Tehachapi Unified School District board recall, California (March 2010)

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A vote about whether to recall 3 school board members of the Tehachapi Unified School District took place on March 9, 2010. All three school board members retained their seats in the election.[1] Board president Mary Graham and Board members Patty Snyder and Holly Hart were the targets of the recall effort.

The election was administered by Kern County election officials.[2]

Election results

Mary Graham

Should Mary Graham be recalled?
Defeatedd No2,91854.42%
Yes 2,444 45.58%

Holly Hart

Should Holly Hart be recalled?
Defeatedd No2,84652.97%
Yes 2,527 47.03%

Patty Snyder

Should Patty Snyder be recalled?
Defeatedd No2,94654.94%
Yes 2,416 45.06%
These final, certified, results are from the Kern County elections office.

Potential replacements

Chris Duff ran for the seat that would have become vacant is Mary Graham had been recalled. Diane Peterson ran for Patty Snyder's seat. Chuck Hansen ran for the seat held by Holly Hart.[3]

Recall timeline

Personnel decision

In March 2009, Jacobsen Middle School principal Eric Triguiero was demoted, and "no reason from the school board was given to the public."[4]

Earlier, in February 2009, the school board discussed administrative personnel in “Closed Session.” No action was taken until March 3, 2009, when Board member Judy Walsh made a motion to transfer administrators. Walsh’s motion, to transfer Trigueiro from the middle school to another school in the district, was unanimously passed by the Board.[5][6]

On March 10, 2009, the Board was informed that a transfer was not possible. The Board of Trustees then voted, by a count of 4 to 3, to reassign Triguiero, an administrative employee, from his position as principal to a position as a classroom teacher; at the advice of counsel the individual votes were listed:

  • Holly Hart: Yes
  • Mary Graham: Yes
  • David Shacklock: No
  • Patty Snyder: Yes
  • Judy Walsh: No
  • Gary Warner: Yes
  • Jackie Wood: No.[2]

District Superintendent Dr. Richard Swanson said that the principal’s demotion was due to "a change in philosophy."

Legally, board members cannot comment on items that are discussed in closed sessions. However, recall proponents blame Trigueiro’s demotion on claims said to have been made by teachers, parents, students, and union representatives that the principal:

  • Used the school's intercom system to an extent that it disrupted classroom instruction.
  • Called too many assemblies.
  • Did not hold students accountable for cleaning up after themselves at lunchtime.[7][8]

Start of the recall

In response to the news of his demotion, Trigueiro's supporters made their feelings known. In response, the Board held a special meeting to hear public comments and reconsider its previous decision. Almost 200 people attended the meeting.

Holding recall banners over their heads, one parent, Catherine Solange, said at the meeting: "If you had voted to open a group home for repeat sex offenders you could not have seemed more insane, more incompetent than voting to demote Eric. I have trouble believing you’re here for the kids." Solange presented the four board members who had voted to demote Trigueiro with “Notices of Intent to Recall”. When handing over the Notices of Intent, Solange summed up the group’s sentiments: "I represent Plan B. We don’t trust you."[9]

Following Solange’s presentation, the board listened to public comments from 46 people. A majority of those speaking wanted to retain the principal while others supported his demotion. "The nebulous agenda of a different philosophy and direction smells largely of rotten politics," said one parent. Several people accused four board members of "being unduly influenced by the local teacher’s union that funded their campaigns in 2006."[10][2]

Local resident and former TUSD student Steven Vogel voiced his support of the Board’s decision. "I want to commend the Board for their decision," he said. "They promised change for the school district, and they're finally making it happen." David Shaw, a local businessman spoke of parents’ concerns over teachers and administrators drawing their children into a political battle when they should be focused on state testing.[11]

The board adjourned to “Closed Session” to re-consider their decision and returned to “Open Session” to announce the decision would stand.

