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Why the school board recall is needed

If we want our educational system to work for our children ... the only recourse we have is to recall the board members.

My wife, Jodi Giddings, and I are organizing the effort to recall Forest Grove School District Board members Anna Tavera-Weller and Terry Howell.

Many ask if the recall is simply about the closure of our school. The issue of the possible closure of Gales Creek Elementary is indeed what initially motivated us to become involved. But the school closure is just one of many poor choices the upper administration has made over the past several months.

Everyone involved understands we are facing a tremendous financial shortfall. Common sense would dictate that in order to balance our budget, we would make cuts in all non-essential areas first, as the majority of those in attendance at the Education Summit advised. Yet the superintendent submitted a budget that includes the adoption of a highly controversial $510,000 unproven book program, lays off upwards of 50 teachers, retains eight football coaches to support 100 boys while cutting girls' sports to the bone, and awards pay increases for all but one administrator.

The board is elected to provide school system leadership and representation of the interests of the community on public education issues.

The superintendent is the only administrator hired by the board; she works for them, and her responsibility is to manage the school district under the guidance and policies dictated by the board. The superintendent is ultimately responsible to ensure her team facilitates the board's wishes.

So, if we want our educational system to work for our children, and the board and the administration are not actively working on behalf of the community, then the only recourse we have left is to recall the board members.

There are important reasons why we have chosen only to recall two of the five board members. First, Kate Grandusky and Fred Marble were elected within the last six months, making them ineligible for recall. Plus, they both actively listen and work hard to implement community priorities.

With regard to Alisa Hampton, Ms. Hampton often asks questions and seems to be engaged, but time after time she votes without suggesting amendments, and nearly always supports the administration's agenda. I think, and hope, that Ms. Hampton will take more initiative if supported by a reform-oriented board. She has already shown promise since her recent promotion to board chair.

The fact remains: we probably would have included Ms. Hampton in the recall too, though if we had, the board would have just two members, which does not result in a quorum. With no quorum, there are not sufficient voting members to appoint new board members, and the appointment would then fall on the Education Service District board, which is not obligated to the community and may have its own agenda.

Retaining enough of the existing board members so they may appoint new members by a majority vote is the community's best hope to gain board members who will best serve our children. We can then expect to enjoy at least some input as to who we think is the best choice to represent all of us.

We've heard the board members assert they had no real choice but to adopt the budget as-is. But from the very beginning, starting with the district-sponsored Summit on Education, the Forest Grove community has offered a plethora of great ideas to help keep the quality of education strong, while reducing wasteful and non-essential spending.

Some proposed phased implementation of the book adoption allowing us to pilot the program and ensure its performance, while spreading the cost over several years.

Many teachers proposed pay freezes, and even pay cuts, to help keep their colleagues employed, and the quality of learning intact. Significant reduction in the groundskeeping budget could have been achieved by utilizing volunteers for a portion of the labor force. Restructuring our current K-4 environment to K-6 or K-8 would help improve the quality of education in fifth through eighth grades while also saving money. Sponsoring charter schools to replace elementary schools could save millions.

Partial-day online courses for upper grades have been shown to improve technological advancement and reduce costs. While some of these ideas seem difficult, big problems can only be solved by big actions. Private schools and brick-and-mortar charter schools have been shown to provide a higher-quality education at a reduced cost per student. It can be done. But it takes a reform-minded board with passion to implement true reform.

If you agree, sign the recall petition. We will be in various areas throughout Forest Grove over the next couple of months. If you need a specific time and place, contact us directly by phone at the number below, or find us on Facebook.

If you're fired up and want to do more to help us out, contact Jodi and help get signatures. Her phone number is 503-992-0212. If you still want to do more, donate $5 or $10 to help us cover the minimal costs of our effort.