For the 12 years my sons attended Newberg public schools we participated in fundraisers so often I cannot remember them all.
My boys dutifully knocked on doors, asking neighbors and family friends to buy over-priced cookie dough or wrapping paper so their class could go on field trips. Every fall, they ran laps with their peers at the Dolphin Dash, hoping to raise funds for Dundee Elementary. They called grandparents, aunts, uncles, church members, motivated with the promise of a pizza party if their class or team excelled at being junior entrepreneurs.
Like most kids they knew little about budgets but learned that their school programs needed their efforts to thrive: a message repeated until graduation, before which they spent a year raising money for the high school Grad Night, a drug-free send-off that doesn't happen without herculean fundraising efforts.
When I consider the January recall of school board members Dave Brown and Brian Shannon, my mind turns not to policy disagreements or the claims of school indoctrination, but to this: why we continuously ask our children to raise money for school programs while Brown and Shannon have, in the past six months, cost the Newberg School District hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Consider, for example, the price tag attached to the without cause firing of Dr. Joe Morelock, a beloved superintendent for Newberg schools who saved our schools from financial insolvency during his tenure. Taxpayers are on the hook for Morelock's remaining salary, plus a search for Morelock's replacement and the salary for a new superintendent. These costs will approach half a million dollars, money the schools cannot afford to spend.
There are additional costs: lawyer fees to fight multiple lawsuits now facing the district. Fees for a separate lawyer retained by Brown and Shannon (along with directors Trevor DeHart and Renee Powell), in addition to the lawyer retained by the district. Money lost with the absence of students who decide to go elsewhere, rather than to schools beset by chaos caused by four school board members.
Imagine what that kind of money might buy for our district's children: new curricula for a number of classrooms. Technology to help students learn. Support for sports, band, drama, choir. More personnel to assist students with disabilities, whose programs are consistently underfunded.
Some will claim Brown and Shannon are fighting to save our schools from indoctrination, from the politics of "woke" teachers and parents. Fundamentally, though, the recall of Brown and Shannon is about something else entirely: these directors' use of the school district's money to fight a battle that didn't exist until they created it out of whole cloth last year, as well as the unethical — and potentially illegal — decisions they've made, creating expensive disorder in our district.
People can certainly disagree about the Newberg School District's policies. But it's possible to disagree without causing chaos, without siphoning money from district funds to put out fires Brown and Shannon created themselves. Voting yes on the recall will be a vote for accountability and for fiscal responsibility, prioritizing the needs of students ahead of board directors high on power.
If we cannot hold leaders accountable for their irresponsible use of district funds, perhaps they should be the ones doing fundraisers to cover the costs for their financial malfeasance. They'll need to sell a lot of cookie dough to erase the damage they've wrought on our town. Better yet, voting yes on the recall is the best way to save our schools: from financial ruin and more.
Melanie Springer Mock is a professor in the Department of English at George Fox University. Her husband is a former member of the school board.
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