Editor's note: This is the final, updated version of this article.
Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – An effort to recall members of the McKinleyville school board has been dropped following last week’s resignation of two trustees.
A small group of parents decided last week that they should end the recall, citing the need for the McKinleyville Union School District Board of Trustees to maintain a quorum so it can cast the necessary votes to refinance its bonds and save taxpayers money.
The board is now down to three members following the resignation Monday, May 19, of trustees John and Mary McCarthy.
The married couple’s decision to resign came in the days following the MUSD board’s unanimous April 30 decision to reconfigure Morris and Dow’s Prairie schools. After the controversial decision was made, a small group of parents from Dow’s Prairie School created a Facebook page, “Effort to recall McKinleyville school board members,” on which they were discussing ways to remove members of the MUSD Board of Trustees. The parents are upset with the board’s decision to change grade levels at Dow’s Prairie and Morris schools. They claim the decision was made without addressing their concerns.
The group only had 16 members, with fewer than half of them commenting and exchanging ideas. But that was enough for the McCarthys, who released the following statement to the Mad River Union about their decision to resign:
After serving a combined 65 years in public education in multiple roles – most recently as Trustees of McKinleyville Union School District (MUSD), it is with sadness that we announce our resignation from the Board effective May 19, 2014. Our decision is based on what we feel is in the best interests of the District and in the interest of our own personal health and well-being. As Trustees we have been dismayed by the recent efforts of a handful of disgruntled District parents to recall certain MUSD Board members – ourselves included – for our decisive action to support a reconfiguration of our two elementary schools. It was our belief then, and it continues to be our belief now, that the reconfiguration is in the long-term best interests of our precious students. The fallout from this decision has taken an ugly direction in social media, where efforts to recall board members are based on half-truths and misinformed opinions.
What remains true is that the students in this District deserve the best education possible, and we support the efforts of District administration and staff to act in accordance with the goals and objectives of the Strategic Plan.
To be clear, our resignations have nothing to do with the Board’s action to reconfigure the schools. We believe that decision is sound, and contrary to what some have articulated in social media, it was a decision made independently by five Trustees based on all the information available to each of us. We expected that some would be opposed to the decision. What we did not expect, and what we find difficult to accept, is the unfair negative attention brought upon us by a small minority of disenfranchised adults. We do not want this negative attention to distract from the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for this District.
We strongly urge all MUSD parents and staff to focus on making the schools’ reconfiguration a success. The recall effort should cease as we wholly support the remaining Board members as very ethical and dedicated individuals who make great sacrifices in public service. We know that MUSD has great teachers, administrators, and support staff. The school communities need to unite for the betterment of our children. The stage has been set to make McKinleyville Union School District a model educational institution in Humboldt County.
– John & Mary McCarthy
Trustee Hooven last target
With the McCarthys off the board, that left only three trustees that could be recalled – Sara Alto, Brian Mitchell and Tim Hooven.
The recall group had decided not to go after trustees Alto and Mitchell, because their terms are up in November 2015. That left trustee Tim Hooven as the remaining recall target, as his term does not end until 2017.
Recall proponents criticized Hooven for not only his reconfiguration vote, but also his approval of the district’s use of Capital Appreciation Bonds (CABs) back in 2011 during his first term on the board.
As part of the district’s voter-approved Measure C school improvements, the trustees approved obtaining $7 million in bond financing in 2011. The bonds were sold during a time of high interest rates of more than 8 percent. By the time the bonds are paid off in 40 years, taxpayers will have shelled out about $54 million for the initial $7 million.
The board is now looking at refinancing the bonds at a lower interest rate. This could save the district more than $10 million.
Following the May 21 MUSD meeting, former recall proponent Joshua Woods wrote on the group’s Facebook page “OK, so here’s the deal. If we continue to pursue a recall of Mr. Hooven, we could kill the quorum. Tonight the board discussed with a financial advisor about refinancing the CAB that, if we refinanced today, we would save $10 million over the course of the debt repayment. If we pursue a recall, or any other member steps down, we could lose any opportunity to refinance while interest rates are at a good rate. My suggestion is, we’ve made our point to the board.”
The group has ditched the idea of a recall and is now trying to postpone the reconfiguration effort.
The parents changed the name of their Facebook page from “Recall McKinleyville School Board Members” to “Rethink the Reconfiguration – MUSD” after the May 21 school board meeting.
The decision to cancel the recall was made by Woods, who is the administrator of the Facebook page. Some of the other members of the page, however, were still supportive of the recall, so by Thursday evening, May 22, the recall effort was back.
Then, on Friday, May 23, Woods met with Hooven and Superintendent Michael Davies-Hughes to discuss reconfiguration and the recall. After the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, the recall was once again canceled.
“Opinions and views often are, and should be, subject to change, as new data and information becomes available. As such, I have decided to stand by my decision to move away from the recall movement and work on facilitating communication about the reconfiguration, and eventually other issues, between the board and the public,” Woods said in a statement jointly prepared by Woods and Hooven.
“I appreciate and respect Mr. Woods’ decision to drop the recall. I commend him on being willing to spend over two hours with Superintendent Davies-Hughes and myself to review his specific concerns and the rationale behind recent controversial decisions with an open mind,” Hooven stated.
“While there are certainly areas we do not see eye to eye, we both agree it is best for all of us to focus our attention directly on making our schools great rather than fighting for the next several months,” Woods and Hooven stated.
The reconfiguration – strongly recommended by Superintendent Michael Davies-Hughes – was approved unanimously by the trustees in April. Starting next fall, Dow’s Prairie School will serve kindergarten through second-grade students.
Morris School will serve third- through fifth-grade students. Both schools now serve kindergarten through fifth-grade students. The reconfiguration is intended to balance enrollment and make the schools more equitable for students.