Recall effort aims to oust Areias from school board

Proponents targeting his vote to reassign Principal Martin

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comApril 12, 2013 

Last year's reassignment of a high school principal has led a group of residents to start a recall drive of a school board member.

A notice of intent to recall Los Banos Unified School District Trustee Dennis Areias was filed with the Merced County Elections Department on April 2. Proponents, 10 in all, must now create a recall petition and get it approved by county elections officials for circulation , Assistant Registrar of Voters Stacey Cotter said.

Nine of the 10 recall proponents either did not respond to requests for interviews or declined to answer questions about the effort. Only Diane Van Dyke said she had heard that Areias was not doing his job well, but refused to elaborate.

The notice of intent states that Areias should be recalled because "he's shown a serious lack of sound judgment, including the reassignment of a competent and successful high school principal." It also refers to Areias as having "disregard for public input" and having directed "caustic and derisive statements at teachers and students during open forum sessions at school board meetings."

On Aug. 9, Areias was part of a 5-2 vote to reassign Los Banos High School Principal Dan Martin to administrator of special projects after Superintendent Steve Tietjen said he had lost confidence in Martin's ability to perform his job.

Areias and board president Chase Hurley are the only two school board members left in office who voted for Martin's reassignment.

Van Dyke said she does not know of any plans by her group to recall Hurley.

At the Aug. 9 meeting, Areias told Martin supporters that he would make a decision and that they could call him to discuss it or vote him out of office if they did not like it.

Areias, 56, has been on the school board since 1997. After repeated requests for an interview, Areias left a voice message stating that he had filed a response with the Elections Department. The response must be included on the recall petition. In it, he states: "The issue at hand is the vote five board members made to reassign one administrator. It became clear to me after over three years of trying to resolve issues with this individual that the best direction was to make the difficult decision to make a change, and that is what I voted for. I stand by my decision."

In September, Martin released a five-page statement through his lawyer accusing Tietjen of having a personal vendetta against him and running the school district by using intimidating tactics. Martin's statement said that this and an interview for a typist position in which unusual questions were asked -- for example, What was the last meal you cooked for someone? Tell me how you made it? -- were the cause for Tietjen's request that the board take action.

Barbara Levey, Merced County registrar of voters, said when the recall petition is approved, the group will have 120 days to collect 2,915 signatures, or 20 percent of registered voters in Los Banos.

Cotter, the assistant registrar, said she believes it will be difficult for the group to get the required signatures in time for the November election. She said if the group doesn't make the November date, a special election would need to be held. Levey said the recall will likely cost $40,000 to $50,000 if it's part of the November ballot. Those taxpayer dollars are used for printing costs, staff time, mailing expenses and other items related to elections.

Proponents of the recall are Ealtha Davis, Jerry Davis, Gerald R. O'Brien, Arlene M. O'Brien, Raymond Razo, Fredrick Todd, Diana Todd, Daryl Van Dyke, Diane Van Dyke and Denise Robinson.

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