Some Paso Robles residents want to replace a local school board member known for his far-right political views.
Critics of Kenney Enney filed a petition with roughly 800 signatures on Nov. 10 with the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education and the San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder’s Office to hold a special election for Enney’s seat on the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District.
Enney was appointed to the school board on Oct. 11 to replace Chris Bausch, who took a seat on the Paso Robles City Council.
Within the required 30 days of his appointment, residents filed the petition to replace Enney.
Should at least 455 of the signatures on the petition — representing 1.5% of registered voters in the school district — be deemed valid by San Luis Obispo County, a special election would be held. The county has until Dec. 9 to make that determination.
Carey Alvord and her fellow organizers gathered about 800 signatures for the petition in five days, which she said signaled the community’s desire to have Enney replaced.
Alvord, a supervisor of homeless and foster youth services at Paso Robles Unified, was joined in her petition efforts by others including Paso Robles High School athletic coach Juanetta Perkins, Cal Poly instructor and psychologist Susana Lopez and San Luis Obispo County social worker Elena Garcia.
“The board could have handled this much differently,” she said. “They didn’t have to appoint an extremist candidate.”
Alvord noted that Enney has regularly posted on the private Facebook group PRotect Paso with viewpoints that discriminate against certain LGBTQ+ students in the district.
She said that the posts are often hateful and misguided, and are based on “national politics that have nothing to do with the board’s direction.”
Enney has carried the viewpoints he expresses on social media into school board meeting discussions, Alvord added.
In one Facebook post, Enney claimed that the school district had received “complaints about ‘Furrys’ (sic)“ in Paso Robles Unified. The Tribune verified that claim was false after contacting the school district.
In another, Enney noted that he “reject(s)“ transgender people because “you can’t be something you’re not,” referencing a person’s physical transition to the gender with which they identify as “gender mutilation.”
A special election is expected to cost the school district about $493,000 — a price that petitioners recognize is steep for the small district, which has struggled with declining enrollment, Alvord said.
“No one likes the cost,” Alvord said.
“But the board brought this upon themselves” by appointing Enney, she said.
During the November general election, the Paso Robles school board had three seats up for grabs.
In two of the races, voters elected self-proclaimed progressive candidates, and ousted the more conservative incumbents.
Chris Arend, president of the board, was soundly defeated by Jim Cogan, with 48% of the vote compared to 27.5%, according to the clerk-recorder’s latest tally of the votes.
Arend has long been a controversial figure on the board and has brought up resolutions that reflect national right-wing political movements.
For instance, he drafted a resolution passed by the board in August 2021 that bans aspects of critical race theory teachings from being taught in district classrooms — directly contradicting school district policy.
Frank Triggs, who was appointed to the board in December 2021, was trailing Sondra Williams with 37.7%, compared to Williams’ 42.9%, according to the Clerk-Recorder’s Office.
Triggs has also courted controversy with posts on social media featuring rants against COVID-19 vaccinations, false information about climate change and disparagement of the Black Lives Matter movement.
He has also repeatedly commented at school board meetings about transgender students, saying in an August meeting that those students should accept “the reality of who they really are and how they were born, and have the proper self-esteem.”
“Paso Robles voters in this election resoundingly rejected the politics of division,” Alvord and others wrote in a statement sent to The Tribune. “Let’s join together and protect those freedoms by continuing to elect school board trustees who want our schools to be places where every child belongs and can thrive. We look forward to the special election for this board seat and we trust the people of Paso Robles to educate themselves and vote their conscience.”
Enney has posted on social media he welcomes the “challenge” of the petition and potential special election.
The Tribune reached out to Enney for comment but had not received a response as of Thursday evening,