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UPDATE: SF Board of Education Vice President Moliga Resigns After Recall Vote

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) -- A day after San Francisco voters overwhelmingly supported the recall of three school board members during Tuesday's election, one of those members submitted his resignation.

On Wednesday, SF Board of Education Vice President Faauuga Moliga notified San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews and Board of Education President Gabriela López that he was submitting his resignation from the SF Board of Education effective immediately.

"I am really grateful for this opportunity. To be able to serve from this place has been one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life. I didn't take any day for granted," Moliga said in a statement. "I feel very grateful for the contributions I've made and I'm proud of the work we've done to support Pacific Islanders, including the Fa'a Samoa initiative to support Samoan students and families and the opening of the nation's first PreK dual immersion school in Samoan. I have stayed focused on taking a fiscally responsible approach and working on increasing mental health for our students."

"Resigning immediately creates an opportunity for a new board member to step in at this important moment," he continued. "I want to make sure that whoever is going to be appointed can be brought in as soon as possible as we have some important issues coming up with balancing the budget and selecting a new superintendent. I look forward to refocusing on my family and continuing to serve my community."

San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Wednesday said she'll be seeking three replacements to appoint in the coming weeks.

According to the most recent results from the San Francisco Department of Elections, voters overwhelmingly agreed to recall Board of Education commissioner Alison Collins, board president Gabriela Lopez, and board vice president Moliga.

Seventy-nine percent voted to recall Collins, 75 percent voted to recall Lopez, and 72 percent voted to recall Moliga.

During a Wednesday briefing at City Hall, Breed said after all votes are counted, the city's Board of Supervisors will certify the results. Once the results are certified in three to four weeks, the recalled commissioners must vacate their seat within 10 days.

During this process, Breed will interview potential candidates.

"In selecting new school board members, we're going to be asking a lot of very hard questions," she said. "We're going to be looking for well-rounded school board members who are focused on the schools. Who are focused on our children and their success. Who are focused on collaboration and working together. Who are focused on wanting to hear from different perspectives, whether they're in agreement with those perspectives or not."

Breed said she's been speaking with parents, as well as the United Educators of San Francisco -- the labor union representing San Francisco Unified School District teachers -- as she prepares to make her appointments.

Breed also faced questions about why Moliga --one of her fairly recent appointees -- was among those who just got recalled.

"As I'm listening to the mayor, I'm like, 'You haven't really been following my track record," said Moliga.

Moliga said Breed told him he didn't focus on issues like the ballooning budget deficit, and the mental health of students during the pandemic.

"I cannot regret my appointment of Faauuga," said Breed.

"I think the most important thing is that Mayor Breed appoints caretaker folks who are not about starting their political careers off the backs of our students," said San Francisco parent Julia Roberts-Phung.

Certifying the results, interviewing candidates and finalizing the appointments is a process expected to take a month, as the Mayor's criteria for selecting replacements will be heavily scrutinized.

"People who have more in depth knowledge of finance; talking to parents, they are concerned about the budget deficit and what that means for their children," said Breed.

"It's great when someone wants to do this as a public servant, but we don't want a patient running the hospital," said Stanford University School of Education Professor Sean Reardon.

"She said for her next appointment she needs to find someone who has a deep understanding of finance. I'm shocked that wasn't a criteria to begin with," said former San Francisco mayoral candidate Richie Greenberg.

On deck for the school board: a $125 million budget deficit partly due to a major decline in student enrollment, student learning loss during a lengthy school shutdown, and hiring a new superintendent to replace Vince Matthews, who is retiring in June.

"Parents are paying attention in San Francisco and across the state. Breed needs to pay close attention or she will pay a price," said Hoover Institution Public Policy Professor Lanhee Chen.

The recall campaign was made up of more than 1,000 volunteers that included parents, educators, and other residents. The recall effort gained support, in part, due to dissatisfaction with the prolonged closure of SFUSD schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

UESF officials on Wednesday alleged the recall effort was funded by outside sources as part of a political move. Breed denied the accusations.

"It's not about politics," she said. "We're not saying what was happening at the schools weren't important conversations to have. I definitely think renaming schools and looking at the history of some of these names is important, but the problem was clear communication around when schools would open and the process of distance learning."

She added, "This came from parents who were upset, frustrated, and stressed out, and in many cases trying to work two or three jobs to take care of their kids. Single moms and grandmothers and grandfathers. This, from my perspective, wasn't about politics."

Breed also said she disagreed with a separate June ballot initiative approved on Tuesday by the city's Board of Supervisors that would ask voters to extend the timeline in which elected officials are ineligible to be recalled from six months in office to 12 months, among other provisions related to recalls.

"I think that it's the wrong message right now," she said. "These people (recall organizers) worked really hard. This was a grassroots effort. I think people, if they have a concern with any elected leader, they should have the right to take a recall effort to the ballot. So, I think it's unfortunate."

Although UESF advocated against the recall, in a statement, UESF President Cassondra Curiel said the union will work with Breed as she makes her appointments.

"Even though billionaires and wealthy venture capitalists poured almost $2 million into the recall campaign, San Francisco voters have consistently supported public schools and expressed great admiration for our public educators. We expect any appointments to be as committed as we are to the quality public education all our students deserve. We should all be laser-focused on making our schools a place where all students thrive and teachers want to teach," Curiel said. "These are big shoes to fill, and they will be responsible for determining how much our schools will gain or lose, what programs will be saved or lost, and how these decisions will affect our students and their education."

The recall comes as the district is facing a budget shortfall of more than $100 million for the next fiscal year, prompting intervention by the California Department of Education.

Kenny Choi contributed to this story.

© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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