For months, members of the New Plymouth School Board listened to pleas from the public to remove Superintendent Kevin Barker from his position.
The board refused.
Now, those residents who want Barker ousted are trying a new tactic — recalling the entire school board.
Led by New Plymouth Community Cares, a group established by educators and community members in January, organizers are aiming to recall all five school board members: Ron Kovick (Zone 1), Dave Brogan (Zone 2), Dani Rollins (Zone 3), Arlo Decker (Zone 4) and Darrell Brown (Zone 5). The group has raised $600 through an online fundraiser for the recall efforts.
"At this point, our best hope is to recall the School Board and replace them with individuals who will ensure we have a superintendent who supports our students and staff," an April 15 Community Cares Facebook post reads. "It is the only way to stop Superintendent Barker from continuing to promote a threatening atmosphere in which the teachers and students are unable to fully thrive."
Efforts to reach the organizers of the Community Cares group were unsuccessful.
Decker and Brown said that the board is united that no one will resign in the face of the potential recall.
Sparked by controversy surrounding the resignation of New Plymouth High School principal Clete Edmunson and his relationship with Barker, tensions have continued to boil over in town for months. The school district's education association, or teachers union, held a vote of no confidence in Barker's leadership, citing a hostile work environment and a lack of communication.
Objectors to Barker's tenure testified before the school board in an executive session in March. Supporters of Barker testified in favor of keeping Barker at the district's helm, a position the school board supported in a written statement. Barker has said repeatedly that he has no intention of resigning.
“Everybody on the board is trying to work people back together," Decker said. "This other group of people seem to hate so much. I don’t think anything we do, short of the board all being recalled or the board all resigning or Mr. Barker resigning, I don’t think anything would satisfy them. They’re out for blood."
Decker, as well as the statement released by the rest of the board, said detractors have been unable to "provide specific facts to support their complaints." The statement called the allegations against Barker “gossip.”
“Posting unfounded allegations on social media or doing surveys that do not provide the factual basis for the questions being asked is not a proper procedure to resolve problems,” the statement continued. “It only makes us all more divided and increases the level of rhetoric and decreases the opportunity to communicate and resolve problems.”
Because the school board has said it will not terminate Barker's contract, the Community Cares group feels the only way to continue to address the situation and make changes is to recall the school board, First Baptist Church Pastor Phil Pittman previously told the Idaho Statesman. Pittman is an organizer with the Community Cares group.
"My major thing is that this board is amazing an board,” Decker said. “We’ve listened to the evidence. We’ve been very ethical. All the decisions we’ve made, I don’t think any of us would ever change them. "
How the recall would work
To start the recall process, organizers submitted 20 signatures from each of the school district's zones to the Payette County Elections Office. The county clerk verified those signatures.
Organizers now have until June 25 to collect signatures from 20 percent of registered voters from each of the school district's five zones to get the recall of each board member on the Aug. 28 ballot, said Christine Poe, Payette County's deputy election clerk.
According to the Secretary of State's Office, school board recall petitions must be signed by voters of the zone the board member represents.
The terms for Kovick, Brogan and Brown expire in June 2019, while the terms for Rollins and Decker expire in June 2021.
"We hope you will stand with us and sign a petition to put the School Board Recall on the ballot," the Community Cares Facebook post states. "Sincerely, Your Fellow Friends, Family, Parents, Teachers, and Community Members Invested in our School District."