Since board members Jonathan Komrosky, Danny Gonzalez, and Jennifer Wiersma were elected as part of the Temecula Valley Unified School District (TVUSD) Board of Trustees in November 2022, there has been controversy when it comes to some of the educational measures they have approved.
In December 2022, TVUSD’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution that banned teachers of K-12 from teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) or similar topics.
This resolution confused teachers and staff because many have shared how they already do not teach CRT. Instead, they believe the board is trying to censor what is being taught to students.
As a result, teachers and staff have been left to question what can and cannot be taught to students. In addition, students, parents, staff, and teachers worry about students being deprived of learning accurate history.
Along with this, on May 16, the Board, specifically Komrosky, Gonzalez, and Wiersma, voted against a new social studies curriculum for first to fifth graders in the district that would be used for the 2023-2024 school year. According to the Associated Press, the board voted against the curriculum due to some of the topics that would be discussed.”Some board members were concerned the curriculum’s supplementary material mentioned Harvey Milk, the former San Francisco supervisor and gay rights advocate who was assassinated in 1978. Some board members also said parents had not been adequately consulted about the curriculum,” the Associated Press stated.
Despite this vote catching the attention of Governor Gavin Newsom, who did not approve of the decision, the board once again voted against the curriculum. In a July 19 press release from Governor Newsom, he stated how California will ensure that the students of the district will receive the appropriate textbooks and they will bill the district for the books. Also, a possible fine of $1.5 million would be presented to the Board.
However, on July 21, the board ended up approving the curriculum. “The board recommended ‘substituting age-appropriate curriculum’ that complies with state and federal law but ‘is also consistent with the board’s commitment to exclude sexualized topics of instruction from elementary school grade levels,” the Associated Press stated.
In addition, on June 13, with a 3-1 vote, the board removed Jodie McClay from her position as superintendent, which caused additional opinions to arise regarding the sudden action.
As for TVUSD teachers, they have come together to ask for a cost-of-living pay increase from the board, according to Patch. This situation remains ongoing.
The board’s actions have resulted in a lawsuit against the board for passing the resolution regarding CRT. Also, since June 13, there has been an effort to recall the three board members. This recall is being supported by the One Temecula Valley PAC (1TVPAC), which is a political action committee whose goal is “to support and promote stable, responsible candidates and policy within the Southwest Riverside County region leading up to the 2022 election and well beyond,” as stated on its website.
The 1TVPAC recall website includes how their decision to join this recall first came from a group of mothers in Temecula Valley who wanted to recall Wiersma. This eventually led to including all three board members in a recall.
As of now, some people are opposing the recall. However, many from the Temecula Valley community and others are showing their support for the removal of Gonzalez, Wiersma, and Komrosky.
Recently, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Southwest Riverside Branch 1034, along with District 5 of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) for the Inland Empire, held a press conference to show their support. President Myles Ross of the NAACP Southwest Riverside Branch 1034 represented the organization at the conference along with Anthony Noriega, who is LULAC’s district 5 director for the Inland Empire.
Noriega shared how he started meeting with Ross to discuss the situations happening at the TVUSD. “In early July 2023, shortly following the recall announcement, Myles Ross, President of the NAACP Southwest Riverside Branch 1034 and I met numerous times to discuss the evolving situation in Temecula and the negative impact it was having on the minority, LBGTQ, and marginalized communities,” Noriega said.
Noriega and Ross decided to announce their support in the press conference, along with encouraging the Black and Latino communities to support the recall.
According to Ballotpedia, by Dec. 8, there has to be a certain number of signatures for each board member to put each recall on the ballot. This includes 4,392 for Gonzalez, 3,987 for Wiersma and 4,280 for Komrosky.
For more information on the recall, you can visit the PAC’s recall website.
CALÓ NEWS recently interviewed Anthony Noriega to further discuss the recall of the three board members of the TVUSD.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
TELL ME ABOUT LULAC AND THE TYPE OF WORK THE ORGANIZATION FOCUSES ON.
LULAC is a community, a national organization located in approximately 37 states with over a thousand councils. Each council is made up of the community. Some people have a misconception that we’re going to come into a community and we set up a council and that we bring in people, we don’t. What we do is that we work within the community to identify community leaders and members and to build the organization from the ground up in that city, in that community.
