As the Newberg School District faces potential legal trouble due to the school board's attempt to ban Black Lives Matter and Pride displays, political trouble may be on the horizon for a majority of board members as well.
An effort to potentially recall board directors Brian Shannon, Dave Brown, Trevor DeHart and Renee Powell, the group of four which has consistently voted in unison on myriad divisive political issues, including the BLM/Pride ban, is being explored by local activists.
However, who is involved in the recall effort and what a recall might look like, as in when it would appear on a ballot and the specific language used, remains uncertain at this stage.
"I think there has been and continues to be a tremendous support for a recall effort," activist and business owner Kristen Stoller said. "I anticipate there would be one coming soon, but I can't comment on the details of it just yet. I've seen what others have seen online and throughout social media that there are many people in Newberg who would support a recall effort.
"I think there is a lot of concern about the conduct of board members and whether or not they're adhering to public meeting laws. It appears to be an escalation of illegal and inappropriate behaviors by the board, which is extremely alarming to a lot of people. We're starting to see more public officials make statements out of concern for the public office itself."
The first public official to call for a recall of the quartet was Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla, who is also running for governor as a Democrat. Kulla said the four members need to be removed from office using the tools available to constituents, and that their conduct and actions as board directors is enough to oust them from their positions.
"I am under no illusions that these four elected directors care about student health and safety, about the future of Newberg, about the financial stability of the school district, or about what is legal," Kulla wrote in an Aug. 30 statement. "They seem to care about none of this. It appears that they have adopted an agenda that is national in origin and is centered around defunding public education and creating wedge issues to divide us one from another, the result of which is harm to students and the community.
"As I see it, the only viable solution for addressing the school board directors' harm to students is for the loving, persistent and amazing residents and voters of the Newberg school district to recall all four members."
The board will discuss and potentially rescind the ban on BLM/Pride displays at a special meeting called for Sept. 1. The board could potentially refer it instead to the policy committee, likely to be comprised entirely (or of a majority) of board members who supported the ban in the first place. Regardless, a number of actions have already been taken, including violations of public meetings laws and other motions critics have deemed illegal, that may serve as the basis on which a recall is proposed.
If the minimum number of signatures supporting a recall are acquired in due time by activists, the vote to recall members could appear on a future ballot for Newberg voters to decide. Both Shannon and Brown are also up for re-election in 2022.
"The concern remains regardless of the current items on the table," Stoller said. "Their elected positions are not being conducted in the most legal or representative way, and it appears to be all over the place and at the whim of the vice chair and his agenda. The rescinding of the ban on the agenda for (Sept. 1) is encouraging, but the last two meetings before that have shown we can't rely on these four members to do what is correct and legal.
"All of these items are a distraction from some of the bigger and more important roles of the school board. Making sure our kids are going back to school safely, that our teachers our supported, that our programs are funded, and that we're focusing on the mental health and well-being of our children as they return to the classroom."
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