Here’s an opportunity to voice your opinion on the misguided and ridiculously expensive recall effort of two Benicia School Board members.
This Tuesday, March 2, Mayor Steve Young and Vice Mayor Tom Campbell will ask the Benicia City Council to consider whether the City Council should take a position on the proposed Benicia City School Board recall effort.
The Council agenda will allow for public comment before Council members discuss the request and provide direction to staff on whether or not to schedule this topic for future Council discussion.
Please call or email Council members before Tuesday’s Council meeting, and if you can, attend the meeting and let the Council know that School Board members Sheri Zada and Mark Macelli need our support. (Email addresses and zoom instructions below.)
Mayor Young and Vice Mayor Campbell are submitting the request and will support the measure. Please email the three other Benicia City Council Members, Christina Strawbridge, Lionel Largaespada and Trevor Macenski, to let them know that the City and its residents will oppose this $300,000 effort to target and remove two excellent School Board members.
Zoom instructions and how to comment are available on the City Council’s March 2 AGENDA.
From the March 2 Agenda:
ITEM 14.D – TWO-STEP REQUEST TO CONSIDER WHETHER THE CITY COUNCIL SHOULD TAKE A POSITION ON PROPOSED BENICIA SCHOOL BOARD RECALL EFFORT (City Manager)
Vice Mayor Campbell and Mayor Young submitted a two-step process request for Council’s consideration of whether the City Council should take a position on the proposed Benicia School Board recall effort.
Discuss the request and provide direction to staff on whether or not to schedule this topic for future Council discussion.
As we head into the four-day weekend, Monday being President’s Day and an opportunity to pause and reflect on the long lineage of presidents in our great country, I wanted to provide a quick update on matters related to in-person learning.
In-person Learning Review: During the January 14 Board meeting, the Trustees voted to remain in distance learning through March 19, 2021, with the desire to return to in-person instruction, implementing the approved hybrid learning plan, on March 22, 2021, which is the first day of the 4th quarter, State rules permitting.
The good news is recent COVID-19 case rate data is showing positive signs of trending in the right direction in the three primary categories: New COVID-19 positivity rates per day per 100k, positivity rate (7 day average) and ICU availability.
As a follow-up to the February 4th Board meeting, the Trustees asked that we explore options related to small group, in-person instruction before the implementation date of the larger hybrid plan mentioned above. We will be discussing this item at the upcoming Board meeting on Thursday, February 18th.
Safety Plans: Since the January 14th Board meeting, the State established a new requirement called the COVID-19 Safety Plan, which consists of a COVID-19 Prevention Program and COVID-19 Guidance Checklist. Districts are required to submit this plan to the County Health Director for approval before heading back to K-6 grades in-person hybrid learning. Fortunately, we worked very closely with our two unions earlier in the year and passed two Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s), which outline, in considerable detail, the required safety elements for in-person instruction.
Most, if not all, of the safety requirements are included in the MOU’s and we were able to transfer them to the COVID-19 Prevention Program which is nearing completion for submission. Please find the COVID-19 Prevention Program linked here. If you have any feedback or comments, please email them to Dr. Gill, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vaccine: Although the COVID-19 vaccination is not required for in-person learning, the enhanced protection and sense of safety it provides, is obvious. The main challenge, as per Dr. Matyas, the Solano County Health Director, and who presented at the last Board meeting of February 4th (recording), centers on the demand for the vaccine being greater than the supply. We are continuing to work closely with Dr. Matyas regarding a specific date and plan for the availability and distribution of the vaccine in BUSD.
Governor’s Safe Schools for All Plan: In my last newsletter, I referenced the Governor’s plan and that it was still being negotiated in the legislature. As of today, we do not have any clear updates regarding this plan and whether or not it will be passed. I will provide more information as it is made available to us.
