Pocatello-Chubbuck trustees face potential recall

(Updated Wednesday, Sept. 23, at 8:15 a.m. with comments from Pocatello Education Association President Mary Anne McGrory.) 

Pocatello-Chubbuck School District trustees Dave Mattson, Jackie Cranor and Janie Gebhardt are facing recall efforts from parents.

POCATELLO — Parents in the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District are pushing to recall three district trustees over their handling of recent issues.

“The board doesn’t appear to have any idea of what is going on in our schools,” parent Brandi Clark said of efforts to oust Dave Mattson, Jackie Cranor and Janie Gebhardt.

Clark and fellow parents Jesse Ward and Troy Sutton announced on Facebook Friday that they are gathering signatures to recall Mattson, Cranor and Gebhardt. Bannock County elections administrator Julie Hancock confirmed the recall efforts Tuesday.

The push follows two controversial decisions from the board last week. On Tuesday, trustees voted to drop Pocatello High School’s Indians mascot. Two days later, they approved the continuation of a hybrid learning model for high schoolers until the end of the trimester.

Those votes, along with the board’s controversial handling of local boundary changes in 2018, represent a larger problem in the district, Clark said. “The board appears to be making their decisions based on the (local teachers’ union) and not what is in the best interest of (students).”

Pocatello Education Association President Mary Anne McGrory said the union’s advocacy for teachers is also advocacy for students.

“Although we represent staff members, our working environment is our students’ learning environment,” McGrory told EdNews. “Therefore, when we advocate for our staff, we are also advocating for our students.”

The district addressed the recall effort — and purported disregard for students — in a statement to EdNews Tuesday afternoon, expressing discouragement that the board’s “graceful and grounded leadership” during the coronavirus pandemic is being met with a “baseless” recall effort.

“We have a responsibility as a school district for the education of more than 12,000 learners, in addition to the care and safety of those same learners and 1,700 staff members,” the statement reads.

It’s too late for the recall initiative to show up on the November ballot, but it could come before voters on the May ballot — if enough signatures are gathered.

  • At least 351 registered voters in Zone 2 would have to sign on to put a recall initiative on the ballot for Gebhardt.
  • At least 206 registered voters in Mattson’s Zone 5 would have to sign on.
  • At least 164 registered voters in Cranor’s Zone 1 would have to sign on.

As of Monday, Clark, Ward and Sutton said they had around half of the required signatures for each zone.

If enough signatures are gathered, the county would verify them by checking names, addresses and matching up signatures, Hancock told EdNews.

Hancock also said the 2021 election calendar hasn’t been created yet, but the deadline for getting the recall initiative on the ballot would be around March 19.

Mattson, Cranor and Gebhardt were each elected to the school board in May 2017. They are each up for reelection in November 2021.

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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