So it’s made up of the local people who are aware of what the issues are in that particular community. And as many councils as we have, you have a variety. Not one council is the same because the community could be different. If I use the council in Riverside, the Riverside Council 3190, that council has been around for 20-something years, and through time they have become known as the health council. And they put on an annual health fair, which brings in 3,000 to 4,000 people and they provide mental health services. They provide vision services and dental services. They have built up a very strategic health fair.
They bring in the flying doctors from Los Angeles and San Francisco. They bring all the equipment and stuff. This is what these flying doctors do. Some of the equipment is flown in and some of it is trucked in and they actually set up medical sections when they do that health fair. And so it involves a lot of people— a lot of doctors, dentists, and so forth and mental health experts.
But that’s just an example and our council, Veterans of Southern California, focuses on the veterans of members of LULAC and the community. And so we promote legislation and ensure that our veterans are receiving the benefits that they’re entitled to and helping them out when they’re experiencing problems.
I WENT TO THE WEBSITE AND SAW YOU’RE A DISTRICT DIRECTOR FOR DISTRICT 5, WHAT ARE THE DISTRICTS IN LULAC AND WHAT ROLE DO THEY PLAY?
LULAC’s Leadership structure is broken down by local, district, state, and national level issues. LULAC District 5 and my role as district director is to represent all the local grassroots councils and communities in the Inland Empire, which includes Temecula Valley. We take on issues backing the efforts of the local councils. I have served as the District Director for LULAC de Inland Empire since 2021.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE RECENT EFFORTS TO RECALL MEMBERS OF THE TEMECULA VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT AND HOW THAT BEGAN?
While I was having conversations, I was not involved in that initial thrust when they issued the recall papers to each of the school board members that are being recalled.
HOW DID LULAC BECOME AWARE OF THIS ISSUE AND WHEN DID DISTRICT 5 OF LULAC START ADVOCATING FOR THIS RECALL?
In early July 2023, shortly following the recall announcement, Myles Ross, President of the NAACP Southwest Riverside Branch 1034 and I met numerous times to discuss the evolving situation in Temecula and the negative impact it was having on the minority, LBGTQ, and marginalized communities. As a result, we decided that we had no option but to move forward to announce our joint support for the recall and to encourage the Black and Latino communities to join the recall effort.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE URGENCY OF SPECIFICALLY REMOVING KOMROSKY, GONZALEZ, AND WIERSMA? WHY RECALL THOSE SPECIFIC THREE? WHAT FAR-RIGHT IDEOLOGIES HAVE THEY BEEN PROMOTING?
Since their first board meeting in January 2023, they have been spreading their ideology when they banned CRT, then banned the book, banned the flags, pushed back against LBGTQ policies, opposing diversity, equity and inclusiveness. With each subsequent board meeting, they have been chipping away at the fabric of the district educational system. Let me be clear, their mission is nothing less than to take full control of the district board by removing the other two progressive board members and destroying the educational system as you know it today.
My main focal point is developing relationships. As an organization, we understand that if we’re not developing relationships and partnering with organizations and people, it’s going to be hard to make any progress and so oftentimes, if you’re not working and developing the relationship and you get a seat at the table, you may not be able to have an open conversation and discuss the problems and discuss the possible solutions.
So it’s imperative. In this particular situation, there was never an opportunity to develop a relationship. Right from the start when the first board meeting in January, after they got elected and they shot in their first meeting, they shot their first volley, the critical race theory. That’s what I call the dog whistle for their far-right members. What they’re going to say is that we said we were going to take over and we have and this proves it. That’s what that was all about. To inflame and gather the support of the right-wing members that are supporting them.
I think that the community as a whole made a big error in thinking that these people were going to come in to augment, support, and enrich the district instead of causing chaos. Every single meeting that they’ve had, they’ve done something to deface the face of the district educational system.
They brought nothing but shame to the Temecula school teachers and the staff. I met with some staff members last Thursday on another issue that had to do with the English learners and trying to understand how that program works, but I could tell from the conversation that what was happening with the school board was not sitting well with that.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PETITION AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO SIGN IT? ARE YOU ENCOURAGING EVERYONE TO SIGN OR ONLY THE TEMECULA VALLEY COMMUNITY?
Our press conference was focused on the fact that both the largest Black and Latino organizations are coming in to support the recall. So we’re not only encouraging them but we’re encouraging them to get involved with the recall process because if that petition is not successful, they cannot do another recall for, I believe, six months. And there are some restrictions there. I think that the importance is that if the recall was not successful and they were not replaced, the community was going to have to live with these people for another three years. And God knows what they were going to do.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS NEEDED FOR THE REMOVAL OF THE THREE BOARD MEMBERS?
