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Voters Rally to Oust San Francisco School Board Members in Tuesday Election

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- On Tuesday, voters will decide if three board members of the San Francisco Unified School District should be recalled. Supporters of the recall say they're sending a message that the will of the people should not be ignored.

Recall supporters lined both sides of 19th Avenue in San Francisco Saturday morning, hoping for honks, just as they're hoping for enough votes to recall SFUSD board members Gabriella Lopez, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga.

"It is true that voters put these school board members into office but I think voters are having regret," said recall coordinator Joel Engardio. "They're waking up to realizing they need to pay more attention."

Patrick Wolff, executive director of a group called Families for San Francisco, said -- like most school districts -- SFUSD did not have a very good experience with distance learning during the early stages of the pandemic.

"Our kids were at home, they were suffering from distance learning," he said. "We were watching everything on Zoom, we were working at home and we started watching very carefully and we were horrified by what we saw."

In the midst of all that, the board pressed ahead with a bizarre plan to rename dozens of schools that a citizen's panel deemed "offensive," including Abraham Lincoln and George Washington high schools.

"They were so certain they were right, they didn't care about the facts, they didn't care about the truth, they didn't care what all of us were saying and they simply plowed ahead. And they reaped the whirlwind," Wolff said.

Last year, in a failed attempt to force inclusion, the board tried to end merit-based admission at Lowell High School, one the city's highest-performing schools. That decision energized the Asian-American community to join the recall effort.

"Especially an insult to the Asian-American community, because that was squarely aimed at 'too many Asians' at Lowell," said parent Ann Hsu. "That's exactly what the sentiment is and they might as well have said it outright -- which they essentially did."

"You become somewhat of a hypocrite when you don't include people when you're feeling like you're not being included," said Bayard P. Fong, president of the Chinese American Democratic Club of San Francisco.

There may be different issues motivating them but the common sentiment among recall supporters is that they don't feel they're being listened to by elected officials. In today's volatile political atmosphere, that is a position that politicians take at their own peril.

"Across the country, we now see a considerable degree of anger and discontent on all forms of political debate," said recall supporter Michael Semler. "And the pressure to have anger -- and get response to that anger -- is really motivating a lot of people."

Voters will decide whether to recall any or all of the three board members in individual votes. The other four members of the school board had not yet served enough of their terms to be legally eligible for a recall.

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