Three Pocatello-Chubbuck school board members being asked to resign

Three members of the Pocatello Chubbuck School District 25 Board of Trustees have been asked to resign after the Bannock County Elections Office certified signed recall petitions for each embattled member. The three board members from left include Dave Mattson, Jackie Cranor and Janie Gebhardt.

POCATELLO — Three members of the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 Board of Trustees have until Dec. 17 to voluntarily resign or be subject to a recall election after the Bannock County Elections office certified signed recall petitions against them on Thursday.

School District 25 Board of Trustees Chairman Dave Mattson as well as Jackie Cranor and Janie Gebhardt are the three embattled school board members a group of concerned parents who started the recall process have asked to voluntarily resign.

“We are happy that the work and effort of our group has proven to be fruitful, yet we are disappointed that the board has led us to this point,” said Jesse Ward, one of several parents involved with the group leading the recall effort. “We are disappointed in the leadership found at the highest levels in our district and we will now pursue the call to these board members that they respectfully resign from these positions. The electorate put them in office and now that electorate calls on them to resign promptly.”

The Bannock County Elections Office confirmed to the Idaho State Journal on Thursday that this is likely the first time in the county’s history that any, let alone three, recall petitions of an elected body have received enough certified signatures to proceed to the voluntary resignation or recall election stage.

In response to the certified recall petitions, School District 25 issued the following statement to the Journal on Thursday afternoon:

“As duly elected officials, all five members of the Board of Trustees fulfill an obligation to represent the best interest of more than 12,000 learners, in addition to the care and safety of those same learners and 1,700 staff members employed by the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25.

”The decision-making process can be arduous, especially when it comes to more controversial issues. Each Board member has proven to be a conscientious public servant endeavoring to ground their decisions in sound reasoning, transparency and integrity.

”Board members understand that not every decision will gain community consensus. It is important to note, however, that each member continually receives strong opinions on every side of topical issues. The Board weighs this feedback with the many other complex factors involved in making these tough decisions, including educational best practices and guidance received from public health and medical experts. We remain hopeful that the broader community will take the many nuances of the Board’s roles and responsibilities into consideration as they weigh in on this recall effort.”

The recall effort was launched in September, primarily because of the school board’s overall inability to fully represent the electorate on a number of issues, particularly the board’s decision earlier this year to implement and continue the district’s hybrid learning model in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2018 school boundary issue and the decision to retire the Pocatello High School Indians mascot, Ward told the Journal in September.

The Bannock County Elections office confirmed Thursday that each of the signed petitions for all three board members contained more than enough signatures to trigger a recall election, so long as the respective board members do not resign. The recall elections for each member who does not resign will take place on March 9, during the same election that School District 25 is expected to ask the community to pass a multimillion-dollar supplemental levy for the next two years.

If just one or two of the three beleaguered school board members resigns, then the remainder of the school board would select an appointee to replace them. If all three decide against resigning, the special election would take place.

If enough people vote in favor of recalling all three of the embattled school board members, the Bannock County Commission would be tasked with filling the vacancies with appointees of its choice. If just one or two of the board members are recalled, the current School District 25 Board of Trustees would be tasked with filling those vacancies with appointees who live in each respective zone. If the vacancies cannot be filled with an appointee from within each respective zone within 90 days, the board can appoint someone from outside the respective zone, so long as they reside within the School District 25 boundary, according to state statute.

In order to recall any of the three board members, a majority of the votes cast at the recall election must be in favor of such recall, and additionally, the number of votes cast in favor of each of the three recalls must equal or exceed the votes cast at the last general election for that respective board member.

For Cranor that’s 279 votes, for Gebhardt that’s 417 votes, and for Mattson that’s 278 votes.

When contacted Thursday afternoon, Gebhardt confirmed she was aware the recall petition against her was certified. Other than to explain she has no intention of resigning, Gebhardt declined to comment further on the matter.

Mattson and Cranor did not return the Journal’s request for comment for this story.