mom.

A mother of two who is also African-American, Collins is focused on addressing academic disparities for students and has worked directly with parents and district leaders to rally for additional resources for schools in underserved communities, including securing $1.9 million for much-needed renovations at a Bayview elementary school.

She has called for culturally sensitive and implicit bias training for teachers to help marginalized students succeed.

Collins’ endorsers included the San Francisco Democratic Party and the SFUSD’s union, United Educators of San Francisco.

“Those most concerned about the Trump-DeVos education agenda, which is to privatize our public schools amongst other things, really should recognize that our first line of defense is the organized voice of classroom teachers,” said UESF Political Director Ken Tray. “Charter schools, as a replacement for public schools, is exactly what Betsy DeVos with Trump support is advocating and its a very dangerous element.” 

SF Democratic Party Chair David Campos, a former city supervisor, said that education “is the great key to opportunity.”

“If you want to close the inequality that is plaguing this country and city in particular you have to give people access to education,” said Campos. “We are proud of our endorsees.”

Not far behind Collins was Lopez, an educator and one of three Latino candidates in the race, who in a first count secured 11.8 percent of the votes and in a second and third count pulled 12.52 percent and 13.15 percent of the votes, respectively. Moliga, who last month was appointed by Mayor London Breed to fill a vacancy left by longtime school board member Hydra Mendoza McDonell, secured 11.7 percent of the initial votes and 12.19 percent and 12.73 percent in the second and third counts.

Lopez is a bilingual fourth grade teacher from an immigrant background who has worked as an art educator and paraeducator. She is backed by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the San Francisco League of Pissed Off Voters, the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club, as well as city supervisors Jane Kim, Sandra Fewer, Hillary Ronen and Norman Yee.

A behavioral therapist with the San Francisco Department of Public Health who grew up in public housing, Moliga on Tuesday inched toward solidifying his current status as the board’s first Pacific Islander commissioner.

“The board feels like somewhere I need to be,” said Moliga, following a showing of the second round of results on Tuesday. “We need somebody on that board with mental health experience that understands communities, that can bring communities together and understand youth development. We are going to bring a lot to the board.”

His accomplishments include a program helping Pacific Islanders graduate college, work on student advocacy programs for the YMCA and the launch of a community schools program at Burton High School that helped increase attendance and decrease the number of students pushed out of school.

The San Francisco native and father of two public school students based his campaign on addressing the SFUSD’s persistent achievement gap and providing holistic mental health and wellness services, including wellness centers at all schools.

At $43,459, Moliga’s campaign pulled the third highest contributions, and reported a total of $32,063 in expenditures, according to the latest finance reports to the San Francisco Ethics Commission. Collins raised a total of $38,428 for her campaign and spent $22,148, while Lopez raised $18,790 and spent $17,678.

In addition to Breed’s endorsement, Moliga was backed by UESF, the San Francisco Democratic Party, the National Union of Health Workers and the League of Pissed Off Voters.

Former board president Shamann Walton and Commissioner Emily Murase are terming out next year and did not seek re-election. Walton, who has served on the board since 2014, was leading Tuesday in the race for supervisor of District 10.

Murase, who served on the board of eight years, was disqualified from seeking re-election in August after missing a Department of Elections filing deadline.

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