Nearly three months ago, in this very space, we urged that Grovelanders upset with their school board try communication and dialogue rather than go through with the planned recall of all five district trustees.
That was wishful thinking.
Our Oct. 22 editorial - which pointed out that recall campaigns are often divisive, destructive, expensive and can lead to board members with less-than-majority support taking office - provoked a quick and angry reaction from backers.
Their message: That previous attempts to communicate had been rebuffed by the board and superintendent, and that the aggrieved constituents were out of options.
The recall campaign was spurred by the dismissal of math teacher Ryan
Dutton for allegedly plagiarizing a paper at California State
University, Fresno. The state university system later cleared Dutton,
but he remains on unpaid leave and recall backers have charged the
board with a number of additional misdeeds - including holding secret
meetings, unjustified spending of district bond funds, intimidation of
employees and more.
What has happened since our editorial ran provides no evidence that
the kind of communication we had hoped for is even possible. Instead of
dialog, invective and personal attacks have been the order of the day.
Accommodation and compromise seem to be words absent from the Big Oak
Flat-Groveland School District vocabulary. Instead, a vicious turf war
between the district's Tioga and Don Pedro high schools has erupted.
While the backers of recall - including Tioga students, parents and
teachers - have been vocal and vitriolic, trustees have said little to
justify or explain their actions. Apologies and admissions of even
minor mistakes have been nonexistent.
Instead, a group of Don Pedro-area board defenders has asked that
the Tuolumne County Grand Jury look into a "criminal conspiracy" by the
All this has convinced us that reasonable discussion is not
possible and the election should go forward. County Clerk Debi Russell
on Wednesday will present the BOFG Board with a "certificate of
sufficiency" finding that backers collected enough signatures to force
We urge that the board call the election immediately rather than
waiting two weeks for Russell, as required by law, to do it herself.
We also ask that trustees, whose fate will be in the hands of
voters, state their cases clearly and concisely during the coming
campaign. Although this may be difficult amid the political cacophony,
it's something most district residents - at least to date - have not
Voters should also keep in mind that a single measure to oust the
entire board will not be before them. Instead, one by one, they will
decide the fates of Mary Kelly, Lillian Cravens, Dave Gookin, Chuck Day
and Bryan Berger - five individual trustees with differing records and
points of view.
Finally, there is matter of replacement candidates who, once the
election is called, will have about two weeks to file papers. The top
vote getters among these will replace any recalled candidates.
Recall backers will no doubt field their own slate of candidates,
which will give district votes a choice between two highly polarized
and emotionally charged extremes.
Welcome in this political mix would be candidates espousing moderation, accommodation and common sense.
The recall, as we predicted nearly three months ago, will likely be
divisive. But at this point, after weeks of nonproductive sound and
fury, it's time to let the voters speak.