News

Las Lomitas parents call for recall of board member

Online petition says John Earnhardt should be removed from office for comments to local newspaper

Las Lomitas Elementary School District office in Menlo Park on Nov. 10. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Amid a search to fill two school board seats, after a trustee-elect said she would not assume her seat and a sitting trustee who resigned on Nov. 8 over his wife's racist and misogynistic tweets, a change.org petition is now circulating to recall Las Lomitas Elementary School District Trustee John Earnhardt. Parents say his comments in a local newspaper reacting to Mehredith Venverloh's insulting tweets about Vice President-elect Kamala Harris lacked sensitivity and warrant his removal.

An official recall petition would require signatures from a quarter of the district's registered voters in order to move forward.

District parent Marie Summers helped start the online petition, which had 111 signatures as of Wednesday, Nov. 25, afternoon, after Earnhardt declined her request that he step down from the board. The parents took issue with statements he made to the Palo Alto Daily Post, calling Venverloh a "very diligent as a board member and impactful for the district" and noting the "controversy moved quickly because it spread through electronic media and parents are more engaged in the district than in the past" because board meetings are happening over Zoom.

"There is no integrity in saying, 'We got away with all this stuff before because they (families) weren't watching,'" said district parent Brianna Caldwell, one of the petition organizers. "Maybe there is a correlation between more participation and more questions being asked."

Earnhardt declined to comment on the petition, but pointed The Almanac to the Board of Trustees' statement on the district website denouncing the tweets. During last week's school board meeting, Earnhardt told audience members they could find the statement about the incident on the website, while Trustee Dana Nunn told attendees she was "disgusted and deeply sorry for the pain and hurt this has caused in our community."

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If a school district trustee is to be recalled, at least 25% of registered voters in the electoral jurisdiction must sign a physical petition for it to go forward for a district of this size, according to state elections rules. There are 8,213 voters registered in the Las Lomitas District, so 2,053 voter signatures would be required for it to be filed with the county and get on a ballot, according to Jim Irizarry, San Mateo County's assistant chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk recorder.

"It would take a lot of work (to get the necessary number of signatures for a recall) but it's a small district and I think it's work worth doing," Caldwell said. "The most important thing is to move forward in taking action that we think is important for minoritized and underrepresented members of our community, as well as ethnically dominant members of our community who won't grow or learn if things don't change. We see very clearly that Earnhardt serves as a component of systemic racism, and I don't think it's right to look the other way because of what we may have to overcome. It will take some time, but I believe in what we are doing and I believe it is in good faith and with clean hands."

In a year marked by civic unrest and increased awareness of both white privilege and systemic racism in our society, Earnhardt's failure to take an anti-racist stance to Mehridith Venverloh's Twitter posts is unacceptable in this community, the petition states.

"It is very telling that Earnhardt, a former corporate communications executive who is well-versed in handling the media, did not explicitly denounce the hate speech of Mehridith Venverloh," according to the petition. "Instead, John Earnhardt used his privilege to defend Jon Venverloh, and trivialized the gravity of the trauma to our community by minimizing it as a social media controversy."

Summers would like to see board members receive "rigorous" anti-racism training. The petition claims that Earnhardt does not have the understanding, background or training in diversity and inclusivity to represent the district's interests.

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"Families (in the district) are very powerful and wealthy in Silicon Valley," Caldwell said. "Their kids are more likely to grow up and be in positions of leadership and take over businesses. To raise children this privileged in a school (district) that turns a blind eye to obvious systemic racism will affect everyone."

Nicky Colaco, a school district resident, said though the area is progressive, district members don't always speak out when they should to help others.

"When rubber meets the road, people don't understand what it means to actively provide allyship," Colaco said.

The school district must also fill the seat left vacant by Jody Leng, who was elected to the board in the Nov. 3 election, who recently informed the district she would not take her seat. Trustees voted to pursue an appointment process. They had to either order a special election or make provisional appointments within 60 days of the vacancies (on or before Jan. 7, 2021 for Venverloh's former seat, and Feb. 9, 2021 for the seat to which Leng was elected), according to the county.