Successful Petition, successful election of their replacements. Note: The three board members can elect to run for office in the election.
AFTER THEY ARE TAKEN OUT OF THE ROLES, WHO IS GOING TO TAKE OVER THEIR ROLES IN THE TEMECULA VALLEY UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT?
My understanding is that there are a number of potential candidates prepared to run to fill the positions, With the student Latino population of 35.4%, we are hopeful that at least one Latino candidate will emerge and run for office.
HOW WOULD THE REMOVAL OF THE THREE BOARD MEMBERS BENEFIT STUDENTS, TEACHERS, STAFF, AND PARENTS FROM TEMECULA VALLEY?
Their removal would eliminate the chaos, confusion, and division, and end the need for the investigations by Governor Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Education Superintendent, Tony Thurmond. With new board members, the district would return back to the business of providing quality education to the students that meets or exceeds the state requirements.
WHY DO YOU THINK CRITICAL RACE THEORY IS SUCH A BIG ISSUE AND IS BEING ATTACKED?
In my opinion, CRT has always been controversial for what is and for what it isn’t. Even scholars on opposing sides differ in their options. However, in the last five years, the growing controversy regarding CRT is being fueled by far-right fanatics who are using it as a dog whistle to mobilize their base supporters into action to demonize their detractors, the minority communities by spreading misinformation, lies, fear, hate, and racism in their fight to remain in control, to remain in power.
I have to tell you that the whole thing of critical race theory is a non-starter at the school level from K-12. They don’t teach it, they don’t promote it, and they don’t talk about it. But they’re using that as their main thrust. And not just in California; it’s nationwide. This is the playbook that they’re using to try to take control. They’re using this as a base to try to win, not just the school board races, but to win other local races, state races and national races, so this has been going on for a while already. I think I indicated there that from my perspective this has been a growing concern for at least the last five years.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADD?
We need to remain vigilant as organizations and communities and continue to assist and guide our communities to improve, prosper, and achieve economic and political advancement and to ensure our children are afforded maximum opportunities to advance educationally and in society. At the state level, LULAC has selected Oxnard, California to host the 2024 State LULAC Annual Convention on April 26 – 28 and Long Beach, California,will be hosting the 2025 National Convention. Both of these conventions will be opportunities for California LULAC to highlight the work being accomplished by the districts and councils. With unwavering dedication and steadfast resolve, California LULAC stands stronger than ever after 77 years, tirelessly championing the cause of Latino communities in the state.
I work with various organizations in Riverside and especially in the San Bernardino area, such as the Pomona NAACP, Poor People’s Campaign, Pitzer College, SEIU 1000 (union), Inland Equity Partnership (housing, member), Fair Ontario, Ontario, Art and Science Cultural Center, and the Ontario Future Alliance (member). We have so many groups out there that are being led by young, vibrant, and progressive Latinas. And you can see the difference that they’re making in the community.
And if we didn’t have them, I think we would be further apart. One of the major issues up there in that area is the warehouses. And I helped start the LULAC de Octavio, and then LULAC of Moreno Valley, and that’s when we increased the councils. That’s how I was able to establish a district because you have to have at least three councils to start a district under the LULAC format.
But that is a huge problem. Those jobs at the warehouses, about 68 percent of those jobs are going to Latinos. And their poverty wages, their 17, 18, 19 dollars an hour wages. And they’re trapping our young people into those jobs and they have a false sense of security, but those jobs, they can’t afford to even rent a studio apartment and maintain, and sustain an apartment with those wages.
I was devastated to find out that San Bernardino City Unified School District started a program over at El Cajon High School to teach the kids how to get a job in the warehouse. So subsequently, we were losing students to the junior college. The junior college has lost anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of the students. And they’re blaming it on COVID. And I’m not blaming it on COVID. I’m blaming it on the warehouse jobs. A lot of those kids that would normally go to the city college and then go further on into university are going straight into those jobs.
And that’s devastating for us because our educational level attainment is a lot lower. The higher education attainment for the Latino population is about 16 percent versus the normal population of about 38%. So there’s a lot of fallout but we are making progress though. That’s the bright side. And that’s because of all the organizations out there that are working, that are feeding our community, that are fighting for our community, supporting our community, defending our community, and ensuring that we can move forward and give them the best life that we can.