Page 3 ~ Val Robichaud


School Board recall, Earth Day salute, and more

Posted on May 2, 2023 by Val Robichaud

A formal campaign to recall John Kelly, the embattled board trustee of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, is well underway. A petition was filed by advocate Rachael Hairston with the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters; once approved, recall proponents have 60 days to collect 1,300 signatures, which is the required percentage (plus 10% for margin of error, Hairston says) of the 4,000 registered voters in Kelly’s District 3. When that threshold is met and verified, the county will set an election date… Like insults traded on the playground, the charges leveled at Kelly, summarized in a public notice required by the petition process, are intense. There are the generally unsavory – “Neglected student welfare to advance his own interests…lack of ethical and moral behavior… relentless acts of deception and dishonesty.” And the more specific: public records violations, conflict of interest regarding campus construction contracts, ignoring terms of his censure, and more… Kelly, a lawyer, says the attempted recall feels like the rehash of a timeworn personal grudge. “The highly inflammatory and deceitfully-crafted text is riddled with half-truths and innuendo. It expresses personal opinion as fact and promotes conflicts that have long been both publicly and satisfactorily resolved or refuted.” Kelly says that he’s working collaboratively with board colleagues and local education advocates. “In fact, despite well-documented differences of opinion and perspective, our entire board is in agreement: bold steps have been necessary in order to address the district’s increasing fiscal shortfall.” Some of the heat comes from Kelly leading the call for closing some school campuses to save money (a plan drafted by a board-commissioned study). “This recall attempt feels disrespectful of our entire team’s courage, fortitude, and collective effort. It promotes divisiveness and does nothing to address the challenges we face. I would have hoped for productive engagement, rather than a costly distraction we can ill-afford.”… Memo to the team, re: collaboration. Hire a superintendent. There’s no good reason that that vote keeps being delayed. 

The topic of school safety – on campus, not just board meetings — was the focus when the nonprofit RISK – Resources, Information, Support & Knowledge, a support network for parents, held a public forum with Sonoma Valley Youth and Family Services. The 60-plus attendees represented the schools and the broader community. “The forum allowed community members to come together to talk and connect,” said RISK Executive Director Leslie Nicholson (a member of The Sun editorial board). “That is so important in our post-pandemic world. We need more face-to-face time to be able to listen and learn from each other, especially when it comes to important issues, such as school safety.” The event featured presenters from Sonoma Valley Unified School District, and the Sonoma Valley Police. Audience members were encouraged to discuss whatever was on their minds regarding school safety, and many ideas were shared.One popular subject was the School Resource Officer, a deputy that served on the high school’s campus prior to the pandemic. The position had been eliminated and many hoped it could be resurrected. Other topics were teacher safety, bullying, building relationships with students, and the need to listen to parents. Nicholson was gratified that “people felt safe to talk about their own concerns about school safety and how their families have been impacted. The inclusion of community leaders in the discussion gave people the chance to meet and talk in person with people and build relationships that might not have otherwise occurred.” RISK anticipates holding more such events in the future, always bringing in new voices. There was widespread agreement that being proactive on the topic of school safety was essential. 


Sheana Davis and Ben Sessions of The Epicurean Connection (shown with Sonoma Mayor Sandra Lowe, at left) were presented with a Certificate of Recognition for the company’s sustainable business practices, including efforts to source local ingredients, conserve water, become energy efficient, seek alternative transportation options for employees and clients, and an overall commitment to being a zero-waste business. “We pack and donate our extra food to Farm to Pantry to share with food-insecure seniors in the community,” Davis said.  “We donate on average 50 meals per week and share our food waste with a local pig and a herd of sheep. We average 100 pounds a week of food waste to the animals, which equals zero landfill.”


Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley has been named Nonprofit of the Year for Senate District 3 by Sen. Bill Dodd. “This club has been a community stalwart for six decades, helping tens of thousands of kids reach their potential through nationally recognized programs,” Sen. Dodd said. “Their success is a testament to the dedication and commitment of volunteers and staff, who have provided this incredibly valuable service to generations of Sonoma Valley youngsters. I am happy to recognize their considerable achievement.” The staff is humbled and honored to receive the recognition, said Cary Leigh Snowden, president and CEO. “Our staff and volunteers work so hard for our members each day and they truly deserve this honor.” Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley has served the Sonoma area since 1962. It is part of the national movement of 5,000 Boys & Girls Clubs but is independently run and relies on community donations. Celebrating the news: Michael Irvine, vice president of development and marketing; Dawn Holman, vice president of administration; Eric Gonzalez, vice president of teen services; Cary Snowden; and Joe Hardeman, vice president of program operations.




One thought on “School Board recall, Earth Day salute, and more

  1. Posted response to Sonoma Sun on this editorial:

    Feels pretty disrespectful to marginalize these comments in the complaints against JK as “playground insults”. What’s at stake here are children’s education directly affecting the success and failures for the rest of their lives. Currently, only 15% of the SVUSD third graders read proficiently at third grade level.

    Collaboration? Is he referring to:
    – the $92,000 District investigation into his aiding the Union to eliminate all competitive bidders.
    – the investigation into JK orchestrating the firing of Superintendent Shiels because she would not go along with his PLA plans.
    – the toxic workplace harassment lawsuit he had to apologize publicly for, but still causing the exit of a superintendent and administrator.
    – the board unanimously censuring him.
    – JK’s unfounded Brown Act accusations against the last superintendent and board members.
    – JK siding with the Union that was actively suing the district because the PLA had been retracted because JK and Abbott tried to sneak it through on the consent agenda. JK then lied and said the board had discussed for 6 months. The other board members denied his claim.
    -Education money that has been squandered. $400k alone is attributed to JK investigation and cost of interim superintendent.
    – JK bragging about being involved in meetings that altered the Measure E $120mm Bond vote by hiding $30mm of non-education projects in”the broadest language possible.
    – Public information is still hidden in JK’s law firm that he refuses to reply to Public Records Requests.

    These issues are not “playground insults”. To remain credible, it’s important to stay factual. This is not personal, it’s about a board member’s professional constant failure to perform for our children. It’s about his violating California Law Bar codes. It’s about back room deals. It’s It’s about undisclosed donations for back room deals. It’s about one person actively violating children’s rights to a basic education for personal gain.

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