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San Francisco voters recall 3 school board members

A seemingly endless amount of drama, name-calling, lawsuits and outrage from parents and city officials, made the saga of San Francisco's school board a riveting pandemic sideshow. Voters recalled three members Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Jeff Chiu
/
AP
A seemingly endless amount of drama, name-calling, lawsuits and outrage from parents and city officials, made the saga of San Francisco's school board a riveting pandemic sideshow. Voters recalled three members Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Voters in San Francisco recalled three members of the school board on Tuesday following a tumultuous period that included fights over remote learning, renaming schools, a First Amendment lawsuit and changes to the admissions process at the city's most elite public high school. Early results showed that voters overwhelmingly supported removing the three members of the board, with people voting yes in each measure by at least 72%.

School Board President Gabriela Lopez, Commissioner Faauuga Moliga and Commissioner Alison M. Collins lost their seats on the seven member panel. Moliga conceded, and Lopez vowed to run again in November.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who endorsed the recall, heralded the results.

"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," she said in a statement after the polls closed.

Breed had questioned the school board's priorities. In January 2021, it spent time debating a plan to rename 44 public schools - among them those named for Abraham Lincoln, and current U.S. Senator and former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein. Breed, at the time, said she could not understand "why the school board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April, when there isn't a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then."

Amid a flurry of criticism, the board unanimously scrapped the plan.

Collins appears to have been recalled by the largest margin, with more than 78% of voters opting to remove her. She sued the school district, the city and individual commissioners of the school board in March 2021 after the commissioners voted to remove her as the panel's vice president. It did so after years-old tweets she wrote surfaced that many called racist toward Asian Americans. Collins sought more than $80 million in damages, but the suit was dismissed.

Many Asians in San Francisco were already motivated by the Board of Education's plan to replace a merit-based admission system with a lottery program at Lowell High School, the city's most-elite public school. KQED's Scott Shafer reported on Morning Edition that Asian students make up more than half of its student enrollment.

Amid all of the controversies, parents struggled with at-home learning, and the City of San Francisco sued the Board of Education in February 2021 to reopen schools and allow children to return to the classroom. Lopez said at the time the lawsuit would only slow the return to in-person learning.

The district, which serves more than 50,000 students at 130 schools, faces declining enrollment and a budget deficit. The board will need to hire a replacement for retiring superintendent Vincent Matthews.

Breed will now select three new commissioners to fill the new vacancies. Organizers of the recall campaign signaled an eagerness for the change.

"Thank you for standing up for our kids when our elected leaders completely failed them," read a tweet from the Recall SF School Board.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Peter Granitz