Forest Grove School Board adopts budget in 4-1 vote

One board member dissents on budget because of Gales Creek school as calls for recalling board members close meeting

In a 4-1 vote, the Forest Grove School Board Monday night adopted a $49 million budget for 2011-12 that lays off dozens of teachers, eliminates some electives at every level and shutters the district's smallest grade school.

The vote came after a tense meeting, with school board member Fred Marble casting the lone vote against the budget, which includes a controversial plan to close Gales Creek Elementary, with its tiny student population moving to Dilley Elementary, located south of Forest Grove city limits.

"I have to say 'nay,'" said Marble, "because I can't support any budget that closes Gales Creek School."

Marble then donned a red T-shirt that's come to signify solidarity with the community's most rural outpost during budget and board meetings this spring.

At least half of the 100 or so audience members walked out as soon as the board adopted the budget, which included an amendment put forth by Marble to save $10,000 by cutting two more football coaches.

A pair of other motions for amendments - one to keep Gales Creek open by negotiating two cut school days with the district's teacher and classified unions and another to restore two library media technicians by cutting instructional assistants - died for lack of a second.

Before the vote to adopt the budget, board member Terry Howell indicated his support for closing Gales Creek, which district officials estimate will save $380,000 next year.

"I'm going to walk out through a sea of red and you're going to hate me," Howell said. "But your teachers, your kids, the whole spirit of Gales Creek will be alive at Dilley."

Gales Creek resident Melinda Fischer, whose fourth-grade son just finished up his career at the 103-student school last week, said she planned to pull him out of the district because of the pending closure.

She and several others indicated they were working on a campaign to recall unspecified board members in the coming weeks over the budget controversy.