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Citing ‘gross malfeasance,’ SF parent group supports recall of two school board members

San Francisco School Board members Alison Collins and Gabriela López applaud at a rally in front of the SFUSD headquarters on March 31, 2021. | Sophie Bearman

A new political group known as SF Parent Action is now calling to recall Board of Education Commissioner Alison Collins and Board President Gabriela López, saying their work to direct focus away from students and toward efforts like school renaming—plus their support of an $87 million lawsuit against the San Francisco Unified School District—make them unfit for office. 

In a report released on Monday, the group says the two commissioners should not complete their terms, which end in January of 2023, and should be removed from office during next year’s Feb. 15 election. The group took no position on the recall of Board Vice President Faauuga Moliga, whose name will also be on the ballot come February. 

Drafted by leaders from SF Parent Action, the political arm of advocacy group SF Parent Coalition, the report and its recommendations are based on input from its 300 members, a social media discussion and many hours of deliberations among its four-member board.

SF Parent Action Executive Director Meredith Dodson said the group, which was founded this fall and shares members and leadership with SF Parent Coalition, was initially hesitant to weigh in on the recall. But once the effort garnered enough signatures to appear on the February ballot, the group felt it had a responsibility to take a stance. The February recall is the first election the group has weighed in on.

To evaluate each member, the group crafted five categories of school board member responsibilities that it pulled from the school board’s job description. The group then weighed the commissioners’ actions against those responsibilities. It found that Collins and López met too few of their duties to keep their positions, but did not find that Moliga should be recalled.

“In the cases of Commissioner Alison Collins and Commissioner Gabriela López, we believe the level of their malfeasance and dereliction of duty warrants recall from public office,” the report finds.

Collins and López did not respond to requests for comment on the report. Collins recently took to Twitter to allege that the recall is being driven by right-wing forces engaged in disinformation to discredit diverse voices.

In a message to The Standard, Moliga said he’s happy to hear the group does not support the recall effort against him, which he calls unjustified and based on false arguments. Moliga cited his resolution to contact all 54,000 city students for wellness checks during the pandemic and his support for community hubs during distance learning—in particular for the Samoan community—as evidence of his focus on student wellbeing.

Dodson said Collins’ $87 million lawsuit against the school district, which she dropped in response to a dismissal in court—and López’s support of it—is one factor driving the group’s recommendation. Dodson said the group can’t support the two members absent sincere apologies from Collins over past Tweets that many found racist toward Asian Americans and from both commissioners over their handling of school reopening. 

“[López and Collins] still to this day express no regret over how they handled school reopening, and how they delayed it,” Dodson said. “They seem to think they’re still in the right to not have reopened schools sooner.”

The report comes just two months before all three commissioners are set to appear on the Feb. 15 ballot in an election that will cost the district more than $3 million. Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors declined to foot the bill for the election just days after the Board of Education passed a $90 million budget cuts plan to plug a massive deficit and avoid a state takeover.

The recall of all three board members is being led by a different parent group but has found support among top city leaders, including Mayor London Breed. The San Francisco Democratic Party originally opposed the recall as a Republican-funded effort that wastes taxpayer money but is set to reconsider its stance this week. 

Dodson said SF Parent Action was hesitant to support the recall for those same reasons, and she personally doesn’t support the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin or last year’s failed recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom. To Dodson, however, every new resolution and vote—like López’s rejection of a staff budget-balancing plan last week—provides an opportunity for the two members to further harm the school district. 

“This one is different,” Dodson said. 

According to the report, Collins and López have repeatedly failed to meet each of the five responsibilities of the school board, which include prioritizing student learning, managing district finances effectively, governing professionally, integrating community input and making smart personnel decisions. 

As a result of the report and decision, SF Parent Action is launching a fundraiser to help print and distribute fliers outlining its position and advocating for the recall of Collins and López.

“The school board is a critical elected body and historically, people have not paid attention to the office,” Dodson said. “But I am hoping with this election … that people will start to notice and see how important this body is.”

This version corrects SF Parent Action’s stance on recalling Moliga.