HUNTINGTON BEACH : Group Plans Recall of 19 School Trustees

Although board members of four school districts succumbed to public pressure and overturned property tax fees, a group opposed to the levy announced Friday that a recall campaign will be launched next week against 19 trustees.

A group calling itself Citizens for Accountability in Education plans to formally begin the recall effort Tuesday, co-director Bryan Bridges said Friday. The group was formed after the West Orange County Schools Financing Authority imposed a $50-per-year property levy on July 25.

The petition campaign would seek to oust every trustee but one from the Huntington Beach Union High, Huntington Beach City, Ocean View and Westminster school districts. The school boards from those districts, under the auspices of the joint authority, nullified the controversial fee Aug. 6. The group is not going after Westminster Trustee Margie Rice because she voted against the original proposal for her district to join the so-called maintenance assessment district.

Bridges made the announcement after a meeting of the group Thursday, which he said about 50 people attended. Those there unanimously agreed to continue the recall plans, although the authority acquiesced to their demand that the assessment be overturned, he said.

Bridges, however, insisted that "this is not a vindictive thing. We're not after these people because they've done something to us.

"The reason the recall has to go on is that too much work and effort has to go on to make them listen. We have to make it clear to them that (such an effort) shouldn't be necessary every time for them to listen to the people in the community."

Ocean View trustee Sheila Marcus, who served on the joint authority, criticized the group Friday for its motives, but she dismissed the threat of a recall.

"Let them go to the people with this. If they want to remove all local control from schools, there can be no better way to do that than in this manner," Marcus said. "Their standard is too harsh. No public official can be sure that every decision he or she makes is going to please everybody."

Any recall effort, even against a single elected official, is a difficult undertaking. In the rare instance in which residents gather enough signatures to force a recall election, voters rarely choose to oust the official.

The Citizens for Accountability in Education effort would be particularly daunting. The group wants to recall trustees from four districts, each of which has separate boundaries and requires a different number of minimum signatures and time period in which to collect them.

"It's not going to be an easy task," Bridges said, "but it's not insurmountable."

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