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Las Lomitas parents call for recall of board member

Online petition says John Earnhardt should be removed from office for comments to local newspaper

by / Almanac

Uploaded: Sat, Nov 28, 2020, 8:48 am

Amid a search to fill two school board seats, after a trustee-elect said she would not assume her seat and a sitting trustee who resigned on Nov. 8 over his wife's racist and misogynistic tweets, a change.org petition is now circulating to recall Las Lomitas Elementary School District Trustee John Earnhardt. Parents say his comments in a local newspaper reacting to Mehredith Venverloh's insulting tweets about Vice President-elect Kamala Harris lacked sensitivity and warrant his removal.

An official recall petition would require signatures from a quarter of the district's registered voters in order to move forward.

District parent Marie Summers helped start the online petition, which had 111 signatures as of Wednesday, Nov. 25, afternoon, after Earnhardt declined her request that he step down from the board. The parents took issue with statements he made to the Palo Alto Daily Post, calling Venverloh a "very diligent as a board member and impactful for the district" and noting the "controversy moved quickly because it spread through electronic media and parents are more engaged in the district than in the past" because board meetings are happening over Zoom.

"There is no integrity in saying, 'We got away with all this stuff before because they (families) weren't watching,'" said district parent Brianna Caldwell, one of the petition organizers. "Maybe there is a correlation between more participation and more questions being asked."

Earnhardt declined to comment on the petition, but pointed The Almanac to the Board of Trustees' statement on the district website denouncing the tweets. During last week's school board meeting, Earnhardt told audience members they could find the statement about the incident on the website, while Trustee Dana Nunn told attendees she was "disgusted and deeply sorry for the pain and hurt this has caused in our community."

If a school district trustee is to be recalled, at least 25% of registered voters in the electoral jurisdiction must sign a physical petition for it to go forward for a district of this size, according to state elections rules. There are 8,213 voters registered in the Las Lomitas District, so 2,053 voter signatures would be required for it to be filed with the county and get on a ballot, according to Jim Irizarry, San Mateo County's assistant chief elections officer and assessor-county clerk recorder.

"It would take a lot of work (to get the necessary number of signatures for a recall) but it's a small district and I think it's work worth doing," Caldwell said. "The most important thing is to move forward in taking action that we think is important for minoritized and underrepresented members of our community, as well as ethnically dominant members of our community who won't grow or learn if things don't change. We see very clearly that Earnhardt serves as a component of systemic racism, and I don't think it's right to look the other way because of what we may have to overcome. It will take some time, but I believe in what we are doing and I believe it is in good faith and with clean hands."

In a year marked by civic unrest and increased awareness of both white privilege and systemic racism in our society, Earnhardt's failure to take an anti-racist stance to Mehridith Venverloh's Twitter posts is unacceptable in this community, the petition states.

"It is very telling that Earnhardt, a former corporate communications executive who is well-versed in handling the media, did not explicitly denounce the hate speech of Mehridith Venverloh," according to the petition. "Instead, John Earnhardt used his privilege to defend Jon Venverloh, and trivialized the gravity of the trauma to our community by minimizing it as a social media controversy."

Summers would like to see board members receive "rigorous" anti-racism training. The petition claims that Earnhardt does not have the understanding, background or training in diversity and inclusivity to represent the district's interests.

"Families (in the district) are very powerful and wealthy in Silicon Valley," Caldwell said. "Their kids are more likely to grow up and be in positions of leadership and take over businesses. To raise children this privileged in a school (district) that turns a blind eye to obvious systemic racism will affect everyone."

Nicky Colaco, a school district resident, said though the area is progressive, district members don't always speak out when they should to help others.

"When rubber meets the road, people don't understand what it means to actively provide allyship," Colaco said.

