Nyssa parent seeks recall of board members over meeting conflict for Hispanic migrant famiies

Unhappy with the Nyssa School Board’s recent decision on a superintendent, a parent has filed prospective petitions with Malheur County officials to ask voters to recall three board members. 

Jacqueline Cuevas, a lifelong Nyssa resident with children in the Nyssa school system, filed the petitions with the Malheur County Clerk’s Office on Monday, March 18. Clerk Gayle Trotter said Cuevas filed to force an election to remove from office school board members Jeremy Peterson, Susan Ramos, and Pat Morinaka, the board chair.

The three voted recently to make Ryan Hawkins the district’s permanent superintendent, moving him from an interim role. He got the job over one other finalist considered by the board, which split 4-3 on the superintendent choice.

Peterson, Ramos and Morinaka were on the winning side, along with Dustin Martinsen, a Vale attorney. In an interview, Cuevas declined to explain why Martinsen was left out of her recall effort. The three board members on the losing side of the hiring vote were Don Ballou, Megan Robbins and Maribel Ramirez.

Cuevas is a Nyssa native who is director of victim’s advocacy for the Malheur County District Attorney’s Office. She said her recall effort results from her community activism and is unrelated to her job.,

She said she started the recall effort to make clear to the board that families in the district weren’t being heard. 

Trotter said Cuevas would need to take additional steps for the elections office to approve the recall process. 

Cuevas has 90 days – until Tuesday, June 18 – to collect 201 signatures on each petition from registered voters inside the Nyssa School District. That number is equal to 15% of all votes cast in the Nyssa district for governor during the last election.

If the signatures are verified, a special election would be set and could come as early as August, Trotter said.

Trotter said there are 3,023 registered voters within the Nyssa district.

If the signatures are verified, the board members would be notified. They could resign, eliminating the need for a vote on their recall, or they could submit a rebuttal statement to be included on the ballot.

A special election would be set and could come as early as August, Trotter said.

Before circulating petitions for signatures, Cuevas must submit samples of her cover sheet and signature sheet for approval, according to Trotter. This is the next step Cuevas must take to move the process forward.

Cuevas said she was disturbed by the board’s failure to ensure migrant Hispanic families could be part of the review process.

Cuevas, who in 2018 applied for appointment to the board, said the district scheduled a meeting for families in the migrant education program for the same time as a community meeting was set up to allow citizens to meet the finalist from Portland. The district’s Facebook page showed the migrant program meeting was set for Tuesday, March 12. That was a time for families to get free English learning software to use at home.

Cuevas said no conflicting meeting was scheduled for Hawkins’ community meet-and-greet the following evening.

Ramos, a retired Nyssa school teacher who was elected to the board in 2021, said in an email Friday, March 22 that she does not intend to resign.

Morinaka, a former health care administrator who has been on the board since 2018, and Peterson, a local farmer who has been on the board since 2019, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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