OAKLAND -- With efforts under way to recall Oakland's mayor, another group has launched a similar campaign, targeting five of the seven Oakland school board members.
Angered by a recent decision to close five elementary schools, the Concerned Parents and Community Coalition aims to oust the five board members who voted in favor of the closure proposal: Jody London (District 1), David Kakishiba (District 2), Jumoke Hinton Hodge (District 3), Gary Yee (District 4) and Chris Dobbins (District 6).
"We need to recall all the school board members who want to close the schools," said Rob Rooke, whose children attend Maxwell Park Elementary, scheduled for closure in June.
The coalition will need to gather signatures in each of the trustees' districts to qualify the recall initiative for a 2012 ballot. It won't be an easy task.
State election code, which the city of Oakland uses for recall elections, will require the recall proponents to collect signatures from 20 percent of the registered voters in each district -- the state's threshold for jurisdictions with 10,000 to 50,000 registered voters. For the citywide campaign to recall Mayor Jean Quan, the requirement is 10 percent, as the number of registered voters is more than 100,000.
That means in District 1 (North Oakland) alone, roughly 8,000 of the 40,000 registered voters would need to sign the petition. In all, the petitioners would need to come up with 31,300 valid signatures total from districts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 -- 11,400 more than are needed for Quan's recall measure. "It is a large amount of signatures to get," said Joel Velasquez, a Lakeview Elementary parent who is one of the organizers. Velasquez said he expected the success of each petition will vary by district and community sentiment.
London, the school board president, and Hinton Hodge are up for re-election in 2012. The terms of Alice Spearman and Noel Gallo -- who voted against the closures in October and were not named in the recall initiative -- also end next year.
In 2001, Emeryville voters recalled three at-large school board members who presided over the district during a fiscal crisis and subsequent state takeover. In 2009, some Alameda citizens launched a recall campaign against board members in that school district who voted to approve curriculum designed to curb anti-gay bullying. They dropped the effort several months later.
"It's tough to get recalled," Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald said. "It requires a lot of work."
At an Oakland school board meeting Wednesday, the coalition served the officials with notice of its intent. Some parents said they didn't feel represented by their respective board members. Others said the recent round of closures -- and the prospect of more to come -- has created a sense of instability in the city's public education system.
Superintendent Tony Smith has said the district operates too many schools for its 38,000 students. This year, the district closed or merged about a dozen schools, including some of its small high schools that share a campus. Lakeview, Lazear, Marshall, Maxwell Park and Santa Fe elementary schools are slated to close in June. But OUSD's shrinking pains might not be over; Smith has said that the restructuring process would likely take years to complete.
Velasquez said the coalition has some replacement candidates in mind but that it is not ready to name them. If any of the recall measures do appear on a future ballot, candidates would enter the race in the same way they would in a regularly scheduled election, Macdonald said.
Troy Flint, a spokesman for the school district, said he understood the families' anger and respected their fight to keep their schools open. He said that no one wanted to close schools, but that it was "what the current reality requires."
"I think the board members acted with the best interest of OUSD in mind, at personal risk, and there's some honor in that," he said.
Read Katy Murphy's Oakland schools blog at www.IBAbuzz.com/education.
Those who aim to recall five Oakland school board members will need to collect signatures from 20 percent of the registered voters. That's far more than is required for the mayoral recall measure, which has a 10 percent threshold because it's a larger jurisdiction. Estimated number of signatures required, by district:
District 1: 8,000 voter signatures
District 2: 4,900 voter signatures
District 3: 6,600 voter signatures
District 4: 6,800 voter signatures
District 6: 5,000 voter signatures
Total number: 31,300 signatures
Online: Learn about recalls. Go to www.sos.ca.gov/elections/recall.pdf.