Don Stewart, Colleen Martin and Dee Santos

Lucia Mar Unified School District Board of Trustees Vice President Colleen Martin cuts a ribbon held by fellow board member Dee Santos to open the new track surface at Nipomo High School in this photo from February 2020. Current board President Don Stewart is in the black shirt at left. Stewart, Martin and Santos are the focus of a recall effort by Central Coast Families for Education Reform.

A group of about 950 south San Luis Obispo County parents have launched an effort to recall three members of the seven-member Lucia Mar Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Members of Central Coast Families for Education Reform announced their petition drive outside the closed doors of the Lucia Mar board room on Orchard Street where some of the trustees were conducting a virtual meeting with the rest of the board Tuesday evening.

The recall targets Don Stewart, currently president of the board, who represents Trustee Area 4 and whose term expires in 2024; Colleen Martin, vice president of the board, who represents Trustee Area 2 and whose term expires in 2022; and Dee Santos, who also represents Trustee Area 4 and whose term expires in 2024.

The group has 160 days to gather 8,500 valid signatures to force a recall vote, but Shannon Galvan, group president, said they are shooting for 10,000 signatures.

According to the group’s website, Stewart, Martin and Santos have failed their duties to serve the students and taxpayers of the district, including not opening schools on time and allowing a huge increase in failing grades.

The group also objects to inappropriate “partisan political comments” made by the three in various board meetings, and clips of some of their comments are posted on the group’s website.

With a seven-member board, three votes would not constitute a majority of the full board required to make decisions, but Galvan explained why the recall effort is not focusing on four or more.

“We are starting with the three board members that have made the most derogatory comments and have been the least bipartisan,” Galvan said. “Our group has a rapport with some of the remaining board members, and we feel if we can replace the three more offending board members we can make real change moving forward.”

Among the actions cited by the group as reasons for the recall are alleged violations of the state’s Ralph M. Brown Act and the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act by only allowing public comments via email from March through September 2020.

Group members noted four other SLO County school district boards either have meetings open to the public or allow parents in to provide live, in-person public comments, but Lucia Mar refuses to allow parents in to comment.

The group says while California Department of Public Health guidelines allowed a return to athletics as of Aug. 3, 2020, Lucia Mar trustees didn’t allow athletes to return to limited conditioning until Oct. 5, 2020.

While schools could open in a hybrid format Oct. 6, 2020, after SLO County entered the state’s red tier for the first time, the school board failed to act and missed the window of opportunity when the county fell back into the purple tier, preventing schools from reopening until March of this year.

Elementary schools could still open in the purple tier by obtaining a waiver, but Lucia Mar trustees refused to seek a waiver, even though the Public Health Department encouraged schools to do so, according to the group.

State guidelines updated in March allow schools to open full time, but the group says Lucia Mar intends to wait five more months for full-time reopening in August, leaving students without in-person, full-time schooling for 17 months.

The group also cites students’ falling academic performance, claiming the number of “F” grades rose 185% in the first quarter, with high school “F” grades still up 155% at the semester despite mitigation efforts.

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