As political and legal controversy continues to swirl around the Newberg School Board, one of its most outspoken directors is now facing the prospect of a recall election.
Brian Shannon — elected in 2019 to represent Zone 7 on the board and vice-chairman and the architect of a controversial ban on Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ Pride and other perceived political symbols — was named in initial recall paperwork filed with Yamhill County on Sept. 13.
Shannon is part of a four-person politically conservative majority on the board that includes chairman Dave Brown and directors Trevor DeHart and Renee Powell. He initiated attempts to immediately ban Black Lives Matter and Pride displays from local schools, then amended the effort to ban all perceived political symbols using policy language that is in the process of being crafted.
"I am confident that the majority of our community supports the board's efforts to remove divisive political and ideological symbols from classrooms and to ensure our schools are focused on education, not indoctrination," Shannon said in a prepared statement Wednesday.
Shannon and fellow board members in the voting majority may have broken public meeting laws in August by voting on a motion (without public notice) to hire attorney Tyler Smith, who has longstanding ties to conservative political causes throughout Oregon, to represent the board. Smith has since written the first draft of policy language for the political signs ban.
The district lawyers in place before Smith was hired have advised Superintendent Joe Morelock that enacting such a ban would be illegal. In addition, the school district and Morelock have said publicly that they won't comply with an illegal order and the local teachers' union and ACLU have given notice they will file suit if the ban moves forward.
This saga was the inspiration for filing a recall petition, according to a copy of the petition obtained by this newspaper.
"The citizens of Newberg and Dundee deserve a school board whose priority is working together with its community to provide all students with a world-class education," the recall paperwork filed by Zachary Alan Goff of Dundee reads. "Newberg School Board director and vice-chair, Brian Shannon, has instead brought drama and division to our community. Shannon, calling himself 'the main driver' of the controversial motion that put the Newberg School Board in the national spotlight, ignored the advice of the superintendent of Newberg schools and, in doing so, exposed the district to costly lawsuits from the ACLU and others.
"Shannon then subjected himself and three other board members to ethics complaints alleging that both state public meeting laws and the school board's own ethics policies have been violated. When the hometown paper runs the headline 'School board defies state law in hiring outside counsel' and the directors of the local Chamber of Commerce declare in a written statement, 'this is not a proud moment for our community,' it's time to make a change.
"Brian Shannon has overreached, driving his ideological agenda in a manner that is both ethically and legally questionable. He does not represent the majority of us. Brian Shannon must be recalled."
A group of Newberg and Dundee residents in support of the recall has formed the "Recall Brian Shannon" campaign in response to the official filing. The campaign has its own website, RecallBrianShannon.com, along with multiple social media pages and videos designed to promote the recall effort.
Yamhill County Clerk Brian Van Bergen said the chief petitioner of the attempted recall still needs to file additional paperwork with the Oregon Secretary of State's office before the attempt can receive approval to proceed. When it does, circulators of the petition must collect enough signatures to place the recall question on an upcoming ballot. Then it's up to voters.
Zone 7 — located mostly near the George Fox University campus — comprises the approximate area of Newberg west of Villa Road, east of Northeast Chehalem Drive, south of both Crestview and East Columbia Drive and north of Highway 99W. A full map of all seven school board zones is available at bit.ly/3Agc9qv.
"Recall Brian Shannon is comprised of Newberg School District parents, students, alumni and members of the greater Newberg and Dundee community," a press release from the campaign said. "We are a homegrown movement. We are your neighbors. We are the owners of your favorite businesses. We are people you already know, people you've borrowed a cup of sugar from, people who wave at you from the porch as you walk by. There are hundreds of us already. And we haven't even started.
"To those in our community who have been hurt by what has happened, we say this: You now have a way to turn your passion into action."
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