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Molalla's Michael Giard continues to collect signatures in effort to recall four MRSD directors

Update: As of Saturday, March 21, the board recall effort has been suspended. More to come.

In December, Molalla resident Michael Giard informed the school board that he would file a petition in January to recall several board members. He returned in February to let them know he'd filed it.

The four he seeks to recall are Neal Lucht, Mark Lucht, Craig Loughridge and Linda Eskridge, citing that they do not listen to the community, have wasted money and often sweep issues under the rug.

However, Loughridge suggested to the Pioneer that the four were selected based on their tendency to vote their conscience rather than vote in lockstep with the other three board members to accomplish an agenda.

Most recently, after an uproar over a parents' rights proclamation that came from an anti-LGBTQ group and comments Chair Eskridge had made, Ralph Gierke, Calvin Nunn and Jennifer Satter sought to remove Eskridge as chair. The four now facing recall voted to keep her.

PMG FILE PHOTO: KRISTEN WOHLERS - Molalla's current school board members are from left to right: Jennifer Satter, Chair Calvin Nunn, Vice Chair Linda Eskridge, Neal Lucht, Ralph Gierke and Craig Loughridge. Not Pictured: Mark Lucht

Loughridge further suggested that Giard, perhaps helped along by Nunn, may not even want to recall all four.

"I don't think they're interested in recalling all four of those board members," he said. "They're recalling four board members because the more members they potentially recall and put up for a vote, increases their odds of getting at least one member recalled. And I think they're just simply trying to change the balance of power on the board."

Giard denied this, maintaining that neither Nunn nor any other board member is involved in the recall.

"It was filed because I saw that our current board is either unwilling or unable to hold the school district administration accountable," Giard said.

He added, "We live in a community that wants to enable and support our children," Giard said. "But we also live in a community that, in spite of its generosity, distrusts our school district. Our children are suffering with our current district leadership and that is what needs to change."

For each board member recall petition, Giard must collect 1,400 signatures by late April. If at least 1,400 signatures are verified, then the board member(s) can either resign or submit a statement of justification. If the board member does not resign within five days, then an election must be held to recall.

"Signatures have been fast and furious in the meantime," Giard said to the board on Feb. 13. "We have a significant amount of those already in."

Giard declined to reveal to the Pioneer how many he had collected but continues the push even through the COVID-19 epidemic. He has a Facebook page dedicated to the effort called "Recall the Molalla River School Board," which has garnered 36 likes.

If any board members are recalled, Giard has not decided whether he would seek one of the vacant positions.

"There are people willing to apply to be board members in the event that the recall is successful," Giard said. "I have not fully made a decision on whether I would be one of those people. That is a difficult question that I have been discussing with my wife and family and we have not yet come to a decision on this."

Loughridge bluntly advised against Giard's seeking a position.

"I think Michael Giard honestly wants to be on the board, and if he gets on the board, it will be a disaster for the school district," Loughridge said. "I think it will be a disaster."

Of course, Loughridge also thinks the entire recall effort is a waste.

"Any time there's a recall, I feel like you've got to be really serious that there is a problem that you're trying to correct, because otherwise," Loughridge said, "especially in a small community like we have, it's gonna tear—it's already torn people apart, created divisions where divisions didn't exist."

At least one community member, a subject of a previous board recall, has been vocal in agreeing with Loughridge that the recall is a bad idea. Jim Dumolt went to the board to give a public comment and wrote a letter to the Pioneer editor.

Dumolt was recalled in 1994 after Molalla's independent school districts had combined to become Molalla River School District.

"The recall is designed to remove someone for serious, serious breaches of conduct in their position or for malfeasance in their duties," Dumolt said. "It should not be used just because you don't like how they voted on a particular item or because you or someone else wants their position.

"If you want to change the board," Dumolt continued, "do it the right way: at the next election."

Kristen Wohlers
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