Recall Underway for Three San Ramon School Board Members Accused of Violating Brown Act



Photo Courtesy of Eakrin Rasadonyindee from Shutterstock

Cecily Hansson, Guest writer

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board is under fire after a decision made during an online public meeting in December called for in-person hybrid classes to be postponed past the scheduled start date of Jan. 5, due to the statewide rise in coronavirus cases.

According to the news site DanvilleSanRamon, Kathleen Delaney, a parent in the SRVUSD, filed a complaint with the district stating that the school board had violated the Brown Act by not providing a “sufficient notice” of its change of plans in the Dec. 15 meeting.

“I am sincerely disappointed,” Delaney said in her complaint. “The district has been reassuring parents and students for months that it will proceed with reopening schools on Jan. 5, 2021. Then, without any notice, it reverses this decision. Do you really want this to be your legacy?”

In a conversation with The Inquirer, Rachel Hurd, the longest-working member on the school board, said the Contra Costa County Election Division had served her a recall notice based on multiple parents’ complaints filed to the board.

Hurd said the recall accused her on three counts: unwillingness to meet to discuss the date change; violation of the Brown Act, which requires government officials to conduct meetings open to the public except under extraordinary circumstances; and failure to “demonstrate financial governance and oversight” in a way that would “ensure accountability.”

Despite parents’ claims in their recall effort, Hurd said she stands by her Dec. 14 decision, made alongside other San Ramon School Board members, to postpone in-person classes in response to health risks associated with the virus.

“We were planning on opening up the very next day, but it was announced that we were going to move into the purple tier… and [we] decided to halt,” said Ken Mintz, another school board member who, along with Hurd and Susanna Ordway, faces a recall due to the decision.

“Some people will say, ‘Oh, that’s just guidance,’” Mintz added. “Well, we are seeking clarification for what rules exist for us and what we have the ability to deal with.”

Parents who support the recall have argued that science did not help the board in its decision because statistically there is a low risk of COVID-19 spreading in schools. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published guidance for how to safely open schools and advises they should be the last “settings to close after all other mitigation measures in the community [have] been employed.”

According to DanvilleSanRamon, parents spearheading the recall effort were given 120 days from Feb. 2 to collect signatures from at least 20 percent of all registered voters in each of the board members’ home trustee areas. Although children in the SRVUSD community have since returned to school, support for the recall still stands.

In defense of the school board members, a large group of SRVUSD parents have begun supporting a “No Recall” campaign. The San Ramon Valley Parent Teacher Association published a “Summary of Facts” sheet to discuss how much the recall will cost the district.

But according to the news site Patch, an organization called Parent Power SRV claimed the PTA’s fact sheet was biased and “forbidden by IRS regulations.” The PTA removed the report following the allegations, claiming their efforts were being “perceived in a political manner.”

One mother in the district, who wished to remain anonymous, said she did not support the recall because she understood that “the board had to appease the teachers’ union and the parents.”

“People aren’t informed on how parliamentary the process is. Legally, the board can’t hear you, even if they want to,” she said.

Nonetheless, the mother said parents had a right to go through with the recall, adding that economic interests also played a part.

“Everyone’s always concerned with the bottom line… the money,” she said. But, “the bottom line shouldn’t be the deciding factor. Money won’t be my deciding factor because if they’re doing something wrong, we should spend all the time and money to fix it.”

For about a month and a half, the SRVUSD has been open for hybrid learning. Mintz said that the increased availability of vaccines has greatly improved staff safety and health concerns, as well as the district’s ability to get students back in the classrooms. Hurd added that the vaccines have made parents feel more willing to send their children to school.

But for parents who support the recall, the fight is still on. Matt, a father who volunteers with Parent Power SRV, said he is all for continuing the recall effort despite the fact that his kids are back in school.

He said the inaction he saw from the board members and their lack of communication amid the pandemic forced him to support the recall as a last resort to generate change. 

“Ever since this recall has started, there has been more progress,” Matt said. “I would feel differently if this was their job, but this is a volunteer position. If you don’t want to participate, get a new hobby.”

Responding to the “No Recall” campaign’s argument about the costs of the recall, Matt said it would depend on whether or not California Governor Gavin Newsom goes up for recall as well. If Newsom has to go through with a special election, Matt said SRVUSD wouldn’t have to pay to hold their own special election because at that point the state would have to take over. 

But Hurd added that if Newsom faces no recall in the end, “the district will be in charge of paying for the entire special election.”