Recall targets go on offense as ballots reach school district voters

New group works to retain Terry Howell and Anna Tavera-Weller

Just as organizers of a months-long campaign to recall a pair of Forest Grove School Board members shifted into overdrive this week, the targets themselves began to mount a counter-offensive.

The Washington County Elections Office mailed ballots to registered voters in the school district Friday, asking them if they wished to remove Terry Howell and Anna Tavera-Weller from the board. The pair came under fire last June after a group led by Gales Creek residents Jason and Jodi Giddings accused them of ineffective leadership in the midst of a grueling budget-cutting season.

'We'll be running a targeted door-to-door campaign,' Howell said Monday, adding that a newly-formed 'No on Recall' committee with 12 to 20 members would back both him and Tavera-Weller. 'We're going down together, or not.'

Meanwhile, Jodi Giddings said her group would continue to pass out bumper stickers and lawn signs urging a 'yes' vote in the recall. Volunteers planned to distribute a limited number of full-color flyers, carrying the theme 'Get on Board: New Voices, New Choices,' at local gathering spots over the next two weeks, she added.

She said approximately $800 in donations 'from people mostly in Forest Grove and Gales Creek' had been received by her group within a few days of Howell and Tavera-Weller's decisions not to resign, an option that was open to them.

'Others have taken bumper stickers and yard signs to help out in lieu of monetary donations,' Giddings said.

Ballots in the special election are due back by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 1. They can be mailed (no later than Oct. 26) or deposited in drop boxes in Forest Grove and Cornelius.

In an e-mail to the News-Times Tuesday, Tavera-Weller said she was actively campaigning to stay on the board.

'I have reached out to ask for help for both Terry and I,' she said. 'Folks are helping via e-mails and phone calls and possible letters to the editor.'

Howell, who has held Position 2 on the board since 2009, said the recall would 'complicate matters' for the district, which in recent weeks has seen enrollment drop substantially and wrestled with a $900,000 deficit caused by budgeting errors last spring.

'If we're off the board, decisions would have to be unanimous until replacement members are found,' he said, noting that action items only pass with a majority of three votes from the five-member panel.

Howell said he wouldn't try to convince voters already in the Giddings' camp to change their minds, but would seek support elsewhere and then 'encourage everyone to vote' to ensure a fair election.

'What we don't want to see is a small pocket of individuals turning in ballots and deciding this issue,' said Howell.

Kate Grandusky, who joined the board in July after defeating incumbent Ralph Brown in an election last May, signed a petition calling for the removal of Howell and Tavera-Weller. Board members Alisa Hampton and Fred Marble have not taken sides in the matter.

The recall group collected approximately 2,000 signatures per board member, about 350 more than necessary, to trigger a vote on the issue next month.

Sharon Boge, a retired nurse from Gales Creek, said she planned to help get the word out about the recall now that ballots were in voters' hands. 'I think [Tavera-Weller and Howell] are less attentive to what the community wants than they should be,' she said.

Howell conceded he was a late starter to the campaign effort bolstering his cause.

'We're not nearly as organized as the opposition,' he said, 'but we'll do our best.'