Cupertino Union School District
Board of Education

CUSD, the largest K-8 school district in Northern California, is failing its 16,000+ students and their parents by refusing to re-open!

Recall CUSD Board of Education
Recall Lori Cunningham from CUSD Board of Education
Recall Lori Cunningham from CUSD Board of Education underway
Sylvia Leong – CUSD Board of Education
Jerry Liu – CUSD Board of Education
Satheesh Madhathil – CUSD Board of Education
Phyllis Vogel – CUSD Board of Education

While the majority of neighboring school districts have returned to in-person instruction, the Board of Trustees and the interim superintendent are ignoring the State and County reopening guidelines and the comments of parents who would like to send their kids back to school. They make up their own rules. This has to stop! Our kids need in-person instruction.

CUSD will be last amongst all of its neighboring districts to reopen and in the bottom 20% of Santa Clara County with an initial reopening proposal of 75 minutes, 2x a week.

The purpose of this campaign is to recall CUSD Board Trustees who will not fight unions and not fully reopen CUSD schools.

We have filed our intent and petition to recall Lori Cunningham with Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. A copy of the intent letter is here. We are recalling Lori because she was President of the CUSD Board during the school closures and had multiple opportunities to push for reopening last year but has stymied progress.

Our friends at Recall SF School Board put together a great slide with the process and we updated it for CUSD. We are now at the first step of the petition process. We have to collect 11,768 signatures by Oct 4, 2021.

The road to Recall Lori Cunningham

We have prepared the forms and have already collected the signatures to file intent letters to recall Sylvia Leong, Jerry Liu, Satheesh Madhathil and Phyllis Vogel. We will continue to monitor progress towards our goal and file those intents to recall accordingly.

Our goal is to return our children to the classrooms 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for in-person education NOW. Even at the height of the pandemic in December, at least 44% of our parents were prepared to send their kids back to schools even if just for a few hours a week and possibly with a different teacher.

As long as full reopening continues to be delayed, we believe that irrespective of what our Board Members say in public, their priorities are not the children.

Get involved

Please see here for more information.


The CUSD Board has repeatedly failed their civic duty to represent the parents of CUSD. Like many of our neighboring districts, CUSD parents want in-person instruction to resume: 44% of CUSD parents would prefer in-person instruction (source here [p. 10]) and that doesn't include the 2200+ children who have left (source here [p. 7]) to private or other options. Despite all that, the CUSD Board continues to stymie and block the progress of school reopening:

  • At the 2/25 Board meeting, the Board reviewed a proposal to open schools for only 75 mins to 2.5 hours for two days a week starting on 4/5. We need to reopen now and to 6 hours a day, 5 days a week.    
  • For the most part, the Board has sided with the teachers' union, which comprises a substantial part of Lori's, Phyllis', and Jerry’s donor base.  Please watch Waiting for Superman on Netflix to see how troubling this is.
  • Sylvia, at a Fall Board meeting, said, "My friends tell me remote school is going well," discounting the cries from parents. The tone-deafness of such comments is a disgrace to the many kids struggling. 
  • Phyllis has said multiple times that she advocates for a "conservative reopening" bucking science and expert recommendations. 
  • Since the fall, Satheesh has consistently suggested adding more phases further delaying, if not stalling reopening. 
  • Jerry, although more recently has been advocating for reopening, has reiterated that he stands in unison with his colleagues.

It is the job of the Board and especially the President, Lori Cunningham, to work and negotiate harder with unions to prioritize children. Unfortunately, we, CUSD, had Union leaders endorsing our Superintendent in the 2/25 Board meeting—that isn’t a good look.

The fact is that over the course of the past 7 months, the Board has taken a "can't do" vs. "can do" attitude. Even in recent discussions, it is clear that the current proposed reopening is a function of SB86 funding stipulating a reopening by April 1st rather than the prioritization of children who are suffering and need to return now. In fact, when presented with a previous bill offering COVID relief funds, AB10 endorsed by Gavin Newsom at the January Board meeting, the Board dismissed the bill as being “too aggressive” while neighboring districts had reopened.

We have prepared more details why we believe Lori Cunningham must be recalled for exhibiting poor leadership. Please see a write-up analyzing Lori and the Board Members' actions through the end of February here. Below we have also added further answers to questions that have arisen since the end of February.

Yes with an initial proposal of 75 minutes, 2x a week but that’s really besides the point. CUSD has maintained a conservative reopening plan since summer of 2020. It was even reiterated by the Superintendent, Stacy McAfee-Yao, as following the Board's directive in the Fall. Parents expressed their pains over calls as early as July and it’s taken a mammoth parent effort to get to this point. In fact, we believe that if parents hadn’t been as fervent as they have been with all of their various initiatives, we’d probably be sitting at 75 minutes 2x a week with a start date after Spring break and with the certainty of hybrid in the Fall so thank you parents!
Yes, in recent weeks, CUSD has announced a reopening date of April 5th but lets focus on the facts.

Lori has consistently stymied efforts to reopen up until maybe very recently after significant parent pressure (and it’s been downright exasperating for most). We go into great detail here about her actions or rather inactions through the summer and fall of 2020 as President of the CUSD Board. Lori has taken money from teacher unions and does not hide that fact that she prioritizes teachers’ choice over that of the kids (her own words in the Sep 24th Board Meeting).

We don’t know if another pandemic or other catastrophic event will occur (knock on wood) but this past year has been educational for many parents in terms of how school Boards work with the Superintendent and the teacher unions and thus why we are seeing draconian efforts happening across the state from lawsuits to recalls to protests and more.

