PVUSD Trustee Georgia Acosta (left), until recently the school board's president, and Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.
PVUSD Trustee Georgia Acosta (left), until recently the school board’s president, and Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez.
(PVUSD and Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
K-12 Education

Campaign launches to recall embattled PVUSD trustee Georgia Acosta

Months after she was ousted from her role as president of the Pajaro Valley Unified School Board of Trustees, Georgia Acosta has yet to publicly address a series of questions raised about her attendance record and conduct as a trustee — including her role in the brief firing of the district’s superintendent. She is now facing a campaign to recall her from office.

Embattled for months following her involvement in an attempt to oust Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez, former board president trustee Georgia Acosta is now facing an effort to recall her from office.

Called the “Committee to Recall Georgia Acosta,” a group with close ties to the district announced Monday it is launching a campaign to unseat Acosta via a recall election.

“She’s a bad actor,” said Carol Turley, manager of the recall committee, blasting Acosta for frequent absences from meetings, among other aspects of her conduct on the board. “She’s not representing the residents of Trustee Area Two, which I am one.”

Other committee members include former PVUSD trustees Jane Barr and Leslie De Rose, and several community members with ties to the district including Gina Cole and Landa Rosebraugh.

Elected to office in 2016, Acosta has become the subject of mounting ire from some within the district. She was censured — formally rebuked — by her colleagues in March over a litany of issues, including missing 26 meetings during her time in office and for her conduct around the brief dismissal of Rodriguez in January. Rodriguez was reinstated days later amid a wave of public backlash, and Acosta was removed from her role as board president.

“The whole Michelle Rodriguez thing was just kind of a nexus for waking up and getting involved in seeing what’s happening,” Turley said. “And then just looking at Georgia’s record over the past four years — she’s not doing the job that she’s been elected to do. We don’t have representation in this area right now.”

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Acosta has for months faced calls to resign or face recall ever since — calls further fueled by an email revealed during her censure that appears to show behind-the-scenes coordination with a former district employee and a longtime conservative Watsonville politico.

Questions have also followed a Lookout report revealing district staff accounts that Acosta gave them inappropriate direction to post financial documents to the district website. Acosta’s colleagues on the board also found she improperly racked up more than $16,000 in legal fees.

“The bottom line is the trustee area deserves to have proper representation, and I think that’s been corrupted,” said Barr, the former PVUSD trustee who most recently served as an elected trustee on the Santa Cruz County Board of Education.

More than 250 people have backed an online petition calling for Acosta’s recall or resignation.

Through it all, Acosta has avoided any public response to criticisms of her conduct on the board. While voting against her own censure in March, she did not appear on video for the live-streamed meeting and offered no explanation or denial of any of the issues cited.

Acosta has not responded to numerous requests for comment from Lookout placed over the course of months, and could not immediately be reached Monday.

What are the next steps?

The recall campaign is targeting February or March 2022 as potential dates for a special election that would bring the recall question to voters in Acosta’s Trustee Area 2 — an area encompassing northeastern Watsonville and extending to the Santa Clara County line.

But the campaign has to clear a number of hurdles before voters can weigh in:

  • First, it needs to gather signatures from 20 district residents in support of a notice of intent to recall. Campaign organizers say they have already lined up support from at least that many and hope to file the notice within the next week or two. Acosta would then have 7 days to formally respond.
  • Next, the campaign would have to gather more signatures from at least 25% of registered voters within Trustee Area 2 over a 90-day period. About 8,600 voters are registered in Acosta’s trustee area, meaning recall supporters would have to collect at least 2,150 signatures.
  • Once those signatures are verified the PVUSD board would have 14 days to call a recall election — which must take place 88-125 days later.

How often does this happen?

No school board member has ever successfully been recalled in Santa Cruz County, according to records that date back to 1974.

The most recent attempt to recall school board members was in 2015, when notices of intent were filed against two trustees from Soquel Union Elementary District. That bid failed to reach the ballot.

The last time a school board recall reached the ballot in Santa Cruz County was 1978 when petitioners sought to unseat four trustees from Bonny Doon Union Elementary School District. All four trustees held their seats.

If the recall effort progresses to an election, it remains unclear who may run for Acosta’s seat.

“There are a couple of people who I think would be excellent candidates who we will tap,” said Turley, “but we haven’t as a group decided that we’re really supporting any particular candidate to take the spot.”