School district needs healing, not turmoil
These board members have not acted improperly... I cannot see any justifiable reason that supports their recall.
This past year has been very demanding upon your school board and upon your administrators.
We had barely celebrated the passing of the construction bond for our kids' future when we were confronted with the knowledge that we were going to be woefully short in the next biennium's budget. This was on top of the cuts we had already made in the current budget.
Since the state is the source of most of the income for all school districts, we could only guess what that might be.
We needed to make plans and set priorities so we could act when there were better projections as to what the actual education budget could be.
We felt that we wanted the community to know of the severity of potential cuts and to be able to voice their concerns. The administration proposed the summit process so we could get more community involvement than had ever been involved in such decisions at any time in the past.
Our summit meetings included over 100 citizens from all walks of life.
These summits were designed to give generalizations, not specifics to the administration, the budget committee and the board.
The administration then proceeded to build a budget based upon this input. The projected cuts were so deep that they impacted a cross section of our programs, and some programs were even eliminated.
Additionally, it included the closing of Gales Creek Elementary School.
We held budget meetings and board meetings and listened to a great deal of input from a broad range of citizens from the district. There were many ideas for saving a wide range of programs but no concrete methods of funding these programs other than cutting another program, school days or increasing class sizes even more.
Most of these meetings were very intense, and we were very fortunate to have the bilingual and bicultural abilities of Anna Tavera-Weller as our board chair. Anna was a key element in defusing many misunderstandings and keeping our meetings on track.
I have found Terry Howell to be a deep thinker and a strong supporter of our students and schools.
While it is a matter of record that I did not want to close a school and was willing to reduce the amount of days to fund that school, in my personal conversations with Terry it was apparent that he really struggled with closing Gales Creek also, but could not see a way to fund it that he could support.
This was also the year that contracts expired with both of our bargaining groups. We were unable to reach agreement on new contracts before the school year ended, so will have to negotiate new contracts during this coming year.
I feel it is very important we maintain some consistency as we go into these negotiations; we already lost one of our valuable negotiating team members when Ralph Brown left the board.
Now we face a signature gathering process to recall some very productive and responsible board members. These board members have not committed any crime, and have not acted improperly or inconsistently with their sworn duties. They have made decisions based upon their best judgments and convictions, seeking the best answers for our students. I cannot see any justifiable reason that supports their recall.
You will find that our budget decisions impacted every student in this district, not by choice but by the fiscal realities and educational needs. I ask that you look long and hard before supporting this recall effort. The decisions we made were very difficult and were made across the whole educational budget.
While I hurt at the loss of a school, a reduction of programs and increased class sizes for our students, I am also proud of what we were able to retain with the devastation that we were handed.
This community does not need to continue in turmoil, but it needs to heal and go forward. Our students are the greatest and we need to make this year a wonderful productive year for them regardless of the hand we have been dealt.
- Fred Marble is one of the five members of the Forest Grove School Board. He was re-elected last November and is not one of the two board members targeted by a recall campaign. He lives in Dilley.