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Lucia Mar school board recall campaign fails 

Three board members of San Luis Obispo County's largest school district prevailed over recall efforts on Nov. 5, ending a 160-day tussle marked by mask debates, dirt-filled petition envelopes, and even a "freeway chase."

But recall organizers said they're not giving up.

"We're going to continue fighting for kids in our district. Hopefully, we'll be able to replace them ... and get them to do the right thing," said Shannon Galvan, president of Central Coast Families for Education Reform (CCFER).

CCFER started the recall campaign in early June to replace three of the seven Lucia Mar Unified School District (LMUSD) board members—Don Stewart, Colleen Martin, and Dee Santos.

click to enlarge TROUBLED TIMES Beginning early in the summer, the Central Coast Families for Education Reform had 160 days to collect almost 25,000 signatures to spark a recall election against Lucia Mar's school board. - FILE PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH
  • File Photo By Kasey Bubnash
  • TROUBLED TIMES Beginning early in the summer, the Central Coast Families for Education Reform had 160 days to collect almost 25,000 signatures to spark a recall election against Lucia Mar's school board.

In order to spark a recall election, their petition needed 8,302 signatures for each board member from registered voters in LMUSD. They had to be turned in by 5 p.m. on Nov. 4. Galvan told New Times that they collected roughly 6,000 signatures for each of the three. She expects the final count to be lower once the county clerk-recorder ratifies the signatures after 30 business days.

CCFER organized the campaign because of the three board members' vocal disagreement with resuming in-person classes in early 2021. The organization claimed that the online education model negatively impacted student grades. CCFER also opposed the board's decision to conduct public meetings on Zoom.

On Nov. 2, the LMUSD board approved to meet virtually for another month, after anticipating a spike in COVID-19 infections because of the holiday season.

"Trying to offer public comment on Zoom is a nightmare," Galvan said. "If you're like me, and they see your name, they can remove you from the meeting room and won't let you comment at all."

In an email to media outlets, CCFER hinted at other issues it had with some of the board members.

"Over the last six months, our community has been made aware of the unprofessional conduct by many of our board members, and we have an opportunity to run a campaign against each board member up for election in 2022," the email read.

Galvan said that in spite of citing compromised health at the Nov. 2 meeting to approve virtual meetings, recall candidate Martin organized a party at her house three days later and advertised it on Facebook.

"I mean, yes, the party was celebrating the end of the recall and whether it went to the ballot or not, we would have a party. I'm a private citizen, everyone who came to my home was vaccinated, and we had a party out in the backyard," Martin told New Times. "But only vaccinated people are invited, unlike the group that wants us to open our meeting—CCFER and others. Many of them are unvaccinated and many of them refuse to wear masks."

Galvan added that Martin also encouraged people on Facebook to send back empty petition envelopes when they arrived in community mailboxes.

"We got a lot of that back that ended up wasting a lot of money. They put rocks and dirt, and wrote vulgar things and sent it back," Galvan said.

CCFER had a significant chunk of funds to spend thanks to generous donations from their supporters. According to county finance reports, the organization raked in almost $30,000, which it spent on promotional materials and postage. Lucia Mar Forward, the LMUSD-support group that rallied against the recall, received a little more than $6,000 in donations. Martin told New Times that the leftover amount would be donated to the school district.

In the lead-up to the recall petition deadline, CCFER received a video from a concerned Oceano resident about a confrontation with LMUSD board member Vicki Meagher. In the video, the Area 2 trustee said that she followed a driver in her car to talk with him after he gestured a thumbs down when he saw the large "Lucia Mar Forward No Recall" sign on the back of her car. Galvan said Meagher chased him on the freeway from Los Osos Valley Road to his neighborhood in Oceano.

"We did not attempt to recall Vicki Meagher, but she totally should have been," she said. "If I chased a board member and followed them to their house, I would be arrested. This is outrageous behavior."

Now, LMUSD is preparing to find a replacement for board member Vern Dahl who died on Oct. 30. They have 60 days to fill the vacancy. CCFER, meanwhile, is hoping more people will run against the board members in the next election.

"It's not the recall committee's place to say who can run," Galvan said. "Our role is to support, promote, and help them replace the current board members." Δ

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