A petition drive to block the appointment of Grace Mah, a strong proponent of a Mandarin-immersion language program in Palo Alto, to the Santa Clara County Board of Education was called off Thursday as too costly.
"We have decided to discontinue signature gathering, although we still oppose the appointment," said Faith Brigel, an organizer of the challenge and co-founder with four others of Voters for Elected Education Governance (VEEG), following a meeting of the group.
If successful, the petition effort could have forced the county board to call a special election on the appointment. Brigel said the $1 million-plus cost estimate for a full election came as a shock.
In addition, they found that even the cost of a mail-in-only election would be closer to $800,000 than an earlier estimate of $100,000 to $150,000, Brigel said.
The county board on March 28 voted 5-1 to name Mah to a vacancy created when Williamson (Bill) Evers was named assistant secretary of education in the Bush Administration. The board passed over two other applicants, Rose Filicetti of Mountain View and Barb Spreng of Palo Alto.
The appointment was to fill the remaining 18 months of Evers' term, at which point the appointee would face an election.
Brigel said VEEG still opposes the appointment and will "continue to look for alternative ways to protect the values we hold." Those values, she said, include the issues of equity in education, access to curriculum opportunities for all elementary students and the importance of neighborhood schools.
She said the process of launching the petition challenge generated substantial interest and support, with "more and more people getting involved." Some involved in the challenge are still looking at a possible Brown Act (state open-meeting law) violation and other possible irregularities in the appointment.
But she said county board members told her even if the board moved to reconsider the appointment on its own that a special election may be required.