Organizers prepare to turn in signatures to recall WSCUHSD trustees

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, August 25, 2021

recall wscuhsd

Pictured from left, Amy-Beth Gellett, Ame Nultemeier and Mackenzie Nultemeier ask people to sign the recall petitions on Aug. 18, 2021. (Photo Camille Escovedo)

UPDATE:  The recall effort failed when Registrar of Voters Deva Proto announced that organizers had gathered only 3,084 instead of the required 7,187 to recall one board member. That number fell far short of the number needed to recall two members: 14,374.

The last days of signature-gathering to recall the West Sonoma County Union High School District’s (WSCUHSD) board president and vice president have arrived, due Saturday, Aug. 28, according to Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Deva Marie Proto.

Recall proponents have had 120 days to collect the signatures of 20% of the school district’s registered voters, she said, meaning 7,187 valid signatures for each trustee they seek to remove from office.

Last March, district community members leapt into action to recall the three trustees who voted to uphold the consolidation of Analy High School and El Molino High School. Since then, former trustee Laurie Fadave resigned, leaving Board President Kellie Noe and Vice Board President Jeanne Fernandes in their sights.

Tasha Mattison, a recall committee leader, said their target is 9,000 signatures per trustee to cover for any signatures that may get thrown out. She said she didn’t know the exact numbers collected so far, “But I can say we are on track to meeting our goal,” Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 24.

Recall supporters plan to set up a table for last-chance signatures at the board’s first meeting back in person this Wednesday evening, Aug. 25. Two medical emergencies among trustees forced the board to reschedule the meeting planned for Wednesday, Aug. 18 to this week.

“We are expecting everybody to turn in their signatures by tomorrow night and have them in to the Registrar of Voters Office Thursday morning,” Mattison said.

If the count is enough to set recall elections in motion, Mattison said she couldn’t say without a doubt that the trustees would be succeeded by candidates from the lower Russian River area. The recall committee hopes at least one person from the region takes a seat, she added.

“We are putting some candidates forward and having them gear up to run,” Mattison said. “I can share that they do have experience with being on a board, a school board of some sort, and the experience they will bring will help them make the right decision for our kids.”

Mattison continued, “It’s not just recalling the two board members who voted for consolidation, it’s the fact they’ve been mismanaging the money for years and it’s time to get some new representation in there that’s going to be for the kids.”

Recall supporters from the Analy and El Molino communities have become allies in removing the trustees out of the shared frustrations and views that the board members aren’t prioritizing students, particularly those hailing from the lower Russian River area, the recall leader said.

The Registrar of Voters estimated her office may take up to the full 30 business days allotted to check the validity of all the petition signatures or close to it because they’re also checking signatures for the governor recall election.

If the petitions have enough valid signatures, the Registrar of Voters Office would certify them as sufficient, at which point a recall election must go forward. The election date depends on how long it takes the office to certify to the WSCUHSD board at its next regular meeting and how long the board takes to call the election, Proto said.

Once the board orders the elections, they must occur within 88 to 125 days from then. “It has to be at least 88 days because they need a period of nomination, but if they wanted to push it out further, it could be closer to 125 days afterwards.”

The nomination period for runners-up to file for candidacy and put forward statements for the voter information guide depends on when the elections are scheduled for, since that time period for the nominees closes 75 days before the elections.

The voting itself would work the same way the recall voting works concerning the governor and District Attorney Jill Ravitch, according to Proto, where citizens are asked to vote on whether to recall the official at all and then which candidate to replace them if the majority of voters do choose to recall the official.

“Generally, people will answer both, but we will tally their choices regardless of how they vote on the other question,” she said. If more than 50% vote to remove the official, then they will be recalled and the candidate with the most votes replaces the official, regardless of whether that person has over 50% of votes.

In other words, if enough people vote to remove the incumbent, a successor can be elected by default and not by majority, according to Proto.

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