WATSONVILLE—The group leading the drive to recall Pajaro Valley Unified School District Trustee Georgia Acosta planned to file its petition Thursday, and organizers predict they will soon begin gathering the signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot.
“We’re primed and ready, we’re in this for a good election contest, and we think the community deserves to know how they’re not being represented. And they deserve better representation,” Carol Turley, a member of the Committee to Recall Georgia Acosta, said in an interview Wednesday.
In addition, Acosta has submitted a response that will be included with the official campaign literature if the item does go before voters. The 198-word statement, filed with the Santa Cruz County Clerk on May 24, was the first time Acosta responded to several allegations outlined by the recall committee.
This includes missing numerous board meetings, firing PVUSD Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez without explanation to the community, failure to participate in any committees and trying to stifle public comment, among other things.
“My primary focus has always been to benefit the students, families, employees and taxpayers of the PVUSD,” Acosta wrote.
In her response, Acosta also states that she has battled cancer for the past few years, and that she has attended more than 85% of the meetings during her time on the board. A May 13 Pajaronian investigation found that Acosta has missed a total of 28 out of 135 possible meetings, which is a little more than 20%.
PVUSD Trustee Kim De Serpa, who has served on the board since 2010, said that Acosta’s cancer disclosure came as a surprise.
“In all the years we have served on the board together she never let on that she was ill,” De Serpa stated in a text message. “To my knowledge she never provided notice to the superintendent’s office nor to a sitting President that she would be absent. She simply wouldn’t show up. Similarly, her late entrances and early departures were always unexplained. The trustees are a group of caring individuals and I know we all wish her well.”
Fourth District Supervisor Greg Caput and District 7 City Councilwoman Ari Parker were listed as supporters in Acosta’s response along with various community organizers and business owners, including Ed Kelly, Kathy Oliver and Barbie Gomez.
Acosta also says that she has been an “independent voice in education,” and that she protested “financial improprieties” in the district.
In addition, Acosta wrote that she has been subject to intimidation and bullying against dissenting opinions.
Acosta also says she has been outspoken about improper hiring practices by the district, and fought against hiring unqualified teachers.
But it is not unusual for the district to hire uncredentialed educators, says recall committee member Jane Barr, a former PVUSD trustee. She says that many teachers coming out of college are not credentialed, and earn theirs during their first two years on the job.
The response also states that Acosta objected to “inappropriate PVUSD relationships with District Leadership/Superintendent.”
Acosta did not respond to a call, text message and email asking her to expand on these statements.
In response to Acosta’s claim that she “supported working families that need their children safely back to in-person instruction,” Turley points out that Acosta held up a vote to get teachers immunized and back into the classroom when she reportedly led efforts to fire Superintendent Rodriguez.
“So I don’t see that statement as true,” Turley said.
The statement ends with Acosta calling on the public to “Stop the Witch-hunt that could Cost Taxpayers up to $100,000!”
It is not likely to cost that much for the special election, which organizers hope to bring to voters in March 2022.
Santa Cruz County Clerk Tricia Webber says it will cost between $5 and $9 per registered voter in Acosta’s trustee area, which on Wednesday was 8,592. That would make the possible cost between $42,960 and $77,328.
Barr and Turley declined to comment on Acosta’s disclosure of her battle with cancer. But they said that she could have called in to say she would be absent.
“There is no reason not to be working with her own district and her own board to inform them she can’t attend meetings, and apparently from what I understand she has never once called in to say she would be absent,” Barr said.
The committee will have 90 days to gather roughly 2,500 signatures needed after the County Clerk verifies its petition.