A School Board Takeover in the Making
Our Children are at Stake
Bear with me: There are action items at the bottom of this post.
It’s time to wake up, pay attention, and push back. School Board elections can no longer be ignored as sleepy backwaters. Doing your research, talking with friends, filling out your ballot and turning it in is suddenly very important. What follows pertains to just one School District, Central Valley, but what is happening in Central Valley is part of a nationwide effort quietly rising in many Districts.
Background on CVSD: The voters of the Central Valley School District elect five School Board members (two or three in each successive odd numbered year). They serve four year terms with no term limits. Candidates running for a position on the CVSD School Board are elected by the voters of the entire School District, but where they live among the five geographic areas, sometimes referred to “internal” districts, determines the candidate or candidates against whom they are eligible to run. (City of Spokane readers take note: this is NOT the way elections for District 81 School Board work.) Two of the current five members CVSD Board, those representing internal Districts 5 and 2, decided by May of 2021 that they would not seek re-election this year. Only one candidate filed to run for a school board seat from internal District 2 before the August Primary, Teresa Landa. As a sole candidate for the position, Ms. Landa’s name did not appear on the primary ballot. In internal District 5 three candidates filed before the August primary, all of them conservative Republicans. Pam Orebaugh and Rob Linebarger, a rabidly right wing pair, won the “top two” primary. Allied in their intent, these two are now the only printed choices for this position on the November ballot. Like many off-off year August primary elections, this year’s primary was marred by poor turnout. Only a quarter of the registered voters in CVSD turned in their ballots--and, of those, the votes were sprinkled almost evenly among the three candidates. The two winners, Pam and Rob, have now recruited a third candidate, Brett Howell, who filed (after the August Primary was over) to run as a write-in against the internal District 2 candidate, Teresa Landa. Clearly, the three of them hope to occupy 2 of the 5 seats on the Board for the next four years. So far, this probably sounds like run-of-the-mill politics, but, perhaps, a little more heated and calculated than what one might imagine for school board races.
On Monday, August 23, the Central Valley School Board held a meeting that was forced to adjourn after 30 minutes. A belligerent vocal minority of those attending refused to wear masks in open defiance of the state-wide mask mandate then in place. Although the Spokesman article failed to note their presence, Pam and Rob, likely the organizers of the anti-mask group, stayed on to address their followers after the meeting adjourned. In this video, Rob, i.e. Mr. Linebarger, is seen firing up his approving crowd. It is a revealing performance you ought to watch:
Mr. Linebarger’s conspiracy-laden oration speaks for itself. This is not a man interested in the intricacies of school budgets and discussion under Roberts Rules of Order. This is a man who sounds primed for revolution, armed, if necessary. Pam, i.e. Ms. Orebaugh, is also present, seen intermittently sitting to the far right in the screen view and referred to as an ally. At 01:54 she walks across the room behind Mr. Linebarger.
The group that supports the ideology of Pam and Rob maintain a closed Facebook page on which Pam Orebaugh is the Administrator. (It’s called the Central Valley School District Parent’s [sic] Coalition. Consider joining. It would be illuminating.) They also constructed a website devoid of original content that serves as a donation portal for their 501(c)(3), Washington Citizens for Liberty. I urge you to click and explore. The site is devoid of identifiers. It contains only click-through content under the “NEWS” button that takes the reader off-site to The Defender, Populist Press, and The National Pulse. Never heard of any of these “news” outlets? Neither had I. None of the three offers any clarity about who funds them (not that it requires much money to aggregate crazy-making, glossy articles on the web). A brief visit to The National Pulse offers some idea of the backing: there is a prominently linked article highlighting Steve Bannon’s “Local Takeover Strategies”. Pam and Rob, it seems, are following Bannon’s playbook.
Pam and Rob’s group, Washington Citizens for Liberty, is registered as a nonprofit, a 501(c)(3). Non-profits are not required to disclose their donors. Status as a non-profit also means that major donors receive a tax break paid for by you and me. In the post school board meeting video, Rob (Mr. Linebarger) rails against “propaganda” and brainwashing. Ironically, he and his followers blindly trust the blatant propaganda inspired by Bannon and his crew that is linked on the Citizens for Liberty website. These folks’ critical reading skills are so poor they cannot read the writing on the wall of the rathole into which they have descended.
It is frightening enough such ratholes exist and that otherwise good people have descended into them, but it is even more frightening to think that such folk might acquire seats on a school board while disguised as reasonable people with critical thinking skills.
Leaked internal emails and meeting minutes state the intent of Washington Citizens for Liberty’s fundraising and organizing. The group, led by candidate Rob Linebarger and disguised as a non-profit, is organized entirely around opposition to, and denial of, mask and vaccination efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19. Donated money will be used to mount campaigns to recall members of the CVSD school board and to work for a referendum to limit the governor’s powers. How this is not a dependent political action committee is beyond me--but enforcement of campaign finance law is a slow and halting process.
Fortunately, the election of far right Republicans to the District 5 and District 2 seats of CVSD is not a done deal. A much revered coach, civics, and social studies teacher at Central Valley High School, Stan Chalich, (pronounced with a soft ‘a’) is running as a write-in candidate for District 5. When he retired in 2017 following forty-nine years of service his career and background was covered in this Spokesman article. This is an exciting development. Chalich has the name recognition to pull this off--if a concerted effort is made on his behalf.
Here is electoral math: There are 65,972 registered voters in the Central Valley School District. Only a quarter of those voters turned in a ballot in the August Primary. Linebarger and Orebaugh and the third candidate each got roughly only 5,000 votes. It is a fair bet that many of those votes came from people who had not done much homework on the background of any of the candidates, rather than out of particular commitment to any of the three. The results of the November general election will greatly depend on turnout. The task before the November election is to make as many Central Valley School District registered voters as possible aware of the stakes in this election, the ideology of the contenders on the ballot, and the availability of a willing and excellent write-in candidate, Stan Chalich--and how to spell his name.
The tools are the same ones Stan, Pam, Bannon, and Washington Citizens for Liberty are using: information about these candidates spread on electronic media, print media, and word of mouth--buzz. You can help salvage this election from these people.
Visit Candidate Stan Chalich’s new campaign website:
Visit, like, and share his campaign’s Facebook page.
Donate to Stan Chalich’ campaign using PayPal at https://www.chalichforchildren.com/donate
Educate your friends and relatives about the down-the-rathole extremism of Pam and Rob.
At stake is the civil functioning of the Central Valley School Board. Other school boards are not immune. These are national tactics.
Keep to the high ground,