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Forest Grove School Board recall campaign focuses on pair

Petitions aimed at ousting Terry Howell, Anna Tavera-Weller should begin circulating soon

Organizers of a drive to recall a pair of Forest Grove School Board members filed paperwork Tuesday afternoon with the Washington County Elections Office and officially kicked off that process.

Gales Creek parents Jodi and Jason Giddings, who are providing the main thrust behind the recall effort, were busy Monday putting the final touches on statements enumerating the reasons they want to oust chair Anna Tavera-Weller and Terry Howell from the board.

They and others announced in June their intention to mount a recall campaign after they became disenchanted with the board's decision to approve a 2011-12 budget that eliminated world language classes and electives, pink-slipped dozens of teachers and shuttered Gales Creek Elementary School.

The Giddingses are getting help from members of a new watchdog group, the Forest Grove School Citizens Advisory, and Supporters of Gales Creek, whose members are expected to deploy signature-gatherers on the streets of Forest Grove and Cornelius in the next several weeks.

Those behind the effort have 90 days to gather at least 1,609 valid voter signatures on each recall petition they'll turn in to the elections office by the end of September.

'Shown incompetence'

Tavera-Weller, the Giddings' letter charges, 'has shown incompetence' in executing her duties on the board, which include policymaking for the district, oversight of school system operations and leadership in representing the interests of the community on public education issues.

Despite community opposition 'to much of the recent budget,' the letter continues, 'Tavera-Weller proposed no amendments or alternative solutions, and supported administrative pay increases during one of the largest fiscal crises ever.'

She has held Position 1 since 2009. Her term is due to expire in June 2013.

According to a second letter, Howell has 'shown ineffectiveness' in performing his elected duties, which are the same as Tavera-Weller's.

He has held Position 2 since 2009. His term is due to expire in June 2013.

The letters were part of the paperwork required by the county. Petitioners were also asked to open a bank account to manage any funds that might be handled during the recall process.

Hampton spared from recall

The recall effort, which originally also targeted board member Alisa Hampton, is now sparing her potential ouster from Position 3. That's because the recall committee realized they needed a quorum - three people - on the board so those remaining could appoint new members in a vote next fall.

'Hopefully we can work with the remaining members to pick someone who best serves the community,' Jason Giddings said.

Elections division manager Mickie Kawai said Tuesday that state law sets out the rules for what happens after a board member vacates his or her seat due to a recall.

Oregon Revised Statute 332.030 says remaining board members will 'meet and appoint a person to fill the vacancy.' Once that person is determined to be eligible, he or she serves until June 30, following the next regular district election. At that time, a successor is elected by a vote of district patrons to serve the remainder, if any, of the unexpired term of the recalled board member.

If either Tavera-Weller or Howell are recalled, board members Hampton, Fred Marble and Kate Grandusky - who defeated Ralph Brown for his Position 4 seat in the March 17 election and is due to be sworn in on July 12 - would be responsible for appointing people to take their place.

Northwest Regional Education Service District board members would make the appointments in the absence of a quorum, something the Giddingses wanted to avoid.

'We all know how well the [administrators] have been listening to us, so that could be a shot in the foot,' Jodi Giddings said.

Support solid

So far, she added, support for a recall has been solid at Forest Grove School Citizens Advisory group meetings held in recent weeks.

'I was assured by several teachers ... that there was support,' Jodi Giddings said. 'There were several there who were adamant that we try.

'I didn't want to move forward if there was little chance of success,' added Giddings, who made her battle with cancer public during at least one school board meeting this spring.

The recall also has support from the Hispanic community, she said. 'They're as fed up as we are with the direction the district is heading.'

Complaints against board members include accusations of 'rubber stamping' recommendations from top district administrators, such as the decision to hire additional workshop teachers at Forest Grove High School next fall.