In February, San Franciscans resoundingly voted to recall Commissioners Alison Collins, Gabriela Lopez, and Fauuga Moliga from the San Francisco Board of Education. Nowhere was this more true than here in District 2, where more than 86 percent of residents voted in favor of recall. Elections in San Francisco are rarely decided so overwhelmingly, and the result reflects San Franciscans’ rightful frustration at the school board’s catastrophic mismanagement during the pandemic.
Recall campaigns are necessary when elected officials fail to serve the public they have sworn to represent, and that was certainly true in this case. Too many families were left stranded during the pandemic, and instead of focusing on how to open schools safely, the Board of Education spent a year bickering with staff, filing frivolous lawsuits, and wasting precious time on short-term political distractions.
The members of the Board of Education routinely made decisions that harmed the students they were entrusted to protect. They rejected free consulting services to create a safe school reopening plan. As a result, they continued to keep schools closed long after public health guidance allowed and encouraged reopening.
When presented with data showing that students suffered enormous learning loss in math and reading during the pandemic, the Board of Education absolutely failed to take responsibility. In fact, the former president shockingly said the students were “just having different learning experiences.” San Francisco students are now in the bottom 5 percent in the state for academic performance, according to the California Reading Report Card.
All across the country, schools were reopening safely, but our Board of Education was doing just the opposite:
• They wasted time and millions of dollars engaged in a school renaming project that was based on false information and faulty reasoning,
• They routinely showed incredible disdain for parents and families, including humiliating a gay father who had applied to be on the parent advisory committee, and
• Worst of all, they ignored the rapidly expanding budget deficit, which grew to about $125 million, and became such a significant issue that the state is now threatening to take over the district.
Commissioner Collins’s hateful behavior, in particular, has no place in public life. Her past statements about Asian families were cruel, demeaning, and deeply misinformed. Her comments resurfaced in a time when violent acts of anti-Asian hate were on the rise, and the Asian community was rightfully terrified for their own safety. Instead of taking responsibility for her actions, she refused to apologize. When her colleagues stripped her of her vice presidency for her actions, she sued them and the already cash-strapped district for $87 million because she felt that she had been slandered.
The consequences of this mismanagement could not be more severe. The education, health, and well-being of our public school students should be the first priority and focus of our Board of Education. Instead, the former members consistently tried to score cheap political points and engaged in wasteful, destructive, and ego-driven side projects while San Francisco families suffered.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance public schools have on the lives of our children. Education is one of the best investments we can make as a society to ensure that our children have the brightest futures possible. San Francisco has thousands of families in our public school system, and they depend on our Board of Education to make sound decisions focused on supporting our children’s access to academic achievement.
Last month, Mayor London Breed appointed Ann Hsu, Lainie Motamedi, and Lisa Weissman-Ward to fill the vacancies left by the recalled members. These three talented women all have children in the public school system and have significant experience in education, budget management, and public policy. Though significant challenges remain, San Francisco families have good reason for optimism for the first time in two years. I’m so grateful to all the voters, parents, and advocates who worked tirelessly to make these appointments possible.