SMMUSD District Parents Launch Recall Effort for Four Board Members

School district parents have announced a recall effort to oust four of Santa Monica-Malibu’s seven school board members, but don’t worry, Malibuites: Malibu’s sole representative on the Santa Monica-dominated school board, Craig Foster, is not the target of the recall effort. Those people are Laurie Lieberman, Maria Leon-Vasquez, Jon Kean and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, four Santa Monica-based board members who have served various tenures on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District school board, including, in Leon-Vazquez’s case, 20 years. 

“Santa Monica and Malibu public schools have been mismanaged for years. The current pandemic has revealed the complete lack of leadership from the school board,” the recall effort’s website declares. The website says that the recall is being spearheaded by Santa Monica and Malibu parents. 

“There are only two logical conclusions that can be drawn from the complete failures of the SMMUSD School Board: A) corruption or B) bross incompetence,” the website continues. “Either way, it’s time for new leadership.”

An accompanying press release alleges that the four school board members have focused on real estate purchases, construction projects and fighting parents’ lawsuits throughout their time on the SMMUSD school board. Other complaints include alleged Brown Act violations.

Kean denied the allegations to The Santa Monica Mirror, calling the recall campaign “fraudulent.”

“The people truly behind the effort have purposely kept their names off of the petition and deliberately put misinformed parents out front as proxies to hide their own nefarious motives,” he said. Lieberman and Tahvildaran-Jesswein also characterized the recall campaign as false and mean-spirited, while Leon-Vazquez has not commented. 

A recall would require collecting signatures, getting those signatures verified by the county, then circulating an official recall petition. If that petition gains 15 percent of registered SMMUSD voters’ signatures (around 12,500 people), a special election will be held to vote on whether or not SMMUSD should keep Lieberman, Leon-Vazquez, Kean and Tahvildaran-Jesswein on the school board or replace them. 

According to the press release, the recall effort has completed that first step. The signatures are in the hands of the county, which is working to verify them. Recall effort organizers would then have 160 days after the county’s approval to collect those 12,500 signatures.

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