Parents launch recall effort against school board members

Multiple committees formed to explore ways to remove commissioners or change board structure

Two San Francisco parents this week put in motion an effort to recall three school board members up for reelection next year, bringing the total number of committees to organize or explore a recall to three.

Autumn Looijen and Siva Raj, tech workers who are single parents to five children between them, said they have submitted local and state filings in the past week to form a committee to recall School Board President Gabriela Lopez, Vice President Alison Collins and Board member Faauuga Moliga. All three were elected in 2018.

“The best city in the world deserves the best schools in the world,” the duo wrote on their website. “We are public school parents launching a recall of the San Francisco school board.”

The push comes after the announcement of a separate effort to explore options including a recall that was born out of frustration with the school board over reopening and other heated topics like efforts to rename schools and changes to Lowell High School.

The Better Public Schools political advisory committee launched last week and filed paperwork earlier this month to explore options to change the school board. The new PAC, an offshoot of Families for San Francisco, is also considering recall as well as a charter amendment that would turn the board into an appointed body or running candidates for the 2022 election.

Raj and Looijen’s filing, on the other hand, was explicitly formed to recall the three board members. The remaining four members are not eligible to be recalled until six months after taking office, which would be in June.

State filings show a third committee has also been created to support recalling the three school board members, which Looijen and Raj say is not connected to them. The number listed on state filings for that group matches a San Francisco Republican Party member and assembly delegate, who did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

The San Francisco Department of Elections has not yet received a notice of intention to mount a recall effort, a staffer confirmed on Monday. Looijen and Raj are enlisting up to 30 volunteers to serve as official sponsors, who must be San Francisco voters willing to publicly list their addresses.

Once the department notifies proponents the petition requirements have been met, they have up to 160 days to collect signatures, but must do so in person. Joel Engardio, a former Board of Supervisors candidate who has been vocal recently in school board reform, previously estimated a recall effort would need to collect 70,000 signatures for each school board member to ensure they are all valid.

Lopez on Sunday acknowledged that mistakes have been made in the widely criticized school renaming process, which has drawn a lawsuit challenging the methods by which it was approved. The process will be put on hold until schools are reopened, Lopez announced.

“There have been many distracting debates as we’ve been working to reopen our schools,” Lopez wrote in a San Francisco Chronicle editorial and on Twitter. “School renaming has been one of them. I want us to focus our time and actions where they matter most. On the safety of our children, and on safely getting them back to schools.”

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