The school district must also fill the seat left vacant by Jody Leng, who was elected to the board in the Nov. 3 election, who recently informed the district she would not take her seat. Trustees voted to pursue an appointment process. They had to either order a special election or make provisional appointments within 60 days of the vacancies (on or before Jan. 7, 2021 for Venverloh's former seat, and Feb. 9, 2021 for the seat to which Leng was elected), according to the county.

Comments

Joseph E. Davis
Registered user
Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 28, 2020 at 12:12 pm
Joseph E. Davis, Woodside: Emerald Hills
Registered user
on Nov 28, 2020 at 12:12 pm
59 people like this

I certainly hope these parents are ignored. It sounds like much ado about nothing.


Dagwood
Registered user
Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 28, 2020 at 3:20 pm
Dagwood, Menlo Park: Downtown
Registered user
on Nov 28, 2020 at 3:20 pm
51 people like this

This is pure whack-doodle.


Thoughtful
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Nov 28, 2020 at 5:21 pm
Thoughtful, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Nov 28, 2020 at 5:21 pm
65 people like this

This has now gone from the spouse of a woman who makes distasteful remarks needs to lose (and does lose) his job (questionable to begin with) to anyone who doesn't fully condemn the SPOUSE also needs to lose his job.

Continuing the recursion, I imagine anyone who on this board doesn't agree would also need to lose their jobs.

Cancel culture gone totally out of control.


Joe
Registered user
Atherton: West of Alameda
on Nov 29, 2020 at 9:05 pm
Joe, Atherton: West of Alameda
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 9:05 pm
1 person likes this

[Post removed.]


Enough
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Nov 29, 2020 at 11:15 pm
Enough, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Nov 29, 2020 at 11:15 pm
12 people like this

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


La Entrada Parent
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 30, 2020 at 9:33 am
La Entrada Parent, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 9:33 am
34 people like this

Marie Summers moderates a Facebook group called "Las Lomitas / La Entrada Parent's Group". It is not directly affiliated with either school, the school district, nor a related organization such as the PTA or the Foundation. Parents who have joined the group often don't realize this. The posts she and Brianna Caldwell have cultivated on this group offer an angry and ill-informed perspective criticizing the school board, the district staff and school administration. Much like our current President's inflamed rhetoric on social media, their comments are misleading and completely destructive to the fabric of our school community.


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Nov 30, 2020 at 11:37 am
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 11:37 am
6 people like this

I have no part in any of this, _but_ wish to point out that reporter Ms. Swartz was a bit inaccurate in implying the petitioning parents objected solely to Mr. Earnhardt's comments quoted in Palo Alto Daily Post's Nov. 8th story about Mr. Venverloh's resignation. The parents' petition claims this was part of a much longer pattern, and cites numerous _other_ Earnhardt comments and actions that they consider troubling. Skim down to the petition's paragraph that starts with "Furthermore, Earnhardt has a long history...".

Reading the petition's claims, personally I'm somewhat interested, but note without objection that we Las Lomitas District voters who didn't witness such actions or hear such comments cannot easily assess claims made about them.

(I should hasten to add that I'm not faulting Ms. Swartz, who always does a fine job covering local political doings, if only because the petition meanders a bit.)


Menlo Mom
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 30, 2020 at 1:38 pm
Menlo Mom, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 1:38 pm
10 people like this

These comments are ironic and these people seem to be a part of the problem. Racism is violent and should incite anger. To be more concerned with how one’s community is perceived than the racism that affects it is toxic. To use the word “distasteful” to describe the severe and violent racism demonstrated in the tweets is shocking. To see so many people still not take racism seriously is so disappointing.