California itself is now 50th place in school reopenings and even the recent SB86 bill allows schools to re-open for merely an hour a week to constitute reopening and with no requirement of even exiting hybrid in the Fall.

As you can imagine, this is all unacceptable.

Hybrid by definition means compromise. We should not compromise our kids education and social well being. We need to reopen schools fully and it can be done and it has been green-lit by multiple expert agencies. In fact, the California Department of Public Health just reduced social distancing guidelines at schools to 3 feet. At this point, if reopening fully is not happening, it’s not because the district can’t do it, it’s because the school Boards have taken the easy path and not wanting to push back against the teacher unions, often their donor base and social circles.

We know many of you parents are tired and willing to take anything at this point. This is precisely what they are doing but don’t stand for it. Remember, many children across the country and in most of the world are back in school and have been full-time. Why should your child suffer the arrogance of our school Board. And if we don’t push, it may remain hybrid in the Fall; it certainly would be easier for them. Our kids will not only suffer, but they are falling irreparably academically behind.
Yes, CUSD is unfortunately one of the lowest funded districts in the Bay Area but money has never been the reason CUSD can’t reopen. As detailed in the “Why Recall Lori” write-up, CUSD has consistently said they can re-open but opted not to. This wasn’t a decision of money, this was a decision of the Board, particularly Lori’s predisposition to remote school and prioritizing the teachers’ union over kids. Fast forward to today, CUSD has a surplus of $6M per Jerry's own words in the Mar 12th Board Meeting plus significant COVID relief funds per SB86. That said, if there was any better time to use rainy day funds, now is the time. Reopen schools fully and be the top 10 district in the state that you are. Other similarly funded districts across the broader state have. No parent should be satisfied with CUSDs below average performance.
Many choose to live in Cupertino because of the schools. It’s a fact that a home within CUSD’s boundaries can cost 100s of thousands more than across the street. With that, we would expect CUSD to lead but rather CUSD will be last among all of its neighboring boundaries in reopening.
  • Los Altos - Reopened in the Fall, trialing transition from hybrid to full-time
  • Saratoga - Reopened in early Feb, also trialing the transition from hybrid to full-time
  • Mountain View - Opened this month with plans for full-time this year
  • Sunnyvale - Opening this month
  • Moreland - Opening this month
  • Santa Clara - Opening at Orange tier which should be this week
As mentioned earlier, Lori Cunningham was President of the CUSD Board through most of the pandemic. She has had multiple opportunities to lead, challenge unions and force discussion to reopen. Instead, she did not lead but enabled a Board to provide patchwork of reasons as to why CUSD can't reopen resulting in a proposal from CUSD that puts it in the bottom 20% of districts to reopen with an in-person tuition plan also in the bottom 20%. We go into length and detail how Lori has failed her civic duties through the Summer and Fall of last year here. It is a long read but it provides facts that will show how Lori Cunningham and this Board have failed their civic duties in representing CUSD parents.

We intend to set up signing booths for signature collection. We are teaming up with Reopen California Schools and Open Schools California, and they have funding and volunteers to assist us in collecting signatures.

Please sign up for our mailing list (using the form below), follow us on Twitter @RecallCUSDBoard and we will keep you posted. Thank you for your interest.

More here.

  1. The first step is to file an intent for recall (as we have done).
  2. The next step is to file the petition for recall (which we have done) and then begin the signature collection process after it is approved.
  3. After the petition has the required number of valid signatures, a recall election will take place. We will then have an opportunity to elect a new member of the Board of Education to represent us at CUSD.

For more details, see the county's guide to recall. See below slide for the process:
Our petitions to recall Lori Cunningham have been approved by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. You can download them here. We have prepared forms and collected signatures for the remaining Board Members. We are going to continue to watch and deliberate to determine if and when we will file recalls against them. Our community continues to grow and it remains clear that an increasing majority of parents will not be satisfied until we achieve full reopening.
If the recall moves to the signature collection process, it will cost CUSD some money. As a result, and in the best interest of CUSD, we request Lori Cunningham to resign her role as CUSD Board Member, so we can elect a new Board Member who can advocate for fully reopening our schools now.  Recalls are not new to CUSD, the most recent was in 2002.
We are a growing group of parents representing the voices of the many children struggling, depressed, and affected by prolonged screen time and isolation. We have been advocating for providing a reopening option to CUSD since fall 2020, when first data became available that it can be done safely, but have continued to hear reasons why we can’t vs. why we can.

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Media Coverage

See Media Coverage page for full coverage.

Lori has always prioritized unions’ position over science, over the teachers who want to return to schools, over the suffering kids. This is the damage a union funded board member can do to your children. #KidsBeforeUnions
Lori has always made her own rules when it came to reopening. She bucks science and she decides when she thinks it’s safe. Meanwhile, the children suffer. Her tone-deafness needs to be stopped. Vote to recall Lori and replace her with someone who can advocate for kids and who is not in the pocket of the unions.

Recall CUSD Board rally on the front page of Mercury News

Front page of The Mercury News on Wednesday, February 24, 2021 covers the rally for opening schools. In the photo: “Jill Borges, far right, a teacher at Cupertino High School, protests school closings in the Cupertino and Sunnyvale school districts with her three children”

Link to the article: COVID-19: Data show California far behind in reopening schools. Data service puts California 49th of 50 states in returning kids to classrooms