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Lucia Mar Unified School District parents seek the recall of three school board members

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Posted at 11:18 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 16:42:53-04

UPDATE (May 5, 2021) - Don Stewart, Colleen Martin, and Dee Santos, the three Lucia Mar Unified School District Board Trustees who are the subject of a recall effort by a group of parents, issued a joint statement on Wednesday saying, in part:

"Student success and the health and safety of our students and staff have guided every decision made unanimously by the seven members of the elected Board of Education. The District followed the legally required State and County guidelines. We reopened classrooms and campuses as quickly as allowable while prioritizing keeping our students, families, and staff healthy, safe and alive. We are full of gratitude for our community’s resilience, especially our students’, who patiently and gracefully navigated these unprecedented hurdles in true Team Lucia Mar fashion."


(May 4, 2021) - Parents frustrated with the Lucia Mar Unified School District Board of Education have banded together and are now calling for a recall of three school board members.

These parents say the school board failed its students by not advocating for a return to in-person learning as soon as guidelines allowed. They believe the board's actions are directly responsible for failing grades and now want new representation.

On Tuesday, parents gathered outside the Lucia Mar Unified School District Board of Education office to send a message to school board members.

"We have to continue to fight to reopen schools fully," Vice President of Central Coast Families for Education Reform Michael Mulder said.

In March, Lucia Mar students returned to the classroom in a hybrid model, but these parents say that could've happened much sooner and they would have preferred a choice to have a full return to in-person instruction.

"What this board has created is a system of 'the haves' and a system of 'the have nots.' 'The haves' have taken their children and put them in private schools. 'The have nots' are the people who pick our fruits and vegetables and put food on our table while we sit at home — they're the ones getting left behind," parent, Sandra Bocchicchio, said.

Their solution? Recalling three Lucia Mar Unified School Board members: Colleen Martin, Dee Santos, and Don Stewart.

"We feel in particular the three board members we are recalling have been opposed and working against an agenda that's in favor of students and we feel they've been denied a quality education," Mulder said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Lucia Mar School District says:

The District became aware on Friday, April 30, 2021, that three LMUSD trustees, Colleen Martin, Dee Santos, and Don Stewart had received a Notice of Intent to Circulate a Recall Petition. As a public institution, we serve a parent and student population with diverse opinions on the issue of the timeline for school reopening. In its public meetings on the subject, the Board has taken into account the safety of students and employees and followed all public health guidelines. Members of the public who are dissatisfied with the decisions of its elected officials have a right to seek to recall elected officeholders.

The San Luis Obispo County Clerk Recorders Office says proponents of the recall would need 8,302 valid signatures from Lucia Mar voters to cause it to go to the ballot.

The county says the last local recall election was in the Los Osos CSD in 2005.

These parents say, however, they believe they have the backing.

"We do recognize that it takes a grassroots effort to make that happen. We've had a groundswell of support from parents that feel like this board has not represented their best interests and their student's best interests with the decisions they've made," Mulder explained.

The school district says if there is a sufficient number of valid signatures an election will be called. If it requires a special election, the district estimates a cost of $350,000 from the district’s general fund.

We reached out to all three board members who are on the recall petitions for comment and did not hear back.

This press conference comes as school board members discussed changes to how they are elected Tuesday night. They are considering switching from at-large elections to by-trustee area board elections, meaning each board member must live within the designated trustee area boundary and is only elected by voters in that area.