A South County teachers union is siding with three Lucia Mar Unified School District board members who are facing the threat of a recall election for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to community members on May 5, Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association President Cody King called the recall effort a "witch hunt" that would only succeed in wasting taxpayer dollars.
- File Photo By Kasey Bubnash
- 'ENOUGH IS ENOUGH' At a rally outside the Lucia Mar Unified School District office on May 4, Michael Mulder, vice president of Central Coast Families for Education Reform, announced plans to recall three of the district's board members.
"Through this global pandemic the entire board has worked together to increase services for students and families while keeping students, staff, and the community safe," King wrote in the letter. "Everyone in education—from parents, teachers, classified staff, and all the way up to school board members—has put in a tremendous amount of sweat and tears to provide the best educational opportunities for students under tough circumstances."
Central Coast Families for Education Reform is a group of parents and community members that coalesced about six months ago with the shared goal of jump-starting school sports amid pandemic-induced closures. At a rally on May 4, the group announced plans to recall Colleen Martin, Dee Santos, and Donald Stewart, three Lucia Mar board members who Central Coast Families said failed to advocate for earlier returns to in-person learning.
But King, a physical education teacher at Nipomo High School, said Lucia Mar's board can't be blamed for the impacts of stay-at-home orders, school closures, and other safety regulations that were in effect for months throughout the county and state.
"A lot of these parents talk about student needs, and it costs money to pay for services," King told New Times, adding that a recall election would cost the district an estimated $350,000. "Spending a bunch of money on a special election doesn't seem like a good use of those resources."
Board members faced unparalleled circumstances this school year, King said, requiring them to take the safety of students, staff, faculty, and the whole community into consideration. While many parents wanted their kids back in school earlier on in the pandemic, others didn't. The same goes for teachers and staff.
At the May 4 Central Coast Families rally, several parents said the Lucia Mar Teachers Association played a major role in the board's decisions regarding distance learning. Some insinuated that teachers prefer the ease of working from home.
Although the Teachers Association did push for a slower return to in-person classes, King said that was due strictly to safety concerns. The union represents around 500 teachers and specialist staff, many who have health conditions that put them at a higher risk of serious illness or even death due to COVID-19. Just like students, some teachers also live with elderly or high-risk family members.
"We've really advocated for teachers to have the right to a safe work space," King said.
Still, Central Coast Families claims that the board members in question could have done more to get students back into their classrooms sooner, and the recall effort is gaining support.
As of May 12, the Central Coast Families for Education Reform had 972 members on Facebook. Shannon Galvan, president of the group, said 100 volunteers signed up to help petition in the first three days the group's website was live. Now they have around 130 volunteers, she said.
"We are currently working with the county Elections Office to get our petitions approved," Galvan wrote in an email. "Once everything is signed off, we will begin gathering signatures. We will have 160 days to collect approximately 8,300 valid signatures. Depending on the Elections Office, we anticipate beginning that process in two to three weeks." Δ