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Save Cupertino Schools – Recall Lori Cunningham (new)

Save Cupertino Schools

Recall Lori Cunningham

She is destroying CUSD, one of the most academically reputable districts in the country.
We need effective leaders who represent the entire community and prioritize students’ needs.
We do not need someone who places unions ahead of kids, someone who cannot follow the science, and someone who divides versus unites.

Recall Lori Cunningham from CUSD Board of Education
Recall Lori Cunningham from CUSD Board of Education underway

How has Lori Cunningham wasted your tax dollars?

  • Lori is the first CUSD Board Member to have lost two parcel tax special elections in the same term, more specifically 15 months (!), costing the district at least $2M for ballots and marketing and 1000s of parent volunteer hours. 
  • Measure A, CUSD’s latest attempt for a parcel tax, was an especially egregious example of negligent spending. Lori voted to spend $1M on the special election after publicly admitting that there is no community support for this Measure (see the Board Meeting on January 21, 2021 @ 4:07:52). 
  • The failure of Measure A, with results worse than the last attempt just 15 months ago, was an unequivocal vote of no confidence of the CUSD board and its ex-president Lori Cunningham.
  • The community asked for a more equitable square-foot based parcel tax, but Lori, again, prioritizing her wealthy and real estate developer friends said that a square-foot-based parcel tax was NOT equitable citing the number of children in a household as a reason; see the recording here (@ 1:16:58). Her claim is laughable at best and a display of ignorance. We believe the wealthy should always pay more.
  • When talking about your tax dollars, she literally said “it’ll never be enough”. Although CUSD has been fiscally challenged, these comments, independent of what side of Measure A you are on, just sow division. See the end of this clip that the NoCUSDTax team had put together or hear it yourself from the school Board meeting (@ 3:50:20). 
  • She has approved spending for optics versus science. She supported the installation of plexiglass cages in our schools, which the CDC suggested removing, months before CUSD even reopened, resulting in another wasteful expenditure of your tax dollars reported as upwards of $750K.

How has Lori Cunningham caused community uproar by initiating the process to close neighborhood schools?

  • While President of the CUSD Board, Lori Cunningham started the process of exploring neighborhood schools closures this past September using an unaudited and incorrect budget projection provided by the District resulting in significant uproar in the community. Once the mistake had been identified by the community and rectified in the presented Nov/Dec 2020 financials, it became clear that there was no immediate fiscal reason to close schools. Lori, as President, decided to overlook the error, and push forward to approve $1M spending on yet another parcel tax attempt, all while suggesting to the parents that their schools will close if they do not vote Yes.

How has Lori Cunningham sowed massive division in the community?

  • While covering up an egregious district financial mistake and using the threat of school closures to push for the parcel tax, Lori Cunningham undermined the trust of the board, and of the district. And of course, when she is presented with facts that disagree with her worldview, Lori takes to social media, often with her friends and family in tow, to bully parents advocating for their children. One unknown parent succinctly wrote the following on social media. We agree. 
Screenshot from Nextdoor conversation
Screenshot from Nextdoor conversation
  • Lori does not care about the kids, she only cares about your vote. She is a politician first and foremost and like any good politician, she will score points on any opportunity. Although we believe Lori does care about the AAPI community, in this Twitter post, she is called out for promoting her political brand while participating at the Stop Asian American Hate rally on April 10th by a community leader:
Screenshot from Twitter conversation
  • It doesn’t stop there, Lori herself admitted that she was the primary blocker for reopening, relying, once again on her exquisite medical credentials as a former physical therapist. Read it yourself:
Email obtained via a PRA request
  • Even some of Lori’s most ardent supporters are expressing doubts and regrets. With the failure of Measure A, parents want accountability. Lori asked hundreds, if not thousands of parents to spend their weekends canvassing 10K+ homes, to donate tens of thousands of dollars, some of which were collected directly from our precious school PTA funds, knowing full well that the parcel would likely fail. Instead of demonstrating transparent and accountable leadership, Lori has already moved past this failure, shifting the blame to the community and deepening the division.

