RICHLAND – A letter signed online by about 1,400 people declared “no confidence” in three Richland School Board members embroiled in controversy after a hasty vote last Tuesday to make masks optional.
The letter was drafted by a group of about eight concerned community members and parents over the weekend, said Elizabeth Lugo, one of the petitioners. The authors are calling for the “immediate resignation” of board members Audra Byrd, Kari Williams and Semi Bird.
“We’re hoping they’ll take this and realize that they are no longer effective leaders. They’ve shown themselves to be ineffective leaders, and we would like for them to voluntarily step down for the betterment of the community because they’re not acting in the interest of the students,” said Lugo, a Richland parent.
In the letter, Byrd and Williams are alleged to have violated at least 16 state and federal policies dealing with open public meetings laws and the Washington State School Directors Association standards, among others. Bird also is alleged of have violated the First Amendment by deleting public comments on his personal Facebook page.
The letter was expected to be presented to at Tuesday night’s remote board meeting.
“It’s really about the process and procedure,” said Danica Garcia, a former Richland School Board candidate and parent.
The letter comes after Byrd, Williams and Bird voted 3-2 to allow the district to go “mask optional” at a special meeting last week in defiance of Washington state COVID masking rules.
While some parents were excited about their decision, others were upset with the suddenness of the action and the lack of transparency presented in the decision making, which followed a two-hour, closed-door executive session. The mask issue was not specifically listed as a topic for discussion on that meeting agenda.
School Superintendent Shelley Redinger then closed schools for two days in response to legal concerns over the decision. In another emergency meeting Thursday, the school board changed its vote to make mask optional starting on March 21, when the statewide ban is expected to be lifted.
For now, Richland students, staff and visitors are still required to wear masks in schools.
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