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San Francisco Sets Recall Election for Scandal-Plagued School Board



Photo of mural at George Washington High School
The San Francisco Board of Education's failed attempt to paint over the "Life of Washington" mural angered many in the community. (AP File)
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SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco parents and other residents frustrated by the city’s scandal-plagued Board of Education will get a chance to recall three of its members.

City officials announced Monday that a special municipal election will be held on Feb. 15 after an effort to recall the board members gained enough signatures to put it on the ballot. The board has seven members.

Voters will decide the fate of Board President Gabriela Lopez, Vice President Faauuga Moliga, and Commissioner Alison Collins.

Pandemic Handling Fuels Recall Effort

The recall effort stemmed from anger and frustration at how the school board handled the pandemic. Most of San Francisco’s 115 public schools were kept closed for much of last year, even as nearby districts eventually reopened classrooms and private schools across the city held in-person classes.

The San Francisco school board drew national attention for a variety of self-inflicted controversies, including an effort to rename 44 schools that was part of a racial reckoning that critics said went too far.

The renaming effort was criticized for historical inaccuracies and shoddy research as well as being a waste of time, when the city’s 57,000 K-12 students were struggling with distance learning and the focus should have been on getting classrooms open. The plan was ultimately scrapped.

End of Merit-Based Admissions Criticized

The board also faced criticism for a decision to end merit-based admissions to San Francisco’s top public high school, Lowell, and use the same lottery-based system that admits students to other high schools.

After the renaming debacle, the board faced multiple lawsuits, including one from the city of San Francisco which took the dramatic step of suing the school district and the board to pressure both to reopen classrooms more quickly.

Collins came under fire in March for tweets she wrote in 2016 that were widely criticized as racist. In the tweets, Collins, who is Black, said Asian Americans used “white supremacist” thinking to get ahead and were racist toward Black students.

Collins said the tweets were taken out of context and posted before she held her school board position. She refused to take them down or apologize for the wording and ignored calls from parents and public officials, including Mayor London Breed, for her resignation.

Mayor Would Appoint Interim Replacements

If any of the three board members are recalled, Breed would appoint their interim replacements.

Critics say the recall effort is a waste of time and money, as the district faces a number of challenges including a $116 million shortfall next year and the need to replace retiring Superintendent Vince Matthews.

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