signatures required to force a recall of the four senior Morgan
Hill School Board trustees, a special election would cost upwards
If CARE members are successful in gathering the more than 5,000 signatures required to force a recall of the four senior Morgan Hill School Board trustees, a special election would cost upwards of $300,000.
Board President George Panos and Trustees Jan Masuda, Del Foster and Tom Kinoshita were mailed the most recent recall notices on Jan. 29.
CARE, or Community Alliance for Responsible Education, prepared the recall notices. CARE was formed last year to remedy what members perceived were grave problems within the Morgan Hill School District, including alleged financial mismanagement, a deteriorating relationship with employees of the district and a failure by the four trustees to represent their electorate.
Three of the four trustees that have been targeted for recall are up for election in November. The filing period for candidates in that election begins in July. Foster, Masuda and Panos were elected in 2000. Kinoshita was re-elected in 2002.
When the trustees were first served notices, estimates for a special election, which would be necessary if enough signatures were gathered on the petition because the deadline for the March 2 election had passed, put the cost to the district at approximately $30,000. Months later, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters office, the cost is estimated to be roughly $283,345, or $10 per registered voter.
If there are fewer than 100,000 registered voters eligible to vote in an election, the cost is automatically $10 per voter. As of Thursday, the Registrar of Voters lists 28,345 voters in the district, which stretches from San Martin into south San Jose, but that number can change daily and is predicted to be higher than 30,000 by the November election.
If recall supporters gather enough signatures to force the election, the district would have to pay election expenses from the general fund.
“We knew the rate had gone up, but we still are moving forward; the issues still remain the same,” said Victoria Battison, spokeswoman for CARE. “The $300,000 is still less than one half of 1 percent of the School District budget and pales in comparison to the money these trustees have wasted so far.
“The cost of the special election is not trivial, and this recall is not a trivial manner. The cost weighs heavily on our conscience, but we do have a conscience, and we cannot allow the waste to continue.”
Board President Panos described the recall attempt as fiscally irresponsible.
“What is most disturbing about it is that, if placed on a special election ballot within a few months, it can cost our schools, our children, well over $318,000 according to the Registrar of Voters,” Panos said Thursday.
“This is no smoking gun,” Panos said. “The fallout will be a toxic cloud seeping into every classroom and falling across every playing field, every home and school club and every activity booster gathering. These moneys could fund Live Oak varsity sports for 10 years – a generation of children.
“How many teachers can we hire for that amount of money? How many custodians, librarians and groundskeepers? How many bake sales does each school need to host to make up the lost revenue?”
Battison said the four senior board members have demonstrated poor decision-making in curriculum and academic matters, in the bonuses given to administrators and in construction projects, and have mismanaged taxpayer money.
“We cannot allow this to continue because they are costing us in dollars far more than the recall election,” she said. “Equally importantly is the negative effect on our students and their future. Their futures are at stake and the poor academic decisions and the environment in the schools is detrimental to learning.”
The current audit of the district, Battison said, could assist CARE’s recall efforts, particularly if there is some germination of wrongdoing.
CARE is not yet collecting signatures on a recall petition, Battison said.
“At this point, we are awaiting approval of the petition from the Registrar of Voters,” she said. “It could be as soon as two weeks. They have extremely strict guidelines regarding their rules and regulations for filing. Approval could be denied for something as basic as incorrect margin size. We are being as careful as we can, but this is the first time any of us have done this.”
Once the petition has been approved, she said, the group’s web site should be available, and interested voters can download the petition from the web site.
“There are givers and takers in every community,” Panos said. “Why not help raise $300,000 for classrooms, music, sports, a playground at San Martin School and the Teacher’s Aid Coalition instead of taking from the parents who work so very hard to raise funds for their children.
“This recall effort is without merit. Some of the so-called accusations against me can be dismissed outright since I was not even in office when the activities took place.
“But politics aside, this is foolish as the filing period for new candidates in the November general election for school board is within five months.
“I continue to encourage all qualified candidates with a healthy attitude to run for office – get out there and campaign and debate like I did nearly four years ago, not hijack the November election by trying to get appointed before that time. There are a little over a dozen meetings remaining for me as board president. I wish to fulfill my commitment to the voters and complete my remaining days in elected office.
“I urge my neighbors and fellow citizens to please decline to sign recall petitions and challenge the petitioners to walk the talk of truly helping our district build educational greatness in these lean economic times.”
The trustees were first served with notices at the beginning of the Dec. 15 School Board meeting. Once the petition went to the registrar of voters, one of the original 10 signatures, required to serve the notices, was discovered to be invalid, so CARE prepared a second notice with valid signatures.