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1,800-plus signatures send recall to county

Leaders of drive to oust two school board members wait for verification, then vote

Organizers of a Forest Grove School Board recall effort turned their petition sheets in to the Washington County Elections Office Monday, a week ahead of the deadline to do so.

Gales Creek residents Jason and Jodi Giddings say they've collected 1,861 signatures from Forest Grove and Cornelius residents who want to oust Terry Howell from the board, and 1,875 from those who'd like to see Anna Tavera-Weller leave the panel. Both joined the board in 2009.

The signature totals are well above the 1,616 required to trigger a vote on the matter this fall, but elections office personnel must first process the petitions to make sure they meet a three-point set of criteria.

That process could take until early October.

'Technically we have 10 days' to computerize the pages and verify that each signer lives within the school district's boundaries and is registered to vote, said Luther Arnold, a senior administrative specialist for the elections office. 'But we hope to have it done by Friday.'

Luther and his co-workers will also check to see that each signature on the petition matches the one on a corresponding voter registration card.

Meanwhile, recall leaders say they'll continue knocking on doors until Monday at 5 p.m., when their final petition sheets are due at the elections office in Beaverton.

'We will collect until the very last day,' Jason Giddings said Friday. 'We are expecting to get to about 2,000 [signatures] by the 26th,' the date originally set by the elections office for petitioners to turn in their signature sheets.

'We want to ensure that we have as many signatures as possible to help safeguard against high fallout,' he said.

If elections officials verify there are at least 1,616 valid signatures, the clock starts on a five-day period during which Howell and Tavera-Weller must decide to either resign their board seats or submit a statement, which will be printed on the mail-in ballot, about why they think they should remain.

A simple majority of 'yes' votes would remove either board member from office in an election, Arnold said.

The Giddingses, who withdrew their daughter from the district after a contentious budget cycle last spring, will continue to fight for changes in district policies they say are too focused on testing.

'We still have faith in public education,' Jodi Giddings said.