Parents launch recall campaign against Fargo school board over pandemic policies

Students may eventually forget all about the year they spent in isolation through distance learning, not seeing their friends and the requirement to wear masks in order to return to class and extracurricular school activities. But first a group of parents in Fargo who banded together during the pandemic hopes to recall four members of the school board over their differences with the district’s COVID policies, according to Forum Communications.

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.

Several businesses openly support the campaign, offering to host events for residents to sign the petition. While the school board’s pandemic policies provided the impetus for the campaign, it’s clear from the parents’ website and Facebook page that educational issues also concern them.

Over this past year, so many big decisions were made by our school board and superintendent (and upheld by the board) left many wondering and saying “hmm what?”. “This makes no sense?”.

Some of these key decisions were the changing school boundaries, the Smart Restart Plan and the board taking away parents’ ability to make healthcare decisions for their children (mandatory mask mandate).

Parents and concerned residents were left out and ignored when major decisions were made and recourse was taken away.

Five members of the nine-member school board cannot be subject to recall because they will be up for election within a year. In order to force a recall election, the grassroots group must garner the signatures of at least 25 percent of voters in the last election.

Fargo School Board President Rebecca Knutson, who’s among the five members not subject to recall, acknowledged the campaign in a statement to Valley News Live.

“It is not appropriate for me to make comments on behalf of the Board on individual members, other than to say I value every Board member that is currently serving.

As the fourth largest employer in the City of Fargo, the work of every Board member is deeply important. Board members must be prepared to learn about, and make decisions on, a wide array of issues. As a Board, we bring our various experiences and perspectives together, to work collectively and diligently on behalf of the citizens of the Fargo School District.”

Supporters will begin collecting signatures on June 8 with a minimum of 4,144 certified signatures for each school board member to trigger a special election. If successful, the organizers hope parents with children in the district will step up to run for the school board.

“I feel like if you’re going to serve on this board, you should have a vested interest in the decisions that you’re making,” Ollenburger said.