MERIDIAN, Idaho — This article was written by Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News.
West Ada’s five trustees could face a recall election over their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
A group of parents, calling itself Recall West Ada, says trustees and district leaders have rebuffed parents who tried to offer a “pragmatic reopening plan” for the fall. Specifically, they say they are frustrated because the state’s largest district hasn’t spelled out a plan to allow sixth- through 12th-graders back in school full-time.
“As parents, we have exhausted all avenues to work to reopen schools,” group chairman Morgan Wigle said. “The board has created an atmosphere of exclusion, non-transparency, and dysfunctional leadership. We have determined by actions of the West Ada School Board that its trustees do not represent the parents, students, staff, and taxpayers of the district.”
Since Sept. 14, after a week of online instruction, all of West Ada’s 40,000 students have attended in-person school at least part-time. The district is gradually allowing elementary grades to return to school full-time. This week, third-graders joined pre-K through second-grade students in school full-time. Fourth-graders are scheduled to return full-time on Monday, with fifth-graders slated to return on Oct. 19.
The recall drive targets the entire board: Chairman Ed Klopfenstein and Steve Smylie, who ran uncontested in May 2017; Philip Neuhoff and Rene Ozuna, who ran unopposed in November; and Amy Johnson, elected in November.
It’s unlikely any recall election could occur before March, Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane said Tuesday.
For starters, recall organizers need to file initial petitions, with 20 signatures, in order to begin the process. Once they have the go-ahead, they would have 75 days to gather another round of signatures and get the recall election on the ballot. The signature-gathering threshold is based on the number of ballots filed in recent elections — and in most cases, that translates to 50 percent of the votes cast in the most recent board election.
In order for a recall to pass, a majority of voters must support the recall, and the votes for recall must exceed the number of votes an officeholder received in the most recent election.
West Ada is the second large Idaho district facing a possible recall election. In September, parents launched a recall drive against three Pocatello-Chubbuck trustees — in part because of the district’s high school hybrid learning model, and part because of the board’s decision to retire Pocatello High School’s Indians mascot.
This would be the second recall election in West Ada in the past five years. In 2016, voters recalled trustees Tina Dean and Carol Sayles, after trustees Russell Joki and Julie Madsen resigned under the threat of recall. Amidst that campaign, Klopfenstein, Smylie, Ozuna and Neuhoff all were appointed to vacant trustee seats. All four have since run unopposed for their current board terms.