Gianni
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Nov 30, 2020 at 2:15 pm
Gianni, Atherton: other
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 2:15 pm
9 people like this

I’m confused by ANYONE that posts anything on here other than applause for the person resigning and realizing they need someone that can be a BETTER representative of the people and the area along with the people that found the person’s spouse using social media in a very inappropriate manner. I am white and was raised by European’s but I can safely tell you, my family and I are completely against this messaging from our leadership. She said, and I quote, “all she needs to be qualified is a black p***y”

Is this a joke!? Get her out of here and I’m sorry but this isn’t about making you feel better behind your laptop ... this is about American children of all types striving to make a stronger and better America. No one should be held back because of leadership that is using their personal opinion as fact in a disgusting and perverse manner. Call me “high standards” but I don’t want my daughter being raised to know this area has anything else to say but, “this is wrong.”


Amelia
Registered user
Atherton: other
on Nov 30, 2020 at 2:48 pm
Amelia , Atherton: other
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 2:48 pm
13 people like this

It’s easy to ignore these issues when you’re rich, white, and surrounded by privilege. But the actions of today, affect tomorrow. Bravo to these women for standing up for what’s right to ensure that ALL children are equally benefiting from a community that doesn’t find this behavior acceptable. Ignorance has a trickling effect, and if we don’t reprimand it when we see it, then it will always be seen as acceptable.


Parent of Los Lomitas and La Entrada grads
Registered user
Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 30, 2020 at 9:25 pm
Parent of Los Lomitas and La Entrada grads, Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
Registered user
on Nov 30, 2020 at 9:25 pm
46 people like this

Los Lomitas District (and every other school district in the country) has more than enough challenges on its hands to meet its actual mission -- providing an excellent education to all of its students,

I do not see what Mr. Earnhardt did or did not say regarding what the spouse of a different Board member tweeted has any material bearing on his ability to support the District's mission.

There is a proven way to remove a Trustee that voters do not like. It is called an election.


pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Dec 1, 2020 at 6:49 am
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2020 at 6:49 am
53 people like this

Gianni said: "but I can safely tell you, my family and I are completely against this messaging from our leadership. She said, and I quote, “all she needs to be qualified is a black p***y” Is this a joke!? Get her out of here..."

Gianni - the person that made this statement ISN'T a school official. She is WIFE of an official who later resigned. No official ever expressed that sentiment.

Do you think people should lose their jobs for the actions or statements made by their spouse or child or some other relative? If that's the standard, we should all update our resumes.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 1, 2020 at 7:33 am
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2020 at 7:33 am
62 people like this

This whole thing reeks of virtue signaling and people with too much time on their hands. This board member didn't condemn another, resigned board member's wife strongly enough? Really? As Pogo notes, if that's the standard we better all update our resumes. INCLUDING the holier than though folks pushing this nonsense.


Enough
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:47 am
Enough, Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2020 at 10:47 am
37 people like this

It is obvious by some of the comments above that people do not understand, or have not taken the time to understand, the whole story here. This is not about the person that posted offensive remarks on twitter, it is not even about her husband, the president of the school board that has already resigned. This is about another member of the school board who did not "appropriately condemn" the husband of the person that posted the offensive tweets. He pointed out that the husband, who did not post the tweets, was "very diligent as a board member and impactful for the district" which he might very well have been. This comments does not support the wife's tweets in any way. I personally think that a few parents are over-reacting. The Tweets were horrible, I think everyone agrees with that. The husband did not post them, that much is a fact. He stepped down from his position because of them, probably the right thing for him to do. Now a few parents want to go after anyone that does not want to tar and feather the husband? Is that really the kind of community we live in?

Another poster mentioned other comments by Earnhardt, but as those were not part of the article we don't know what those are and if they are relevant.


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Dec 1, 2020 at 11:15 am
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Dec 1, 2020 at 11:15 am
Like this comment

The "other comments by Earnhardt" are referred to within the parents' online petition. Ms. Swartz's article, albeit excellent as far as it went, described only the first of a series of concerns in that petition, but on the other hand it does directly link to that petition.

