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Recall Camp Candidates Support Merit-Based Admissions at Lowell

Written by Ida Mojadad, Sarah WrightUpdated at Mar. 06, 2022 • 1:17pmPublished Mar. 04, 2022 • 5:21pm

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Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly listed only the first five in an alphabetical list of the 11 candidates who received the most support in the recall organizers’ survey. 

A list of top school board commissioner hopefuls screened by recall organizers is in, and a majority of those favor restoring academic-based admissions to Lowell High School.

The day after the Feb. 15 landslide election to recall Board President Gabriela López and commissioners Alison Collins and Fauugga Moliga, the effort’s leaders put out a call for potential appointees and asked its supporters to vote on who they’d most like to see fill the three now-vacant seats on the city’s Board of Education. Mayor London Breed previously said she would make appointments after vacancies become official. Though Moliga stepped down the day after the recall, López and Collins are expected to leave their seats in one week.

Of the 21 candidates to put themselves forward as replacements for recalled school board members, 15 declared in a questionnaire that they are in favor of an admissions system based on academics or outright against placing Lowell in the regular lottery system. Others were noncommittal or undecided—and none advocated for a lottery system with no academic component. 

Recall organizers Siva Raj and Autumn Looijen put the candidates to a vote via Google Form, with 1,355 individuals participating. On Friday afternoon they released the names of the 11 candidates who received the most votes, in alphabetical order. Below is a breakdown of how each of them stands on Lowell admissions. 

  • Adam Berman | Pro-merit-based | “SFUSD should embrace Lowell.”
  • Ann Hsu | Pro-merit-based | “The merit-based admissions policy at Lowell needs to be reinstated ASAP.”
  • Carol Kocivar | Pro-merit-based | “Oppose a lottery– We need both equity and excellence.”
  • Gregory Arenius | Pro-merit-based | “I am strongly in support of returning Lowell to merit based admissions.”
  • Halima Thorsen | Pro-merit-based | “Removing a merit based admission process was not the solution and only exacerbated the situation.”
  • Katie Ripley | Unclear | “One high school that is viewed as the acme of achievement while others lack basic resources is not a point of pride.”
  • Lainie Motamedi | Pro-merit-based | “I support reinstating merit-based admissions along with a review of ways to improve enrollment diversity, and reduce stress among our middle school students wishing to qualify to attend.”
  • Laurance Lee | Pro-merit-based | “Having underprepared students enter the school and perform poorly helps nobody.”
  • Lee Hung-Ming Hsu | Pro-merit-based | “Immediately restore the prior admissions process.”
  • Orlando Leon | Neutral | “I am torn on this one…”
  • Rohit Agarwal | Pro-merit-based | “Bluntly, I support a merit based admissions process.”

Breed’s office has met and will continue to meet with the top 11 candidates, Raj said. 

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After the school board voted last year to change Lowell’s admissions policy from a merit-based system to a lottery, the school’s politics became a central theme of the recall debate, with many recall proponents citing the Lowell decision as a factor driving their vote. The merit-based system, originally established in 1966, had previously avoided dismantlement even though state law subsequently barred the practice.

Update: A previous version of this story indicated that Adam Berman is neutral on merit-based admissions at Lowell High School, based upon a public statement he gave to recallsfschoolboard.org. After the story was published, Berman clarified that he is pro-merit-based admissions.

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Ida Mojadad can be reached at [email protected]
Sarah Wright can be reached at [email protected]




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