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San Francisco voters recall 3 school board members

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

Lots of conclusions are being drawn about the successful recall of three San Francisco school board members earlier this week. Some political analysts are saying the outcome could signal a progressive backlash in the midterms. Others point to it as another example of how education is becoming a growing political wedge issue. And still some others are saying the race is an example of the political power of Asian voters in San Francisco. Their turnout helped determine the outcome of the recall.

All those things could be true, but for the next few minutes, we're going to talk about what this means to one of the people involved, what motivated her and what she hopes happens now. Ann Hsu, the mother of two San Francisco Public School students, got involved in the recall effort late, but helped register more than 500 Chinese Americans. Welcome, Ann.

ANN HSU: Thank you.

NADWORNY: So as I said, lots of conclusions being drawn about this local race. What motivated you to get involved?

HSU: Well, I got involved, similar to many other parents, because we saw our kids at home on Zoom school and doing just terribly and having lots of learning loss, mental health issues. And we saw the board not doing anything about it, not even recognizing that there was a problem.

NADWORNY: What do you see as the priorities for the school district going forward?

HSU: First priority is get the fiscal house in order. Second priority, get the curriculum in order because San Francisco, in comparison to other school districts across California, we do fall behind. And even the underserved minority groups, their test scores, their competency - the kids, I mean - are behind the other school district. And San Francisco is not a poor school district. We have money, it's just been mismanaged.

NADWORNY: How do you view your relationship as a parent and a voter with the board and educators?

HSU: The board - I and many parents will be watching. We have been watching for the past year, we will continue to watch and voice our opinions. With educators, from a PTA president or just a PTA member perspective, I have so enjoyed getting to know the teachers and helping the teachers find guest speakers from our PTA membership.

And I will encourage all parents to be more involved, actually, especially the Asian American parents, because we have not been involved politically and even as much in school matters before because we figure, all right, some professionals are taking care of this. Well, look at it. Some of these, quote-unquote, "professional board members" are not even professionals. They're not doing their jobs.

NADWORNY: You've been critical of the school board for how they handled the pandemic, keeping schools closed. I think a lot of school boards across the country would say they were dealing with unprecedented challenges in an unprecedented time. You know, they were doing what they thought was best with very little support. I wonder what you say to that.

HSU: That is not true in San Francisco. Why, I say? Because our school board did not recognize or did not want to recognize that there was harm being done to students during extended remote learning. The mayor recognized the issue, and she tried to do something about it. Our school board did nothing.

Actually, the superintendent recognized the problem, wanted to hire a consultant to help the district open schools safely. The board denied him straight out - no.

NADWORNY: What is next for you and other parents in the city?

HSU: Before, I and many - most parents did not pay attention to the school board. I really don't remember who I voted for. But no more. We are now awake and paying attention, and there are lots and lots of us. So we will be watching who the mayor appoints, and we will be watching them after they've been appointed.

And, you know, those four on the board right now, we really wanted to recall the whole board, but only three were eligible. So if these four, if they don't change their tune, watch out, they might be the one recalled next.

NADWORNY: Ann Hsu is the mother of twin boys and a resident of San Francisco, Calif. Thank you so much for joining us.

HSU: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.