SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — San Francisco voters will decide in February whether to recall three members of the city’s school board. The Department of Elections announced Monday that supporters gathered enough signatures to put the continued employment of board president Gabriela López, vice president Faauuga Moliga and member Alison Collins on the ballot.
The drive to oust three of the board’s seven elected members grew out of frustration over schools remaining closed for over a year while neighboring counties and private schools resumed in-person instruction, and the board’s coinciding effort to rename 44 schools, a decision it later reversed after a judge ordered it to do so.
Parents were also upset by the board’s vote to end merit-based admissions at academically-rigorous Lowell High School.
“It’s a great day for our children,” said Autumn Looijen, who is organizing the recall campaign along with her partner Siva Raj. “It really speaks to the strength of the grassroots movement. We just moved here in December, we didn’t know anyone, but the city is so passionate about education that there was this wave of people who wanted the schools fixed and wanted schools that work for our children. There are really passionate alumni, parents and teachers who really wanted to make this happen that they were out there every weekend collecting signatures and it’s great to see their hard work has paid off.”
López, Moliga and Collins were elected to the board in 2018. The other members have not held their positions long enough to be recalled; members elected within the last six months are not eligible for a recall election.
The department set an election date of Feb. 15, 2022, almost one year to the day when Looijen and Raj decided to launch the recall.
Looijen said they were largely impelled by the persistent school closures and seeming inaction from the board.
“Siva and I had been trying to work with other groups to get the schools reopened and there wasn’t movement in the board, and it seemed like they were hostile to parents’ input,” she said.
Raj’s children are enrolled in San Francisco schools, while Looijen's children attend public schools in Palo Alto.
“We saw the difference it made for kids to be learning in-person over learning over Zoom. The contrast was so sharp,” she said. “We ended up running the recall because we saw what was possible for San Francisco’s children.”
Moliga, the board’s vice president, responded to the announcement in an email to Courthouse News.
“The attempt to recall me is motivated by politics, not education policy,” he wrote. “This election process will bring those motives to light, and I am looking forward to that discussion.”
The San Francisco Unified School District declined to comment. López and Collins did not return emails seeking comment Monday.Follow @MariaDinzeo
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.