Leads tighten in recall of two Sunol school board members

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday July 3, 2024
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Recalls of Sunol school board members Linda Hurley, left, and Ryan Jergensen lead in early returns. Photos: Courtesy the subjects
Recalls of Sunol school board members Linda Hurley, left, and Ryan Jergensen lead in early returns. Photos: Courtesy the subjects

The recall of two East Bay school board members propelled by their voting to ban the Pride flag is leading based on the unofficial final vote count. A definitive result will come once those ballots mailed by Tuesday are tallied.

So far, the majority of voters in Sunol cast ballots to remove Sunol Glen Unified School District board members Ryan Jergensen and Linda Hurley, according to the latest update from the Alameda County registrar. As of Wednesday morning, 53.81% had voted to remove Jergensen, the board president, and 52.75% supported ousting Hurley.

An update that afternoon saw the margins of support shrink but still accounting for majorities with 52.69% of voters for recalling Jergensen and 51.92% backing the recall of Hurley. The recall of Jergensen is now ahead by 28 votes, a decrease of 8 votes from Tuesday night, and the recall of Hurley is now leading by 20 votes, down by 6 votes from the previous tally.

For the past several weeks voting had been ongoing and was completed July 2. Ballots from more than half of the town's 828 registered voters had been tallied as of Tuesday night. The total as of Wednesday stood at 521, with nearly all sent in by mail.

Jergensen, who had been appointed to the board in 2021, and Hurley both had won election to their seats in November 2022. Since then, they have been at odds with the board's third member, Trustee Peter "Ted" Romo, who voted against the policy to only have U.S. and California flags flown on school grounds.

The two members made up a majority on the three-person school board and had faced criticism for various decisions they have made about the running of the single-school district with students in kindergarten through eighth grade. A final straw for recall backers was their votes last year to ban flying the Pride flag on school grounds, which was widely condemned and garnered mainstream media attention.

The turmoil in the district led to the decision of Molleen Barnes to retire as the district's superintendent at the end of the 2023-2024 school year. A beloved administrator who had stood up on behalf of LGBTQ students, her departure further angered community members.

Former school board member Neil Davies, a gay man who has called the town home for more than 50 years, had hired Barnes 17 years ago. He was among the leaders of the recall effort who had banded together under the banner of United for Sunol Glen.

Davies couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday morning but had told the Bay Area Reporter last week that he expected the recall would succeed.

"The biggest thing or impact in my mind is the fact this board brought the culture wars to our town," Davies had told the B.A.R. "All this time I thought we might have dodged this issue. But once these right-wing extremists got in the majority, boom, all hell broke loose."

Jergensen and Hurley being recalled would be the fourth successful effort this year to remove school board members in California who have backed anti-LGBTQ policies. Orange Unified School District members Rick Ledesma and Madison Miner, Woodland Joint Unified School District trustee Emily MacDonald, and Temecula Unified School District member Joseph Komrosky, Ph.D., were all ousted from their elected positions.

Should the recall of the Sunol school board members be certified, it will be up to Alameda County Board of Education President Janevette Cole to appoint two members of the countywide board to serve on the Sunol school board until the time that two new board members are either appointed or elected to it, reported the Pleasanton Weekly. The county ed board now includes two members from the LGBTQ community, Joaquin Rivera and Angela Normand.

This story will be updated as election results come in.

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