6 Ann Arbor school board members prepare for recall hearing
- Previous coverage: Ann Arbor parents submit language to recall 6 school board members
Six Ann Arbor Board of Education members will have the opportunity Thursday to defend claims made against their leadership and integrity as elected school officials.
This will be the first recall hearing the commission has held since a 2012 law included stricter parameters for recalls in Michigan.
Prior to the 2012 law, the elections commission only had to make a determination on the clarity of the petition language. "They ruled whether it was clear enough to allow the officer in question to rebut the claims," said county Director of Elections Ed Golembiewski.
Now the petitioner also has the burden of factuality, Golembiewski said.
The law also made it so the group behind the recall effort, the Ann Arbor Public Schools Parents for Change, could not submit petition language against Board of Education President Deb Mexicotte. She is unable to be recalled because she is in her first year of a new term on the board.
Mexicotte was re-elected to a four-year term in November. She was first elected in 2003, making this is her fourth term of service.
Jody Huhn, a Thurston Elementary School parent, filed the petition language on July 17 against Susan Baskett, Simone Lightfoot, Glenn Nelson, Irene Patalan, Christine Stead and Andy Thomas.
Huhn and the AAPS Parents for Change group were active in trying to encourage the Board of Education to look for a local or internal candidate for Ann Arbor's next superintendent, who will be the fifth in the past decade.
They also advocated for the board to give special consideration to Roberto Clemente Student Development Center Principal Ben Edmondson, who applied for the job and was one of six semifinalists. The group launched a Change.org petition to this effect at the start of the superintendent search.
The petition language for all six school board members named by Huhn cites the same four reasons for the recall:
- Failure to demonstrate thoughtful consideration of constituent priorities.
- Failure to demonstrate transparency in decision making.
- Failure to demonstrate cohesive and singular direction as evidenced by consistent split voting.
- Failure to provide sufficient backing and support for district superintendent position as evidenced by high turnover rate averaging 2.25 years per term.
At least three school board members, Baskett, Stead and Thomas, plan to attend the clarity/factual hearing Thursday and to refute the claims brought against them.
"I will present my objections to the recall language at that time," Thomas said.
The hearing will take place at the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting room at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. It is open to the public.
The commission consists of Judge Donald Shelton, County Clerk Larry Kestenbaum and County Treasurer Catherine McClary.
Should the commission approve the recall language, each school board trustee would have a right to appeal the decision to Circuit Court. Huhn also would have the right to appeal, should the commission deny the petition language. Any appeals must be made within a 10-day time period.
If the commission approves the language on the petition, AAPS Parents for Change would have 60 days to circulate the petition and collect 14,733 signatures to force a recall election.