A parent group on June 15 announced they started a petition drive to recall an Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD) trustee from office in a special election.
The EGUSD Parent Coalition accuses Trustee Nancy Chaires Espinoza of mistreating parents who tried to get involved in Elk Grove Unified’s campus reopening process.
They also suspect that she has a conflict of interest that’s influenced by one of her election campaign contributors, the Elk Grove Education Association’s political action committee, which represents the district’s teachers.
“Elk Grove citizens deserve a trustee who upholds interests of her own constituents over the interests of a teachers union,” the coalition stated in their campaign announcement. “The community has lost trust and confidence in Trustee Chaires Espinoza’s ability to objectively govern as an EGUSD trustee.”
The recall campaign must collect more than 18,700 signatures from registered voters who live within the 330-square-mile school district. Their deadline is Nov. 17, said Janna Haynes, a spokesperson for Sacramento County’s Voter Registration & Elections department.
If the petition is successful, then a special election to recall Espinoza and to elect her replacement to the school board’s Trustee Area 6 seat would be held districtwide next year. Xanthi Soriano, an Elk Grove school district spokesperson, said this election would follow the district’s current election system of counting votes from across the school district.
In response to the recall campaign, Espinoza stressed that she has no individual authority in her school board’s decision-making process.
“I’m one of 7 EGUSD board members who jointly had to make difficult decisions during a global pandemic,” she said in an email statement to the Citizen. “The suggestion that I have any individual authority is completely false, as are the rest of the allegations being made. Intentionally spreading misinformation about the decision-making process for political reasons is shameful; it makes it harder for parents to effectively engage in the process.”
In her response that she filed with Sacramento County’s Voter Registration & Elections office, Espinoza said that a special election could potentially cost the school district $1.5 million.
The Elk Grove school board appointed Espinoza, a former Elk Grove planning commissioner, to their vacant Area 6 seat after her predecessor, Steve Ly was elected to the Elk Grove City Council in 2014. She was reelected without opposition last year.
The EGUSD Parent Coalition, which has more than 1,200 members in their Facebook group, spent the past several months holding public demonstrations and calling upon the Elk Grove Unified officials to reopen their campuses for in-person learning. More than 63,000 students in the district’s 67 campuses took online classes or other forms of distance learning for nearly 12 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. After the Elk Grove Education Association approved a labor agreement with the district in February, campuses were reopened for limited in-person learning for four days a week this spring.
The parent coalition attempted to push the school district into reopening their campuses for full-time, in-person learning before the 2020-21 school year ended.
During the evening of June 15, the Elk Grove school board reviewed a plan to restore in-person learning to five days a week in the new 2021-22 school year that starts next month.
Before the board meeting started, a few members of the parent coalition held a press conference near the school district’s headquarters at Elk Grove-Florin Road.
EGUSD Parent Coalition Board Member Joel Boyd said this recall campaign is not about the school district’s closure of campuses, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is about (Espinoza’s) conflict of interest, her campaign contributions, her loyalty to the teachers union,” he said.
Boyd claimed that Espinoza has a history of being disrespectful toward parents. He mentioned an incident where she allegedly sighed and rolled her eyes when 45 parents wanted to submit public comments to the board.
In their recall campaign statement, the parent coalition claimed that Espinoza “mocked and denied parent inclusion in school reopening plans, and voted to limit parent and student voices during board meetings. Her actions are having an undeniably profound and negative consequence on students…”
The parent coalition is focusing on the connection between Espinoza and the district’s teachers union. In their recall petition statement, they stated that the union’s political action committee spent more than $34,000 on Espinoza’s 2016 election campaign when she ran against Marlon Hill. They added that half of her campaign funding came from that organization and that only 4% of the funds came from individual donors.
Espinoza defeated Hill with 64% of the vote. Last year, she was reelected without opposition to the Area 6 seat.
Espinoza said there is “nothing unusual” about her 2016 campaign contributions.
“Most campaign contributions come from organizations that set money aside for that purpose because individuals do not often have those resources in their family budgets,” she wrote in her response to the parent coalition’s allegations.
Rick Stancil, president of the Elk Grove Education Association, expressed his support of Espinoza.
“(Espinoza) has been overwhelmingly reelected to her school board trustee position, not once but twice, by the voters of Elk Grove who have the power to put someone in the office,” he told the Citizen. “We trust that the same voters who reelected her and recognized her commitment to our students, and schools will also see through this recall effort, which is an end-run around the normal electoral process and driven by misinformation.”
In her statement she filed with the county elections office, Espinoza mentioned her past experiences of harassment for challenging a “local politician,” who she did not identify.
“This is a continuation of the harassment I’ve endured for over a decade for speaking out against a local politician for his attacks on local women leaders,” the trustee wrote.
Espinoza did not respond to the Citizen’s inquiry about the individual, as of press time.
Boyd countered that most of his coalition’s members were not in Elk Grove 10 years ago.
“We are concerned parents that are concerned about her actions today, not 10 years ago,” he said.
As the Area 6 trustee, Espinoza represents Elk Grove’s East Franklin, Madeira, Laguna Ridge, and Elk Grove High School area communities.
Trustee Nancy Chaires Espinoza’s response to recall petition
Elk Grove Unified School District Trustee Nancy Chaires Espinoza filed this response with Sacramento County’s Voter Registration & Elections Office.
This is her full statement:
“It’s been my honor to work on behalf of Elk Grove Unified School District students and families as your school board member since 2014. I regret that people with ulterior motives are providing you with false information about me while distracting from the important work we have to do right now, and potentially forcing the district to pull approximately $1.5 million away from educating students to fund a special election. The allegations against me are completely false. Most campaign contributions come from organizations that set money aside for that purpose because individuals do not often have those resources in their family budgets. There is nothing unusual about my campaign contributions. This is a continuation of the harassment I’ve endured for over a decade for speaking out against a local politician for his attacks on local women leaders. Individual school board members have no authority on their own; I’m one of 7 individuals who jointly made difficult decisions in response to a global pandemic. I have always and will continue to put the interests of students first and to value parental input. I stand by my record of always acting in the best interest of students. Please contact me if you have questions: (916) 244-2402.”