FUSD trustees recalled again

By Jeannie Lopez

FARMERSVILLE-Farmersville Unified School District is faced with yet, another recall.

A group of Farmersville residents have served trustees Al Vanderslice and Don Mason with a recall petition to have the two members removed from the school board.

FUSD has a history of board members being recalled in the last two years. The first recall was on Nov. 4, 2003 when Martin Macareno and fellow board member Blanca Sandavol were both recalled. Nine months later, another recall took place in which board members Conrado Gonzalez and Antonio Ramos were recalled during a special election on Aug. 3, 2004.

Unfortunately, the recalls have not ended. Recently, Vanderslice and Mason were served with a recall petition. The grounds for the recall indicate that both members are failing to put student academic needs, services and school safety first, over that of community politics. The petition also claims that they fail to keep the best interest of the district by continuing the district's relationship with its current law firm Lozano-Smith and that they are unable to provide a strategic vision in achieving academic success.

"These allegations are completely inaccurate and false," said Mason in an interview. Mason said that the board has done everything to place students first and have carried out all their responsibilities since the last recall.

But according to Ramos, "A lot of things need to be changed. The board says they're doing something to create change but it's a lot of lies." He indicated that he was a board member at one time and he knows that the board is certainly not doing everything for students.

Superintendent Janet Jones indicated that Ramos was on the school board for a period of three years and she does not remember him ever being concerned about any one specific school program. "What can he possibly be referring to in the recall petition?" added Jones.

Both Mason and Vanderslice have seven days to file a response to the notice so that their opponents can file recall petitions for the Tulare County Elections Office to approve.

It was no surprise to members of the board that there would be another recall. In February 2004 John Vasquez, FUSD board president, had recall papers filed against him but the organizational leader of the recalls attempt failed to collect enough valid signatures.

"I knew they would do something like this (recall), just not at this time," said Mason.

"There's going to be a lot of disruption now from both sides, everyone will be getting upset," added Vanderslice.

Jones, who also took part in previous recall elections, was once accused of allegedly campaigning for incumbent board members Mason and Vanderslice for the Nov. 4, 2003 regular election. On school time while using district computers she was accused of creating flyers and sending e-mails to voters for their support of the incumbents.

Jones was then placed on administrative leave on Jan. 13, 2004 so, that an investigation could be conducted. On June 30, 2004 the board hired Carlos Vega to replace Jones. Vega was fired two weeks later and replaced by Sadie Nishitani. Jones was hired to replace superintendent Nishitani following the last recall.

"Here we go again," said Jones.

On Nov. 2 when Vanderslice and Mason rejoined the board when they were elected to replace the recalled Sandoval and Macareno.

These recalls have put a heavy cost on the district's budget. FUSD is considered a low-socio economic community and has to continue to find ways to pay the election fees through their budget.

The regular Nov. 4, 2003 election cost the district $3,066 and the recall cost of the special election on Aug. 3, 2004 was $20,791. The upcoming election on Nov. 5, 2005 would cost the board district $3,419 which brings it to a total of $27,276 recall fees combined.

"It's sad that we have no choice but to take that extra money from the kids and use it for the recall," said Vanderslice. Vanderslice also said that in his opinion Ramos is being prodded by Macareno.

According to Mason, all this stems from Macareno's animosity towards him. Macareno said he had nothing to do with the current recall.

In a recall process, at least 25% of registered voters are required in a district to carry out a recall petition. Therefore, about 700 Farmersville registered voters are necessary to force an election. So far there are only 12 signatures on the recall petition.

All parties involved have mixed feelings about the recall.

Ramos believes there's a good chance of Vanderslice and Mason being recalled. He adds, "When the recall passes there will be new people who will run for the board, people who can make good decisions to help students go to college through the classes that will be provided and the programs that will be available to them."

Vanderslice personally believes there will not be enough votes because the people of Farmersville are tired of all the recalls. Mason said he is grateful for the community and registered voters from the last recall election and asks them once again to vote against the recall and not sign the recall petition. Even though both parties believe they are doing what's best for the students, the voters will decide the outcome on Nov. 5.

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