by Abbey Smith
One Kansas school board member and four Wisconsin school board members are facing recall elections on Nov. 2. Supporters of both efforts listed the school board’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic as one of the reasons for recall.
In the Nemaha USD 115 in Kansas, District 1 representative Amy Sudbeck is facing a yes/no recall question. If a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of the recall, Sudbeck will be removed from office. If a majority of voters cast ballots against the recall, Sudbeck will retain her office.
The recall petition said that Sudbeck had failed to perform her duties and alleged that she had violated state statutes by voting to require masks in schools rather than allowing them to be optional. In response to the recall, Sudbeck said, “It’s unfortunate that this issue has caused division in our community. I voted with the majority to allow our kids freedom to participate in activities, stay in school and keep them out of a quarantine invoked by the health department.”
Sudbeck was appointed to her position on the seven-member board in 2020. She is seeking re-election in 2021. She advanced from the primary on Aug. 3 and will be on the regular election ballot in addition to the recall election ballot on Nov. 2.
Three signatures were required to get the recall on the ballot. The Nemaha County Clerk verified eight signatures, allowing the recall election to be scheduled.
In the Mequon-Thiensville School District in Wisconsin, four board members– Wendy Francour, Erik Hollander, Akram Khan, and Chris Schultz – are on the ballot. Cheryle Rebholtz filed to run against Francour, Charles Lorenz filed to run against Hollander, Kristopher Kittell filed to run against Khan, and Scarlett Johnson filed to run against Schultz. The candidate who receives the most votes in each recall election will win that seat.
Recall supporters said they started the recall due to concerns about the school district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, critical race theory, a decline in academic performance metrics, and an inability to get answers from board members. The other three members of the board were not eligible for recall as they had not served in the office for at least one year.
In response to the recall efforts, a spokeswoman for the district said, “MTSD’s focus remains on advancing our vision and planning for a robust learning experience for all students for the 2021-2022 school year.”
All four members named filed challenges against the recall petitions. The challenges were sustained when it came to duplicate signatures but were not sustained on other matters. To get the recall on the ballot, recall supporters had to collect approximately 4,200 signatures per board member in 60 days.
Ballotpedia has tracked 82 school board recall efforts against 212 board members so far in 2021 – the highest number of school board recall efforts Ballotpedia has tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.
In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when Ballotpedia tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, Ballotpedia tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
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