Residents launch school board recall process
TAHOE TRUCKEE ” Some Tahoe and Truckee residents are asking for three members of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board to be removed from office through a recall vote.
Board President Kristy Olk, Bev Ducey and Bill Kraus are the target of the proposed recall, a movement spearheaded by Olympic Valley resident Robert Mowris, who said a recall is the electorate’s only recourse.
The gist of their argument, as laid out in a notice of intention to recall published in the Wednesday Sierra Sun, is that Olk, Kraus and Ducey did not provide adequate economic nor education justification for their proposals to reconfigure the district’s schools.
An April 22 decision by the board, which Mowris said he opposes, reconfigures the district’s lakeside schools, altering Kings Beach Elementary to a K-3 two-way, immersion-only program, set Tahoe Lake Elementary as a K-3 English-only program, and reconfigured North Tahoe Middle School as a 4-8 site.
The recall notice states the trustees did not provide adequate time for the public to review the reconfiguration (a meeting agenda was available about 24 hours prior to the meeting) and that the configuration will increase carbon emmissions, increase transportation spending, increase class sizes, replace highly experienced teachers with bilingual teachers, bus students from Kings Beach to Tahoe Lake among other concerns.
Each of the trustees were served with the notices last week.
“In a democracy this is our only means of recourse against elected officials,” Mowris said. “We feel they are not representing our best interests; rather they are pushing through their own personal agendas.”
Olk said the reconfiguration was the best possible option available to the board given perameters laid out by the community.
“Like many school districts, TTUSD faces fiscal and educational challenges. To address and resolve those challenges we held over 20 well-attended public forums, listened to hours of public comment, and met with individuals,” Olk said in a written statement. “Based on that input, the Board directed administration to use community input as a filter for reconfiguration recommendations. During that process we heard the community request loud and clear to not close schools or bus children excessive distances. The option adopted by the Board satisfied both of those concerns and, more importantly, allows TTUSD to move ahead with changes necessary to advance student achievement for all children.”
Kraus said the recall effort did not provide any solutions to the district’s current situation, rather continued to bolster special interests.
“Unfortunately, the recall effort does not provide a solution for a brighter future,” Kraus said in a written statement. “But continues this district down a path where special interests trump the needs of children, and shortcomings in our public educational system not only persist but fester because of an unwillingness to address them openly and honestly.”
Kraus also asserted the recall is an “intimidation” tactic fueled by misinformation to advance special interests.
Mowris refutes the notion, saying it was the board, not the petitioners, who used tactics of intimidation.
“Kraus, Ducey, and Olk engaged in ‘intimidation,'” Mowris said in a written statement. “The Trustees only presented two reconfiguration options, when many other choices were available. By considering only two reconfiguration options, the Trustees manipulated constituents into accepting the ‘fallacy of false choice.'”
Mowris said that by presenting two undesirable options, the board members bullied residents into a certain decision.
In a written statement Ducey referred to the Professional Learning Community educational model, which the district has maintained the reconfiguration is structured around.
She said the district “is implementing a proven educational model based on collaboration, accountability and data-driven decision making,” Ducey said. “I urge the whole community to get involved behind this effort. Only through positive, informed participation will we truly improve the quality of education for all our students.”
Stephanie Schwartz, a Tahoe City parent of two in the school district, said she signed the recall notice because she felt the board had an agenda.
“They were going to do anything to fulfill that agenda despite how the public felt,” Schwartz said. “I feel this should have been a five-year process ideally.”
Anastasia Bordes, another mother of two in the TTUSD, said she lamented having to sign the petition, but said it was her last recourse.
“I’m sad it’s come to this,” Bordes said. “I wish they were much more willing to listen to the questions and concerns of the community. We were basically snubbed and not listened to.”
Bordes said she hopes the recall will smooth community tensions exacerbated by the board meembers when the community has a board that listens to them in the future.
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