'Priorities misplaced:' San Francisco mayor backs recall of 3 board members

Three San Francisco school board members facing a recall are responding publicly to Mayor London Breed's support of their ousting.

In an email to KTVU on Wednesday, Breed said: "I support the recall of all three San Francisco school board members" because their "priorities have often been severely misplaced" and they have been "distracted by unnecessary influences" and "political agendas."

The three board members facing a recall are San Francisco School Board President, Gabriela Lopez, Commissioner Allison Collins and School Board Vice President Faauuga Moliga.

In response to the Mayor's endorsement of the recall, Lopez said in a statement to KTVU this afternoon: "Mayor Breed's use of public schools for political gain has been evident throughout the year. Breed's actions have been more disruptive than helpful. Her support of the recall adds to these patterns of disruption and is a direct benefit to the mayor's own ability to appoint three new members."

Lopez is referring to the fact that if the recall is successful, Mayor Breed would appoint their replacements from February until the general election next year.

In response to the Mayor's support for her removal, Collins said: "Our policies are working to fix broken systems and make students safe. And we'll continue to enact them amidst the frivolous power grabbing. Such politics is tiring, transparent and actually causes more harm to our school communities."

And Moliga responded: "Pacific Islanders believe this is an attempt to recall the entire community, not just me as an office holder. We are hurt and dismayed by [Mayor Breed's] choice to support the recall."

The recall election is still months away, on February 15, but now, San Francisco leaders are beginning to weigh-in on it. Last week, San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener announced his support.

"And let’s be clear," said Breed: "San Francisco’s public school parents aren't just voicing normal, commonplace frustrations," Breed said. "Their kids have fallen far behind in their education, and they are breaking down from the mental health challenges of a pandemic, exacerbated by chaos in our public school system. And parents feel members of the Board aren't listening to them, prioritizing their kids in the classroom or trying to solve these immense problems."

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported Breed's support.

When it comes to school districts in major U.S. cities, San Francisco public schools were among the last to reopen. Middle and High School students did not return to campus in-person until Fall of 2021.

Adding to parents' frustrations was the time the board spent trying to rename more than 40 San Francisco schools - while those schools were closed for more than 18 months.

And this month, SFUSD Superintendent Vince Matthews revealed that the district has to cut $125 million dollars of spending for next year's budget in order to avoid a state takeover.

The recall effort also garnered more support when board member Collins sued the school district and her fellow board members for $87 million, which a judge tossed out in August.

Critics meanwhile, say the recall is funded by billionaires. They add that it's not worth spending money on a recall now when voters can have a say in a regular election in November.

"Having an election in an unusual time will mean that fewer San Franciscans will have their voices heard," said Julie Roberts-Phung, one of the organizers with the "No School Board Recall" campaign.

Speaking about the 18+ months most SFUSD schools remained closed, Roberts-Phung, who has two children in SFUSD elementary schools said: "I personally feel like we did the right thing in San Francisco. When our students did come back in-person, it was done safely."

Recall supporters like co-organizer Siva Raj said a year is too long to wait for changes in leadership.

"One year is an enormously long time in the life of a 9 yr old," Raj said. He has a 4th grader and a child in high school at SFUSD.

"Our children have lost over one and a half years of their education. We are spiraling from crisis to crisis and the school board has not even acknowledged the level of harm."

In her support for the recall, Breed made clear she hopes that change will come.

"As a proud graduate of San Francisco's public schools," she said, "it pains me to hear of families who are leaving the district because they have lost confidence in the leadership of this Board, or who wish they could but cannot financially afford private school."