School board president Robert Kirk has survived one recall attempt in the past. But if fellow school board member Chris Bentley goes through with his call to file recall papers against him, Kirk says he will resign within 60 days.
Bentley, who addressed the Hesperia Unified School District school board as the final speaker of the public speaking period at Monday's school board meeting, called for Kirk's recall, calling the board Kirk's "dictatorship."
"The removal of Robert Kirk from the HUSD governing board," is necessary, according to Bentley, to prevent Kirk from "doing the economic and spiritual damage to the school district that he is currently engaged in. ... I fear that our district may never recover from his harms."
Kirk and fellow board members Hardy Black and Lee Rogers survived a failed recall attempt in the winter of 2007 and spring of 2008 led by former board member Lori Nielson.
"I have heard this issue was coming from Mr. Bentley and his organization," Kirk began, following Bentley's address.
"There is no organization yet," Bentley interjected. "I guarantee there will be."
"I've been through one election, I've been through one failed recall attempt. I'm prepared to go through this, personally. I'll fight this through to the last," Kirk continued.
But the recall took a toll on Kirk's family, he said, especially his wife, who works for the HUSD. And if Bentley makes good on his threat, Kirk says he'll step down, rather than put his family and district through another go-round.
"If this recall attempt is filed, I will resign from this board within 60 days," he said. "The people of Hesperia need to stand up and decide."
Since joining the board in December 2008, Bentley has repeatedly clashed with Kirk, who leads a four-person majority on the five-member board. In recent meetings, the pair have fought each other with procedural weapons; citing board bylaws and Roberts' Rules of Order (the rulebook of parliamentary procedure used by most governing bodies in American politics) to either raise or quash other issues. Bentley has objected to items being handled via the consent agenda (a portion of the board's meeting agenda intended for non-controversial subjects that should require no discussion prior to a vote) or, he alleges, behind closed doors without public oversight.
"We've talked about trying to pull together," said fellow new board member Anthony Riley, who described himself during the 2008 campaign as a friend of Kirk and his son, Mark. "We're talking about a process that may not be perfect, but it's the only one we have. ... Going through a recall effort is only going to divide this community."
A recall would cost the district $200,000, according to Riley.
"That's the equivalent to four or five teachers' salaries," he said.
At their February 23 meeting, the board voted to give pink slips to 198 HUSD employees, including 181 teachers, unless the district's financial picture defies expectations and improves. (Ninety percent of the HUSD's 2009-2010 unrestricted funds are tied up in salary and benefits, according to the district's financial staff, making for few other areas to cut.)
"I worry about the district. I think the district's in trouble," said Kirk at the close of the meeting. "The rules of democracy are being pushed to their limits so that the democratic process can grind to a halt."
"We must go through [with] this ugly task," said Bentley. "Robert Kirk must be recalled for the good of HUSD kids."
The next meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on Monday, April 6, at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street.
Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at email@example.com.