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Centinela Valley Union High School District recall, California (2015)

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An effort to recall Hugo Rojas, Rocio Pizano and Maritza Molina from their positions on the Centinela Valley Union High School District board in California was officially underway as of January 2015.[1]

The effort began in February 2014 after it was revealed that the school board had approved a compensation package of over $750,000 for then-Superintendent Jose Fernandez in 2013.[2] Kevin Schaaf and Phuong Nguyen have been the primary leaders of the recall effort.[3]

Recall supporters initially considered seeking the recall of a fourth board member, Gloria Ramos, but reconsidered as Ramos is up for regular election in November 2015. The next regular election fro Molina, Pizano and Rojas is scheduled for November 2017.[1]

Recall supporter arguments

Supporters of recalling the majority of the school board are upset about Superintendent Jose Fernandez's compensation package. Fernandez earned total compensation of over $750,000 in 2013 compared to $350,000 for Jon Deasy, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Critics of Fernandez and the board believe that the compensation was excessive for a district with 6,500 students at four high schools.[1][2]

Schaaf and Nguyen, a married couple, consider the board to be the responsible party for allowing Fernandez's high compensation. Schaaf said of the situation,

I was initially outraged at Mr. Fernandez, but I then realized he was only part of the problem. The people who have the responsibility are the board members. They are the boss in the situation. They need to be the ones who are saying, "No, that’s not a reasonable amount of money to pay you."[4]

—Kevin Schaaf, (2014)[3]

In February 2015, the local teacher's union announced its support for the recall effort. Some speculated that the decision to back the recall has led to stagnation in the contract negotiations between the board and the union. The two negotiated over six months, and an agreement was reached in early March 2015. It was ratified by the teachers union, and the school board was supposed to vote on the matter at its meeting on March 9, 2015. On the Friday before the meeting, the issue was pulled from the agenda.[5] Some accused the board of removing the issue from the agenda as retribution for the union's support of the recall effort. Board President Hugo Rojas, however, stated that the issue was delayed because he needed to be briefed on the contracts. The contract deal was ultimately approved by the board later in March. However, the teacher's union reiterated their support for the recall effort. Union President Jack Foreman stated, "We’re glad they finally did the right thing and ratified it, but this didn’t change anybody’s mind."[6]

New superintendent controversy

On March 10, 2015, the school board choose Oxnard Union High School District Assistant Superintendent Gregory O’Brien to take Fernandez's place as district superintendent. His contract represented a significant decrease from the compensation Fernandez received. In addition to an annual salary of $205,000 with automatic 9 percent annual increases, the contract ties most of his other benefits to those of the district's other administrators. His contract is for a 224-day work year with 24 vacation days and 12 days of sick time.[7]

O'Brien's appointment received unanimous approval from the board but strong dissent from the local teacher's union. The union had advocated for the appointment of Assistant Superintendent Allan Mucerino to whom they attributed the district's successes since the removal of O'Brien. Jack Foreman, president of the union, said of the school board, "Had they come to our schools, they would have known that (Mucerino) had overwhelming support, not just from teachers, but from students. That just doesn’t happen."[7]

Some members of the board stated that they were not made aware of the strong support for Mucerino, saying that Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the firm hired to conduct the search, did not mention it. Board member Maritza Molina stated, "I would have really liked to have had all this information two months ago,” to which teachers in attendance shouted, "You did." Foreman responded to Molina's claim saying, "Then this search firm didn’t do their job. I am just so disgusted with how the superintendent search was done." It was reported that one board member, Gloria Ramos, had received emails supporting Mucerino, but no other board members reported receiving those emails.[8]

Secretary for the union Tamisha Brame reiterated the group's call for board members to resign, saying:

Our district has suffered enough. We cannot stand anymore misappropriation of funds, anymore poor management, anymore lack of responsibility — blaming Jose Fernandez, blaming the search firm. What are you doing to earn the trust of the community? If you don’t have answers, I urge you to step down now.[4]

—Tamisha Brame, (2015)[8]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing recall in California

Recall supporters had to first submit a Notice of Intent with the Los Angeles County Clerk that included ballot language. The clerk then provided a seven-day window for recall targets to submit responses that appear on the ballot if an election is scheduled. Petitioners must submit signatures equal to 15 percent of registered voters in the district as determined by the clerk's office.[9][3]

Proponents must gather almost 9,000 valid signatures for each of the three board member they are seeking to recall by June 29, 2015. According to the Daily Breeze, fewer than 6,000 people voted in the district's 2011 election and the 2013 election was cancelled as all of the incumbents running for re-election were unopposed.

The most recent effort is an intention to petition that was served to the board by Kevin Schaaf and Phuong Nguyen on August 12, 2014, and would recall Maritza Molina, Rocio Pizano and Hugo Rojas. Supporters submitted a corrected format petition to recall the three board members on November 15, 2014.[10]

Recent news

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