The sweeping recall charges filed by fed-up parents against Seattle and Northshore school boards are understandable.
Parents’ seething frustration with some districts’ slow implementation of in-person instruction was bound to boil over. Petitioning for recall is one of few available options when public servants won’t listen or respond to community concerns.
Parents in both school districts allege that school board members failed in their duties to lead the timely implementation of in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Each list several other examples of actions they say show directors’ malfeasance, misfeasance or violation of their oaths of office — the appropriately high bar for recall in Washington.
But there is another way to hold these elected officials accountable: Recruit strong candidates to run against them for office. In odd years, school board officials across the state are up for reelection. Filing week for candidates is May 17-21. Robust, contested races between incumbents and qualified contenders will help ensure parents’ voices are heard.
Of the five members of the Northshore School Board whom disgruntled parents are seeking to recall, three are serving terms that expire this year. They are Jacqueline McGourty in District 1; Sandy Hayes, District 4; and Amy Cast, District 5. Also named in recall charges are Board President Bob Swain, from District 2, and David Cogan in District 3. Their terms expire in 2023.
In Seattle, a group of parents seek to recall District 5 director Zachary DeWolf and District 7 director Brandon Hersey, whose seats are on the August primary and November ballot. Also included are four directors midway into four-year terms: District 1’s Liza Rankin, District 2’s Lisa Rivera-Smith, District 6’s Leslie Harris and District 3’s Chandra Hampson, who is also board president.
The District 4 position is also on this year’s election, but petitioners aren’t seeking to recall Director Erin Dury, who was appointed only last month to serve the final months of Eden Mack’s term after her resignation.
A recall effort takes time. By recruiting, supporting and thoroughly vetting candidates for these positions, parents and other stakeholders have the power to influence districts’ decisions regardless of whether a judge gives the recall efforts a green light and parents collect enough signatures to put recall decisions before voters.
This extraordinary year has proved the importance, and revealed some shortcomings, of publicly elected school boards. But voters choose who fills those positions. It’s high time they give these races the attention they deserve.