Clatskanie protestors

A group of around 40 people with signs stood outside Clatskanie Elementary School before the school board meeting March 19. The group were protesting the school board's decision to not extend elementary principal Brad Thorud's contract.

CLATSKANIE — About 100 people squeezed into the Clatskanie Elementary School library Monday night to back a recall of school board members who voted last month to not extend the contract of elementary principal Brad Thorud.

The audience quickly discovered that one of those three members — Walt Lovegren— had already resigned early Monday morning in response to the recall.

In addition, board member Valerie Williams said she is stepping down because she is moving out of the district. She is not a target of the recall.

Replacements for both board members will be interviewed publicly on Friday night.

Lovegren submitted his letter of resignation in an email sent to his fellow board members and Superintendent Lloyd Hartley at 4:09 a.m. Monday.

He decided to resign “after giving great consideration to the complaint filed against me. … I feel if my personal beliefs are going to be scrutinized to how I stand on the district’s issues that I have no choice but to stand by them,” Lovegren wrote in his email.

Williams, in a resignation letter dated Wednesday, said she is leaving the Clatskanie area because of her husband’s job.

During the meeting, the three remaining board members – Judy Skirvin, Megan Evenson and interim chair Monty Akin – had a brief discussion of when to hold a public interview for new board members. Audience members continually interrupted them, asking for a short replacement process.

One person, parent Jessi Shefstad, asked that the board vacancies be filled quickly during Monday meeting’s public comment section.

“The current instability of the board is only heightened by the vacant positions, and filling the vacancy immediately gives the new board members an opportunity to become informed with current events going on and become proficient in policy and procedure,” she said.

Skirvin wanted a one- or two-week process, but Evenson and Akin agreed with the crowd who wanted the matter resolved quickly. The trio settled on a Friday public meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Clatskanie Elementary library. Application forms for the board positions were available starting after the meeting.

In February, the board voted in a 3-2 decision to not renew Thorud’s contract after Hartley said the elementary principal wasn’t a good fit with the rest of the administration. Since that decision, there has been an organized public effort to recall the three members who voted against renewing Thorud’s contract: Lovegren, Skirvin and Akin.

On March 5, around 200 people marched from Clatskanie Middle/High School to Clatskanie Elementary to support Thorud.

According to Katherine Willis, who is chairing the recall committee, around 380 signatures were gathered in Clatskanie last week in favor of the recall, nearly 100 more than the 288-signature minimum to move the issue to a ballot. Willis said at Monday’s meeting that she submitted the signatures to Columbia County Elections on Friday, and they have 10 days to verify signatures.

After the signatures are verified, each of the two remaining board members involved with the recall will have five days to either resign or submit a statement of justification. If at least one of the members hasn’t resigned, a recall ballot will be issued within 35 days. Willis said the school district will cover the entire cost of the recall ballot.

“My hope is that you will give careful and thoughtful consideration of this matter, and you will come to the consideration that a recall is inevitable,” Willis said at Monday’s meeting. “I urge you to resign from your positions and allow the school district, the students and the community to move forward.”

Before the board meeting, about 40 people, many holding signs with slogans like “We Stand with Thorud” and “Erase the Board” stood in front of the elementary school.

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