LCAP/Strategic Plan Survey: We are beginning the process of collecting information on key goals and initiatives for our LCAP/Strategic plan. This document plays a central role in providing clear direction for key initiatives and goals for our district. Your input is vital to this process. Please watch for an additional email with a link to the survey.
We, the members of Benicia Black Lives Matter, stand in solidarity with those who oppose the campaign to recall school board trustees Zada and Maselli.
A campaign that is calling for students to return their families to in-person learning that fails to center the perspectives and experiences of Black families is one that should not be given weight or consideration. Indeed, both the economic consequences of the pandemic and the physical consequences of the pandemic are disproportionately shouldered by Black families. A recent New York Times article and a CDC study both drew attention to the phenomenon of mostly white parents advocating for reopening of schools even as their families and their children are less at risk. From the New York Times article, “Even as more districts reopen their buildings and President Biden joins the chorus of those saying schools can safely resume in-person education, hundreds of thousands of Black parents say they are not ready to send their children back.”
The data from the CDC study shows that 62.3% of white parents strongly or somewhat agreed that schools should reopen in-person for all students in the fall, compared to 46% of Black parents and 50.2% of Hispanic parents. The New York Times article goes on to say; “That reflects both the disproportionately harsh consequences the virus has visited on nonwhite Americans and the profound lack of trust that Black families have in school districts, a longstanding phenomenon exacerbated by the pandemic”.
The response to the pandemic and the current disparities in Benicia Schools represent two separate instances of government failing to deliver equity to Black Families. The recall of school board trustees Zada and Maselli will cost upwards of $300,000. This money could instead be put towards improving ventilation systems in all schools within BUSD, as well as protective equipment and modifications of classrooms for when it is truly safe for students and staff to return. Not only is the district considering asking students to return, even as the pandemic is raging and the virus is mutating, but money that could otherwise be utilized to shore up the infrastructure is instead being contemplated for a wasteful political grab that does not have the interests or safety of Black Families in mind.
For the first time in its history the City of Benicia will soon have an equity officer and a tangible plan for seeking to achieve equity. The School district is engaged in a similar conversation. This campaign is a stark example of how privilege and political access play out to the detriment of vulnerable communities. It is as divisive as it is thinly veiled. It cannot be allowed to succeed. The members of Benicia Black Lives Matter fully support all of our board trustees and oppose the campaign to recall trustees Zada and Maselli as it is not representative of the interests of our Black Community.
Benicia Black Lives Matter
Benicia Black Lives Matter is a grassroots community group organized to address anti-Black racism in the city of Benicia.There is a lack of Black representation across City leadership, departments, and voluntary boards. The lack of Black representation tells a story of our complacency as a community and more so, the impact on our Black Benicians lived experience. The good news is, we can rebuild the City of Benicia into a better Benicia, one commitment and one change at a time – and we have a strategy to do so. Our Strategy: Actively Commit to Change. The City of Benicia must commit to a specific vision of what a better, more inclusive and equitable future looks like. For additional information see beniciablacklivesmatter.com.
On the proposed recall of two Benicia school board members: Recalls, to me, should be used in instances of bad behavior, malfeasance, or other serious offenses.
Recalling someone because you don’t like their vote on an issue does not meet that test. That is what elections are for. And both board members, if they choose to, can run for reelection in 2022.
And their constituents can vote them out then.
On the other hand, if enough Benicians sign the petition, there will be a special election.
California law governing recalls sets strict requirements for how they are conducted. Given the amount of time set aside by law to gather signatures, verify signatures, set a date for a special election, give new candidates enough time to file and campaign, it is probable that the special election would take place in late 2021 or early 2022.
And with a projected cost to the School District of $300,000, this is money that doubtless could be better spent helping get the schools ready for the opening we all hope for.
With the regular election scheduled for Nov. 2022, it makes no sense to spend that kind of money on an unnecessary special election.
In addition, I know Sheri Zada and Mark Maselli to be smart, hard working people who, like all local elected officials, provide invaluable public service for no significant pay.