To reiterate, I have no connection to that petition, but here again is the petition's direct link, for readers' convenience: Web Link

The petition, in short, claims there has been a larger ongoing pattern of problematic conduct from Mr. Earnhardt, and briefly describes a number of examples. Unfortunately for those of us outsiders to the (claimed) problem who would like to know more and to evaluate primary data, it's left unclear how to do so. Speaking as a Las Lomitas alumnus and constituent of that district, I'm interested yet cautious, and beyond that note only that there are claims within the petition of problematic conduct _far_ beyond just Mr. Earnhardt's one quotation in Palo Alto Daily Post's November news story.


pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Dec 2, 2020 at 4:43 pm
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2020 at 4:43 pm
36 people like this

I don't know whether to be grateful that ONLY 135 people signed that absurd recall petition or horrified that 135 actually DID sign it.

If the new politically-correct standard is that we will lose our jobs and reputations because we didn't condemn SOMEONE ELSE'S actions to the mob's satisfaction, then I suggest you brush up on the proverb about people who live in glass houses.


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Dec 2, 2020 at 5:12 pm
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2020 at 5:12 pm
2 people like this

It is a little distressing that rather a lot of commenters, here, are continuing to condemn the parents' petition based on a faulty, quite incomplete understanding of what it says.

I'll just stop there, and suggest that interested parties respond to the petition rather than to an erroneous understanding of its complaint. (Again, I have no connection to that effort. But I did read what the parents wrote.)


pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Dec 2, 2020 at 6:11 pm
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2020 at 6:11 pm
28 people like this

I did read it before posting. Every word.

Joseph McCarthy would be proud.


Menlo Voter.
Registered user
Menlo Park: other
on Dec 2, 2020 at 8:03 pm
Menlo Voter., Menlo Park: other
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2020 at 8:03 pm
29 people like this

Rick:

I too read the entire petition. There is a whole lot of air there and very little substance. Boiling down to a bunch of accusations with no specifics and the complaint that Earnhardt didn't condemn someone else to her satisfaction. McCarthy certainly would be proud as Pogo said. Hell, it smacks of "1984".

And the 135 that signed it? Virtue signaling. Which the limousine liberals of this area are oh so very good.


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Dec 3, 2020 at 12:14 pm
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2020 at 12:14 pm
2 people like this

Menlo Voter, I'd say the petition's accusations could be substantial, as there were a number of specific allegations that, if accurately and fairly described, would be troubling -- but, without someone providing context and a document trail, I tend to react like a Missourian and say "Show me".

The complaints might be a serious matter _with_ that context and documentation, but I'm left unclear on how to satisfy my curiosity, and shifting to other priorities.

In any event, my point was that the continuing recent allegation (within this comment thread), that the parents are solely worked up over Mr. Earnhardt failing to condemn Mr. Venverloh's comments to their satisfaction, is objectively incorrect, and ignores the petition's main argument. On logic grounds, that is a failed rebuttal.


pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Dec 4, 2020 at 2:41 pm
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Dec 4, 2020 at 2:41 pm
18 people like this

Mr. Moen -

I read all 766 words of the petition. Only three sentences of that petition even mention Mr. Earnhart's actions that were not related to his failure to adequately condemn another person's else's tweet. Those three sentences were these 92 words (or 12% of the total petition):

"...Earnhardt has a long history of censoring and silencing parents and teachers who have expressed concerns about the school district. A district mother pleaded with the school for more diverse hiring; she was told by the Board and administrative staff that they’d have to “lower hiring standards,” and that “we can’t hire Black people, the community isn’t ready for it,” to which John Earnheardt (sic) responded “But the test scores are all good.” In a recent discussion about pandemic safety, he insulted parents and teachers who were deeply concerned about plans to reopen."

I read those three sentence several times and quite honestly didn't find anything factually or objectively offensive. The petition does reference some incendiary comments that WERE NOT MADE BY MR. EARNHARDT. The innuendo is that Earnhardt inappropriately responded "but the test scores are all good." That's it? That's impeachable? And the most damaging charge seems to be the petitioner's opinion that he had "insulted parents and teachers." Not exactly specific. Oh my.

