San Francisco recalls 3 members of city’s school board
Three members of San Francisco’s school board were ousted Tuesday in the wake of widespread backlash over the slow reopening of schools shut down by COVID-19 and a controversial plan to rename dozens of school sites.
School board president Gabriela López, vice president Faauuga Moliga and commissioner Alison Collins were all stripped of their positions during a special election, according to tallies by the San Francisco Department of Elections.
Furious parents launched the recall effort in January 2021 after arguing the school board was pushing progressive politics instead of acting in the best interests of children amid the pandemic.
“The city of San Francisco has risen up and said this is not acceptable to put our kids last,” said Siva Raj, a father of two who helped launch the recall effort.
“Talk is not going to educate our children, it’s action. It’s not about symbolic action, it’s not about changing the name on a school, it is about helping kids inside the school building read and learn math.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who backed the recall effort, said the parents “were fighting for what matters most — their children.”
“The voters of this city have delivered a clear message that the school board must focus on the essentials of delivering a well-run school system above all else,” Breed said in a statement.
“San Francisco is a city that believes in the value of big ideas, but those ideas must be built on the foundation of a government that does the essentials well.”
The recall effort was launched as the school board was trying to rename 44 school sites that it said honored public figures linked to racism, sexism and other injustices — including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and trailblazing US Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Critics argued the push made a mockery of the country’s racial reckoning — as parents demanded to know why the board would waste time renaming schools when the priority needed to be reopening classrooms. The board eventually scrapped the plan after widespread uproar.
Opponents had called the recall a waste of time and money given the district is facing a number of challenges, including a $125 million budget deficit and the need to replace retiring Superintendent Vincent Matthews.
Board of Supervisors president Shamann Walton had slammed the recall effort as being pushed by “closet Republicans and most certainly folks with conservative values in San Francisco, even if they weren’t registered Republicans,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
But parents among the around 100 supporters gathered in the Mission District on Tuesday insisted that support came from all walks of life.
“We wanted to show the diversity of the community behind this recall. I knew they were going to say, ‘Oh, isn’t it just a bunch of Republicans?’ and I’m like, do I look like a Republican?” David Thompson, a parent dressed in head-to-toe rainbow drag who called his persona “Gaybraham Lincoln,” told the outlet.
The school board has seven members, all Democrats, but those three were the only ones eligible to be recalled. The replacements for the three ousted members will be named by Breed.
Collins, Lopez and Moliga defended their records, saying they prioritized racial equity because that was what they were elected to do.
Both sides of the recall debate agreed the board — and the city itself — became the focus of an embarrassing national spotlight during the saga.
Collins also came under fire last year for tweets she penned in 2016 that were widely criticized as racist.
Collins, who is black, had written that Asian Americans used “white supremacist” thinking to get ahead and were racist toward black students.
She said the tweets were taken out of context and posted before she held her school board position. Collins refused to take them down or apologize for the wording and ignored calls to resign from parents, Breed and other public officials.
In response, Collins sued the district and her colleagues for $87 million, sparking yet another pandemic sideshow. The suit was dismissed.
Many Asian parents were already angered by the board’s efforts to end merit-based admissions at the elite Lowell High School, where Asian students are the majority, prior to Collins’ tweetstorm.
The ordeal sparked 560 new Asian American voters to register to vote ahead of the election, according to the Chinese/API Voter Outreach Task Force.
Ann Hsu, a mother of two who helped found the task force, said many Chinese voters saw the effort to change the Lowell admissions system as a direct attack.
“It is so blatantly discriminatory against Asians,” she said.
With Post wires
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.