Following this meeting, the board corrected previous “Closed Session” minutes with a roll call vote revealing a unanimous vote to transfer Principal Eric Trigueiro from Jacobsen Middle School on March 3. These revised minutes were included in the Regular Board Meeting Minutes for May 12, 2009.[6]

The recall organizers also said they believed board members were "unduly influenced by the local teacher’s union that funded their campaigns in 2006."[2]

Reasons given for recall

Tim Trujillo, a leader in the pro-recall movement, said: “The incumbents have left such a trail of mismanagement and malfeasance in doing their job that to me, it’s a very simple decision process as long as the voter feels the replacement candidate it qualified."[4]

Grand Jury

In response to the demotion of Trigueiro, Lisa Neufeld and Elaine Taberner, 6th grade teacher Mark Gividen, Trustee Judy Walsh and three more individuals filed formal complaints with Kern County’s Grand Jury. The Grand Jury cited the Board for technical violations such as using the word “Administrator” instead of “Principal” on agendas. One Grand Jury charge concerned the lack of a 24-hour notice being given to the principal.

The board’s response to the Grand Jury report addressed the technical discrepancies between California Education Code and the Brown Act. Concerning the 24 hour notice charge, the Board gave as its opinion that notice was not required because a formal hearing concerning complaints had not taken place, disciplinary action had not been taken by the School Board, and reassignment of school administrators is at the discretion of the School Board since administrators do not gain tenure in administrative positions. One dissenting vote from the Board’s response revolved around the Grand Jury’s report finding that “Members of the Board have disclosed to non-Board members information discussed in closed sessions, in violation of the Brown Act, and the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 USC § 552(1)”.

Past controversial firing

The members of the board dealt with similar controversy in 2008, when they voted to remove Tehachapi High School assistant principal Ed Cheek. Cheek is now the principal at Barstow High School in San Bernardino County.[8]

Cost of recall

Pre-election estimates by the Kern County Elections office put the cost of a special election to recall and replace the four trustees at $150,000.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

Path to the ballot

In order to force a recall election, recall organizers had to collect 3,016 signatures.[12]

On October 27, Kern County election officials announced that their review of signatures turned in on the recall effort indicated that enough signatures had been turned in to qualify the recall elections for the ballot.[13][14][15][16][17]

See also

External links


  1. Turn to 23, "Tehachapi Voters Vote 'No' On Recall," March 10, 2010
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 TehachapiNews.com: "Recall efforts move forward," April 6, 2009 (dead link)
  3. Tehachapi News, "Three candidates apply in recall election," December 9, 2009
  4. 4.0 4.1 ABC 23 Kern, "School Board Recall Election Has 3 Official Candidates," December 11, 2009
  5. "Trigueiro supporters speak at public meeting," March 30, 2009 (dead link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tehachapi Unified School District, past minutes, (a) March 3, 2009 Special Board Meeting, TUSD Regular Board Meeting Minutes For May 12, 2009, pages 3 and 4. (b) TUSD Regular Board Meeting Minutes For May 12, 2009
  7. Bakersfieldnow.com: "Parents: Bring back Tehachapi principal," March 25, 2009
  8. 8.0 8.1 Turnto23.com: "Tehachapi School Board Upholds Decision On 'Mr. T,'" April 2, 2009
  9. Tehachapinews.com: "Trigueiro supporters speak at public meeting," March 30, 2009 (dead link)
  10. “Kids First”, Tehachapi News, Nov 7, 2006
  11. Tehachapi Unified School District, School Board Meeting Recordings
  12. Bakersfield Now, "Tehachapi school board recall rolls on," September 1, 2009
  13. Bakersfield Now, "Elections office: Tehachapi school recall has green light," October 27, 2009
  14. “Barstow school principal abruptly, officially removed, Cheek banned from campus, can only attend graduation,” Desert Dispatch, June 1, 2009
  15. Kern County Elections Department
  16. "Accusations fly at Tehachapi City Council meeting, conduct of elected officials publicly scrutinized," October 8, 2007
  17. “City Council asks Grand Jury to look into email issue,” Tehachapi News, July 14, 2008