So your comment that these charges "could be substantial, as there were a number of specific allegations that, if accurately and fairly described, would be troubling..." Well, (a) if true, they were hardly substantial, (b) they were hardly specific, and (c) there were hardly "a number" of them. There is ONE. But I do give you credit for demanding proof. I would go further by demanding a reasonable allegation of abuse or misconduct. The petition does NEITHER.

Your final point "that the continuing recent allegation (within this comment thread), that the parents are solely worked up over Mr. Earnhardt failing to condemn Mr. Venverloh's comments to their satisfaction, is objectively incorrect, and ignores the petition's main argument. I would offer the opening statement of the petition which ONLY mentions that issue:

"Las Lomitas Governing Board Member John Earnhardt should be recalled for failing to formally denounce racism present in Las Lomitas Board leadership. In a year marked by civic unrest and evidence of both white privilege and systemic racism in our society, his failure to take an anti-racist stance to Mehridith Venverloh’s twitter posts is unacceptable in this community."

As you can see there's NO MENTION of any other issue in their reason for recall. In fact, the petition doesn't even mention anything else until the seventh paragraph and those three sentences mentioned above.

On logic grounds, I think the failed rebuttal is YOURS.


Rick Moen
Registered user
Menlo Park: University Heights
on Dec 5, 2020 at 1:05 am
Rick Moen, Menlo Park: University Heights
Registered user
on Dec 5, 2020 at 1:05 am
Like this comment

Mr. or Ms. "pogo":

1. I posted no "rebuttal" upthread, having had nothing I needed or wished to rebut.

2. Contrary to your implication, I made no claim about anything, or even any claimed thing, being "factually or objectively offensive". I merely opined that the parents' petition listed some specific allegations (of which there were, obviously not 'one' but several) that, if accurately and fairly described, would be troubling. Thus, I'm interested enough that _if_ context and a document trail were available, I'd be interesting to see more, in order to see if there is any beef.

3. You are quite manifestly incorrect in your claim -- yet again -- that the petition cites as reason for recall only the one peculiar claim in its opening paragraph. The rest of its alleged reasons are, as mentioned already, in the passage starting with "Furthermore, Earnhardt has a long history...".

This really ought not to be difficult. It's right there in the text.

However, unless (in a last minute plot twist) some meaningful access to context and a document trail appears, my interest in this entire matter is now at an end, for lack of information.

(Oh, and it appears your Shift key may have gone dodgy. ;-> )


pogo
Registered user
Woodside: other
on Dec 5, 2020 at 7:10 am
pogo, Woodside: other
Registered user
on Dec 5, 2020 at 7:10 am
9 people like this

Mr. Moen -

I never said there was ONLY one reason for the flawed recall attempt. In fact, I specifically noted the three sentences that referenced the ONLY other reason. Those sentences, which I read several times, actually note SOMEONE ELSE'S ("the Board and administrative staff") comments, not Earnhart's. At least the claimants have consistently poor aim with their venomous claims. The comment made by Earnhart that test scores are all good is hardly offensive. Seriously? That's the best they've got?

But when the opening paragraph summarizing the reasons for this ill conceived recall only mentions the failure of Earnhart to "adequately" condemn someone else's tweet (oh, the horror!) and the ONLY other reason isn't even mentioned until the seventh paragraph and then only as an afterthought... well, that's quite revealing about the real motivation.

The claim that Earnhart's condemnation was "inadequate" is undeniably a subjective opinion and hardly the specific, concrete charges worthy of recall... much less comes close to your characterization that there are "several" allegations. There are not. But even if you count their non-specific afterthought about test scores are all good, at best there are two charges... which is what I noted in my first post.

This petition devotes 88% of its text claiming Earnhart's condemnation was inadequate.


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