A coalition of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District stakeholders are formally opposing the effort to recall SMMUSD school board members Jon Kean, Laurie Lieberman, Maria Leon-Vazquez and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein.
Co-chaired by former Santa Monica Councilmember Ted Winterer, Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association Vice President Claudia Bautista-Nicolas and parent activist Nicole Faries, the Stop the SMMUSD Recall campaign hopes to educate voters on the deeds of the local School Board and why the recall, which they described as cynical Monday, is really occurring.
“Our schools are among the top 2% in the entire nation – largely due to the high-quality student experience, collaborative culture, and forward-thinking fostered by the school board members targeted for recall,” said campaign co-chair Nicole Faries. “From Rep Ted Lieu and Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich, to the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association and Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, our coalition has come together to protect excellence and equity in our schools.”
Faries and her peers added a recall could cost taxpayers nearly $750,000 if it qualifies for the ballot, which she feels is quite costly for a district in the midst of a pandemic.
Recall SMMUSD leaders did not respond to a request for comment Monday and their website hasn’t posted a new notice since April 25, a week after the Los Angeles County Office of Education’s Committee on School District Organization held a public hearing on unification.
The group originally filed four Notices of Intention to Circulate Recall Petitions in late March, but their efforts were derailed shortly after Attorney Joseph Pertel sent letters to the County on behalf of Lieberman, Vazquez, Kean and Tahvildaran-Jesswein saying the Notices lacked the required number of signatures.
In a response, the Registrar’s office said it had sent proponents a recall guide document (available online at https://lavote.net/publications) and that according to election code the minimum number of signatures required is 10 or equal to the number of signatures required to have been filed on the nomination paper of the officer sought to be recalled, whichever is higher. That threshold for Lieberman and Tahvildaran-Jesswein is 100 as that was the number required for nomination when they were elected in 2018.
However, the nomination requirements were reduced in the 2020 race due to pandemic and only 30 signatures are required for the recall petition targeting Kean or Vazquez.
At that time, the recall campaign said if their petitions were in error, then they would gather the additional signatures and resubmit.
Faries said the ball is on the other side’s court until then, but she and her peers will not stop fighting until they know their SMMUSD board members are safe.
“We are determined to stop this malicious, intentionally deceptive and outrageously false recall campaign mounted by a small group with personal grievances and agendas who are attempting to delegitimize our democratic electoral process,” Faries said, describing the recall attempt as a delegitimation of the election process.
Faries also took issue with the alleged deceptions put forward by recall proponents, which she said is depicted in the misrepresentation of a quote by Dr. Pedro Noguera, Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, who has worked with the Board.
The recallSMMUSD.org site prominently displays on the quote on its front page. But Noguera, an opponent of the recall, said this week in a news release that SMMUSD School Board continues to implement his recommendations and make steady progress toward the goal of achieving excellence through equity for all students.
“The attempt to recall four hard working public officials must be seen for what it is: a frivolous diversion from the very real challenges facing the district: recovery from the pandemic and maintaining focus on providing all students with an equitable and quality education,” he said.