FARGO — Citing a list of grievances, a group of local parents and concerned citizens are launching a campaign to recall four members of the Fargo School Board.
The Facebook group called ND Parents Against Distance Learning was formed in September 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic that led to remote classes for many Fargo students. The group is trying to recall board members Seth Holden, Tracie Newman, Nikkie Gullickson and Jim Johnson. For each board member, a recall petition with 4,144 signatures is needed to move forward.
ND Parents Against Distance Learning, which had 939 members as of Wednesday, June 2, has problems with how board members have responded to various issues, including school boundaries, mask mandates, teacher treatment, hybrid schooling and use of federal funds, said Allie Ollenburger, a parent involved with the recall effort.
“There have been many things as a parent I have been left with more questions than answers on and ultimately feeling like I have no voice in the conversation at all,” Ollenburger said. “I am trying to ensure all the parents' voices have been heard. This is not my voice only, this is a collective voice of parents’ concerns."
If enough signatures are obtained for a recall, then a special election will be held, according to guidelines from the North Dakota Secretary of State. The name of any board member to be recalled will be automatically placed on the ballot unless the official resigns within 10 days after the petition is certified.
School board members cannot be recalled within one year of a regularly scheduled election. The seats of the five board members not targeted for a possible recall — Robin Nelson, Rebecca Knutson, Jennifer Benson, David Paulson and Brian Nelson — will all come up for election in June 2022, about a year from now.
The four board members ND Parents Against Distance Learning hopes to recall are serving four-year terms that began in June 2020, and their seats won't be up for election until June 2024.
A recall election can be triggered by securing signatures equal to 25% of the number of voters who voted in the most recent election, according to the North Dakota Secretary of State's website.
Although the school board has voted to end the district's pandemic education plan on June 7, Ollenburger said one goal going forward is to make sure parents' concerns are heard.
"This is a culmination of the end of the school year where we as parents are fed up," she said. "It's affecting our kids. And when we look at what they've done this school year, a lot of this is to prevent this from happening next year."
Ollenburger said she's helping to arrange a booth for the recall campaign at Happy Harry's RibFest, which starts June 9 at the Fargodome.