A formal campaign to recall John Kelly, the embattled board trustee of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, is well underway. Having been certified by the Sonoma County Registrar of Voters, the petition is in circulation now. To get the recall on the ballot, supporters must collect 1,049 signatures by July 15, 2023 — 25% of the voters in Kelly’s school district Trustee Area 3.
Kelly was re-elected to a four-year term on the five-member board in 2020. He ran unopposed in that election.
The petition was filed by Rachael Hairston. The charges it levels 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.”