A second Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petitions has been filed in the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office against Santa Monica School Board Member Laurie Lieberman, but the longtime trustee said Wednesday that the document includes little more than false and misleading information.
Recall proponents originally filed four Notices of Intention to Circulate Recall Petitions in late March against Lieberman and her fellow SMMUSD board members Maria Leon Vazquez, Jon Kean and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein. The notices alleged instances of retaliation and other acts, but recall proponents’ efforts were derailed when County officials said they were unable to certify the documents since they lacked the necessary number of signatures.
In the weeks since, RecallSMMUSD leaders have remained mum on the situation while they continue to write blog posts that take aim at the decisions made by the local school board. On Monday, the Pico Neighborhood Association hosted a Zoom meeting that featured appearances from Kevin Shenkman, Maria Loya and Contra Costa County Board of Education Member Anamarie Avila Farias, who spoke extensively about similar problems she has seen in her area.
Recall opponents characterized the discussion as “Trumpian” and said RecallSMMUSD officials are being agitators to force a change of position on several issues, like the demolition of the history building and Malibu unification.
Lieberman had similar remarks about the notice she received in the mail on Friday.
“The recall proponents are legitimizing and creating a toxic local culture by employing mean-spirited and dishonest tactics that gained ground nationally during the Trump presidency,” Lieberman said. “Leaders of the recall are driven by the desire to punish existing Board members with whom they have personal, policy or political disagreements and to squeeze the School Board into changing decisions that have been made thoughtfully but with which certain people disagree.”
Lieberman also accused recall proponents of abusing a democratic process and took issue with the deliberate misrepresentation of School Board actions through the use of “alternative facts and snippets of misinformation without context.”
“Elections exist so that we can all vote for those who we think will or are already doing a good job and to vote out those who we believe are not doing the job we want them to do,” Lieberman said. “I stand behind my accomplishments while on the School Board; I have received the highest number of votes for School Board in the three elections in which I have run. I am honored to serve my community and our school district. I have served honestly and diligently. I have done nothing that justifies a recall.”
A coalition of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District stakeholders formally opposing the effort to recall SMMUSD school board members agreed with Lieberman’s sentiments during a conversation earlier this week.
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 Nicole Faries, a campaign co-chair of the Stop the SMMUSD Recall campaign. “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 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.
“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.
RecallSMMUSD officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.