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Recalled school board President Gabriela López plans to run again

Candidate Gabriela Lopez running for the Board of Education speaks to the San Francisco Chronicle during an editorial board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in San Francisco. | Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Recalled school board leader, Gabriela López, pulled papers on Thursday to reclaim her seat in November.

The move throws another wild card into an election already rocked by controversy over the recent comments made by Commissioner Ann Hsu that were widely condemned as racist. Hsu, who played a major role in the recall, was tapped by Mayor London Breed to fill the emptied seats.

López—who did not immediately provide a comment when reached by The Standard Thursday—served as board president in 2021, shortly before the recall campaign that targeted her began to gather steam.

The push to restore selective admissions at Lowell High School played a major role in the campaign to oust López, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga—all of whom supported the district’s switch to a lottery-based system. The optics of the trio pushing to rename school sites even though campuses remained closed to students due to the pandemic also fanned the flames of the recall.

López, Collins and Moliga would have been up for election in November had voters not recalled them in February.

Another challenger, Laurance Lee, pulled papers on Wednesday. Lee, a San Francisco Unified School District alumnus and frequent critic, previously vied to be appointed by Breed. He is still undecided about whether to go through with the filing by tomorrow with the changes from Thursday to consider.

“Crazy, dynamic times,” Lee told The Standard in a phone call Thursday. “I’ve got people in my ear in both directions. It’s a roller coaster for a first-timer.”

The race was uncharacteristically light on candidates compared to recent years for the seven-member board, which governs a district with roughly 50,000 students.

The three Breed-appointed commissioners—Hsu, Lisa Weissman-Ward and Lainie Motamedi—filed earlier this summer and faced few challengers.

Alida Fisher, a special education advocate and longtime district observer, clinched the coveted United Educators of San Francisco endorsement for her third try at a spot on the Board of Education. The teachers’ union also endorsed Weissman-Ward, but not Hsu or Motamedi. 

Other candidates thus far include Karen Fleshman, who surfaced Hsu’s comments, Deldelp Medina and Joseph Kelly, Jr.

San Francisco Parent Action, a group that emerged during the pandemic under the name Decreasing the Distance to advocate for a return to in-person learning, endorsed Motamedi and Wiessman-Ward on Thursday. Hsu, who made the offending comments in a candidate questionnaire to the group, was not endorsed.

“We are supportive of her work to reach out and listen to the broader community after her misconceptions around Black and brown families were recently revealed,” the group said in its endorsement statement. “The pain felt by members in our network is still raw.”

News of López’s run came as a surprise to Kevin Ortiz, the San Francisco Latinx Democratic Club vice president of political affairs and a critic of Hsu over her comments stereotyping marginalized students and what he calls a lack of outreach to Latino leaders. The Dem club endorsed López, who taught at Leonard Flynn Elementary School when she first ran in 2018. 

Ortiz said he thinks all three Breed appointees have a weak hold on their seats. 

“Anything is possible right now,” he said. “I think it’s going to excite voters, or piss off folks—or both.”