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Movement afoot to recall Medford School Board members

Initial paperwork has been filed in an attempt to recall Medford School Board members Sally Killen, Jeff Thomas, Marlene Yesquen and Kim Wallan, but petitioners cannot start gathering signatures until the paperwork has been approved by the Jackson County Clerk's Office later in the week.

Donna Connor, elections program manager, said the chief petitioner is Curtis Blake Weller of Medford.

The petition lists reasons for recall as failing to comply with the board's own mission statement and goals; conducting executive sessions rather than open public meetings; failing to honor legal agreements; imposing a contract without teachers' ratification; making misleading statements regarding contract negotiations; and ignoring public input.

"Obviously I ran for the School Board to bring more resources to kids and make kids more successful," board Chairman Jeff Thomas said this morning. "I'm saddened by the fact that we are in a strike situation right now, and we're working as hard as we can to find a resolution. But I also understand that if the community thinks I'm not doing a good job, they certainly have a right to go out and have an up and down vote. That's the way it works. Is it the best use of our time? Probably not. It's just going to divide the community more."

Connor said the petitioners must gather 4,521 valid signatures on each individual board member to qualify for the ballot. The 90-day countdown for gathering signatures begins today.

County Clerk Chris Walker said she recommends petitioners gather 25 to 30 percent more signatures to ensure enough will be valid to qualify for the ballot.

County attorneys must review the paperwork before it can be approved for circulation, which won't happen until Friday at the earliest, Walker said. They check to make sure statutory requirements have been met but do not check the validity of the allegations in the recall petition, she said.

Both Walker and Connor were on their way to Bend for a midwinter county clerks conference and could not say how much a recall election would cost, but they said the cost would have to be paid by the Medford School District.

Petitioners are required to also file with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office to meet campaign finance requirements or show they are not required to make that filing.

The clerk's office has 10 days to verify signatures once they are turned in; if the recall qualifies for the ballot, School Board members have five days to resign or to provide a statement of justification of why they should continue serving. An election would be held within 35 days after that.

— Cathy Noah and Teresa Thomas

See complete coverage of the Medford teachers' contract dispute at www.mailtribune.com/medfordstrike.