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Music instructors linked to board recall effort

An effort to recall four Medford School Board members is being orchestrated by a former Central Point educator who is the husband of a North Medford High School teacher.

Chief petitioner Curtis Blake Weller, a former teacher at Central Point Elementary School, is the husband of North Medford High School choir director Julie Weller.

The couple's publicly listed home phone number was answered by a machine which identifies the number as the "549c Board recall headquarters." Numerous calls to the number Monday and Tuesday were not returned.

Weller filed paperwork with the Jackson County Clerk's Office on Monday to recall board members Sally Killen, Kim Wallan and Marlene Yesquen, as well as Chairman Jeff Thomas.

Weller was a music teacher at Central Point Elementary but has not taught with the district since June 2010, according to Todd Bennett, director of education for the Central Point School District.

Bennett said he was unsure whether Weller was working in another school. His teaching license is active through February 2018, according to the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

Representatives from the Medford Education Association said they are not directly involved with the recall petition.

"It didn't go through the MEA. It doesn't have the stamp of the MEA on it," said Rebecca Konefal, a consultant from the Oregon Education Association and spokeswoman for the teachers union.

Konefal said that it's not uncommon for a community member closely related to the striking employees to file such a petition.

"That's their right as a citizen" she said.

On Monday, Thomas and Wallan both said they respected the right of voters to launch a recall. Thomas said he thought it would further divide the community and Wallan said it wouldn't deter her from carrying out her duties as a board member.

A Facebook page titled "549c School Board Recall" created last week and liked by Julie and Curtis Blake Weller had more than 1,400 likes Tuesday.

"Recalling board members will send a message that we will not accept the destruction of public education in Medford. We do not accept their apparent goals or their methods," an update on the page says.

The page explains that if only two board members were recalled, the remaining board could appoint interim replacements. Recalling four board members would leave the board without a quorum, leaving the Southern Oregon Educational Service District with the task of appointing interim replacements, according to the Facebook page.

"It is not our intention, nor is it within our power, to control the future makeup of the school board. If we do nothing, then we are accepting not only their reprehensible behavior as public servants but also the long term and irreversible damage to our community," the page reads.

The petition and Facebook page lists reasons for recalling the board members, including for 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 teacher's ratification, making misleading statements regarding contract negotiations and ignoring public input.

The board voted unanimously in mid-December to impose a district contract offer which teachers had not agreed to and refused to ratify.

"The board is clearly determined to force a strike," the Facebook recall page says. "They don't realize that everybody loses, both in the short term and the long term. Nothing about this is good for education." Petitioners can't start gathering signatures until paperwork has been approved by the county clerk's office, which could happen as early as Friday.

A minimum 4,520 valid signatures on each individual board member must be gathered for the board member to qualify for a recall ballot, thought the clerk's office recommends collecting 25 to 30 percent more.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.