Citizens who disagreed with the release of Mark Sutton from his position as Selma Unified’s superintendent say their focus now is following the legal process for a recall.
“I’m not alone. I started a petition and in 24 hours there were 177 signatures for you of people who do not agree with what’s going on,” said parent Melissa Childress during public comment session at the special Feb. 3 school board meeting. “I have no problem going through with the recall process. I will go door to door and get signatures because this is not right. It’s about the money and it’s about the schools.”
Childress was one of several who vowed to see a recall take place.
“We live here and we voted for you guys. We put you in these positions and we can take you out of these positions,” said Sarah Rodriguez, a retired administrative assistant for the district. “There is a recall. You work for us, it’s not the other way around.”
Deanna Carnes, a teacher and parent, said she’d didn’t see a valid reason for the buyout and that she doesn’t feel represented by board member Gilbert Lopez.
“Mr. Lopez, you are a representative for my district and I plan to personally go out door to door for a recall. This is not what I want and you represent me. I really would like you to think about what’s best for the kids in our district because I don’t think this is it.”
City leaders have also expressed concern about the long-term effects of the buyout and City Manager Ken Grey said he cannot remember there ever having been a recall in his more than 50 years of experience with the city.
During the November election, board members Jennifer Winter and Roger Orosco kept their seats for areas 4 and 3 respectively. Gilbert Lopez won over Johnny Smith for area 5. Board member Paul Green represents area 2 and John Lorona represents area 1. Winter, Orosco and Lopez were sworn into office during the annual organizational meeting Dec. 9.
Recall organizers say they have contacted Fresno County Elections Office to get the documentation to start the process and are organizing teams to canvass neighborhoods represented by the three board members who ousted Sutton. They’re also contacting the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to voice concerns over the matter.
“There’s an awful lot of us who want to help,” said Cindy Miller, a former teacher’s union president and current elementary teacher. “We have the paperwork and we’re finding out how we can connect with the community.”
According to the Fresno County Elections Office, Registrar of Voters Brandi Orth is the elections official responsible for school boards.
A recall notice of intention may be prepared after the first 90 days a board member has held office, but before their last six months of office.
Registered voters in the jurisdiction of the board member under recall may start the process. Nomination signatures are not required for a school board member to file to seek election, thus only 10 proponents are needed.
Proponents of the recall pay to publish a notice of intention in a local newspaper, for the preparation and printing of petitions and for the collecting of signatures.
The school district pays for the cost of conducting the election and verifying signatures.
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Fresno County Election’s Program Technician Raymundo Peraza says school districts typically hire their office to verify the signatures and the cost would depend on how many hours it takes employees to complete the task.
The steps include having the reason for the recall written up and served on the board member whose recall is sought. The name, address and signature of each proponent is included. The intent is published in a local newspaper and filed in the Registrar of Voters’ office within seven days.
The board member has seven days to respond with a written answer, files that with the registrar and serves a copy on one of the proponents.
Proponents prepare a petition following state election code requirements and file copies with the registrar. They must get approval before circulating the petition.
Once approval is given, signatures are collected and then filed within the deadline.
The Registrar of Voters verifies the signatures and certifies results to the governing board.
If sufficient, the school board or registrar orders an election be conducted 88 to 125 days from the date of the order.
The registrar publishes the required legal notices, processes candidates and conducts the election.
Voters must be registered to vote at least 29 days before an election and live within the boundaries of a school board member’s area to vote in the election for their area. Peraza says citizens may register to vote at the California Secretary of State website or at such sites like the DMV, post offices or library.
Voters may cast a "no" vote on the recall and still vote for a candidate.
If a recall occurs, the candidate with the most votes will be the new trustee. The candidate is not required to receive more than 50 percent of the ballots cast in order to win.
Election officials have up to 28 days from election night to count all ballots, such as absentee/mail-in or provisional ballots.
Candidates who wish to replace the board members will have to file their nomination paperwork and declaration for candidacy not less than 75 days prior to the date of the election but not before the day the order of the election is issued.