How has Lori Cunningham catastrophically failed in school reopenings and in serving as a Board Trustee?

  • Although the board often presents a unified front in public meetings, behind the scenes, it is apparent that Lori is the bully. As private communication obtained by parent volunteers via a California Public Records Act request from the District makes abundantly clear, Lori stymying school reopening was a reason for Measure A’s demise: 
Email obtained via a PRA request
  • As President of the CUSD Board through much of the pandemic, Lori Cunningham watched impassively how the district suffered its steepest enrollment decline in CUSD’s history with approximately 2500 kids that have left in just the last two years. Lori has ignored this reality, exacerbating CUSD’s budget woes as an LCFF funded district. We need board members who will fight to retain our students.
  • Lori, as Board President, was complicit in filling key advisory committees with friends and yes-people, creating echo-chambers and silencing dissenting voices in the community, including the 44% of parents that wanted to return to school this past Fall. Here are some examples:
    • The PAC (Parent Advisory Committee) selection process cherry-picked from PTA members and thus failed to represent the entire parent community, let alone the broader community. 
    • Several parents have reported that the CAC (Citizen Advisory Committees), tasked with developing a concrete plan for school closures, intentionally excluded Lori’s neighborhood school from the list of potential closures even though it is an under-enrolled school with a continual decline in enrollment.
    • The District’s Reopening Parent Advisory Committee did not include a single parent that advocated for reopening of schools in the Fall of 2020, although nearly half of the parents wanted their kids back in schools under any condition per the Fall District survey. 
  • She was the primary impediment as to why CUSD schools could not reopen and may still not fully reopen in the Fall. See an extensive write-up of her callous attitude towards children suffering, her missteps and more here.
  • She has sowed massive confusion and division in the CUSD community by providing no less than 20 different reasons as to why schools could not reopen as seen in email communications obtained via a Public Records Act request. She blamed the community for not wearing masks although Cupertino may have had some of the lowest COVID-19 case counts in the country. She called parents advocating for reopening the minority, empowering the likes of Kai Brown, the Cupertino Teachers Union President, who called the parents bullies. She blamed the County of Santa Clara for the reopening guidelines that were too complex, although our neighboring districts in the same County did reopen. She then blamed CUSD itself saying the district was too unique and too complicated to reopen. This intentional misdirection was by design to support her predisposition against reopening. She didn’t care about the kids who suffered, she cared about her union backers.
  • She has not been shy to cite her “medical” background as a physical therapist(!) in driving the most anti-science school reopening policies placing CUSD dead-last amongst every neighboring school district to have reopened. She has mentioned her credentials in multiple Board meetings and would often lead her email responses to parents acknowledging it. See a couple examples below: 
Emails obtained via a PRA request
Emails obtained via a PRA request

Why does Lori Cunningham prioritize Unions over kids?

  • Lori Cunningham is one of the largest recipients of Union donor money in CUSD’s history, which is truly remarkable, given her short tenure. Her perspectives and opinions are compromised and she simply cannot put the children first. She is hand-cuffed by the CUSD Teachers’ Union agenda.

How Lori Cunningham caused CUSD’s steepest enrolllment decline in history?

  • She has repeatedly said that CUSD’s drop in student enrollment was in-line with the county average. The average elementary school district in Santa Clara County lost approximately 14% of students since 2015. CUSD has experienced a 15% drop (2500 students) in just the past 2 years.
  • She now wants to close your schools instead of addressing the root problem, why are kids leaving CUSD?
  • Lori Cunningham while President, stymied every attempt to reopen schools resulting in CUSD being last amongst neighboring districts to reopen. Parents have voted with their feet and have left. Her callousness means your neighborhood schools will now permanently close.

We believe Lori Cunningham’s presence on the CUSD Board is toxic. Whether willful ignorance or other, she has made multiple poor decisions while continuing to exacerbate division in the community. CUSD needs our full community support in these trying times. 

Please support the recall of Lori Cunningham, so that the community can elect a Board Trustee who will put kids before Unions and can begin to heal our community.

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.

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

Get involved

Please see here for more information.

FAQ

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 let's 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 kid's 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