NEWARK -- Now that an embattled school board member has resigned and another will not seek re-election, Ray Rodriguez is the next trustee that angry community members have set their sights on.
Rodriguez was one of two school board members served with recall papers nearly two weeks ago, as some Newark residents continue to blame him and other trustees for chasing away popular ex-Superintendent Dave Marken.
Gary Stadler resigned the next day, but Rodriguez says his role in the controversy has been misunderstood and he's not quitting.
Rodriguez said the recall move shocked him because public criticism of the board had centered on three trustees -- Stadler, Charlie Mensinger and Nancy Thomas.
"I was never involved in any of that at all," Rodriguez said. "It's kind of crazy, but that's where we are."
Some district employees last month had demanded Stadler's resignation, and told Mensinger and Thomas not seek re-election this fall. Mensinger has said he will not run but Thomas is seeking a fourth term. She is one of four candidates vying for two open board seats.
Rodriguez -- a candidate for mayor of Newark in the November election, -- says he will stay on the board and in the mayoral race.
Rodriguez said in an interview Friday that he had asked Marken to rescind his resignation.
But Jim Lola, a longtime Newark resident who is leading the recall campaign, said that Rodriguez ired Marken's supporters because he could have done much more to keep the superintendent on the job.
"Marken was moving the school district in such a good direction," Lola said, "And, now, with all the foolishness these guys (on the school board) have done, it is sliding."
Lola also points to an Aug. 9 meeting at the Silliman Center, when Rodriguez joined Stadler and Mensinger in rejecting Marken's offer to rescind his resignation. The board's five members refused at first to report how they voted and did so only after some had accused them of violating laws on open government.
"We believe (Rodriguez) has broken the Brown Act," Lola said.
Rodriguez, who participated in that meeting by phone, denies violating the state's open government laws. He also blames board President Nancy Thomas for not listening to his request to delay the vote on Marken's offer until after the trustees had interviewed superintendent candidate Donald Gill.
When Gill, Antioch's superintendent of schools, later withdrew from consideration, Newark's board promoted Tim Erwin as interim superintendent.
"If (Thomas) had not put Marken's offer to rescind on the same agenda (as the superintendent interview), then I would have voted to accept him rescinding at a later meeting and Marken would still have been our superintendent," Rodriguez said.
He also has said he might not have fully understood the issue when he voted to reject Marken's offer.
"When you're on a conference call, you don't always have the to and fro, so you miss a lot," Rodriguez said. "I might have lost something, so I asked for us to come back and have a further conversation about that in our next closed session."
Once Lola and the coalition of Newark parent groups leading the recall get the county registrar's OK, they will have 120 days to gather around 3,000 signatures on recall petitions. But they hope to submit the signatures much sooner to get it on the November ballot, Lola said.
"This is a grass-roots group of parents and some retirees in the community who are saying enough's enough," he said. "They're saying we're tired of this, and it's time to take back our schools."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.