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Posted on Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

6 Ann Arbor school board members prepare for recall hearing

By Danielle Arndt


Six school board members are the target of recall language that was filed July 17 with the Washtenaw County Elections Commission. Clockwise, the trustees named were: Irene Patalan, Simone Lightfoot, Andy Thomas, Christine Stead, Glenn Nelson and Susan Baskett.

File photos

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.

A clarity/factual hearing on recall language brought against all but one of Ann Arbor's trustees will take place at 1 p.m. Thursday before the Washtenaw County Elections Commission.

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 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.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


mike gatti

Fri, Aug 2, 2013 : 11 a.m.

Our candidate wasn't chosen. Let's recall the school board? from Moneyball "I got uptown problems which aren't really problems."


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 7:59 p.m.

I'm not pleased that someone is going to try to waste our taxpayer dollars on this. It's divisive, and this is a time when we need to work together. If we are unhappy with who we elected, we should elect someone else at the appropriate time.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 6:23 p.m.

Will Huhn bear the costs of this nonsense, and if not, who will?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

While I probably would not supprt the petition, I am fully in support of the process. Too often, people who get elected to these offices forget why they ran in the first place and need a reminder that they are there to SERVE the people, not themselves. Maybe recalling a few of them will instill a measure of respect (fear) that is lacking from the current school board. The problems that persist with most school boards is the fact that many of the people serving on them have absolutely no experience in education (other than attending school). Having local people with no educational experience, managing the school board more often than not, results in constant struggle and inconsistency. Using this logic, I have been to a hospital many times so I must know exactly how to run one. I always struggle when I hear this same rationale used to describe education. Start finding ex-teachers, professors, administration and school aides to fill the board or a majority of the board and you might actually see more progress and less strife.

Willie Reid

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

I agree with DonBee. Although I disagree with much that this board does, I can't support a recall. Unless laws have been broken, recalls are generally just a waste of money. I just hope people continue to be engaged during next year's election when more than half of the board is up for re-election.

Albert Howard

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

'Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come' I'd be honored to sign this petition.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 3:13 p.m.

Sounds like someone is running again!


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:47 p.m.

Jody Huhn is having a tantrum that the BOE didn't pick her candidate. Boo hoo. You have no plan. Get over yourself.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

"Failure to demonstrate cohesive and singular direction as evidenced by consistent split voting." - isn't this sort of the point of a democracy? Expressing opinion and voting? Perhaps it's the OTHER side of the split vote who are the troublemakers - it's all point of view.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

Exactly. I cannot recall hearing anything quite as stupid as the claim that split voting on a board should be considered grounds for recall.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:29 p.m.

I echo the comments above. I think the board is problematic but I do not support the recall and feel it is not constructive. There are better ways to address the problems listed, and without viable replacements for board members or solutions that can work, this is a drain on resources we need to put on the many issues facing the district that impact kids directly. Despite my consistent criticisms of board effectiveness, I think a recall is a mistake and wasted energy, but the board does need leadership changes and guidance to function more efficiently. The board should initiate a set of discussions with this group of parents organizing the recall with the volunteer services of a professional mediator. We have several in the community who are skilled and talented and may donate their time if it is a limited project. I will not sign the petition.

Dan Ezekiel

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

Absurd and anti-democratic. These trustees were elected fairly, and there is no hint that they have acted with any lack of integrity. The ones I know are sincere and hardworking. Fortunately, the bar for signatures needed (1/4 of number of voters in most recent gubernatorial election) is so high that we don't need to worry that this recall election will actually occur.

Dan Ezekiel

Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

Point taken. Maybe "anarchistic" would have been a better adjective than "anti-democratic". My point was that these trustees were duly elected. I don't hear the recall proponents claiming the trustees promised one thing and then did something else, or that they are corrupt. Elections have consequences, so the recall proponents would do better to try to find candidates for the next election who share their views. In my own opinion the school district's problems are mainly located 60 miles northwest of Ann Arbor, not in the current population of the volunteer school board, who seem to be doing the best they can with what they have.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

I disagree that it is "anti-democratic" Absurd maybe. If they can get the 14,733 votes then there will be a democratic vote. Chances of that happening 0.01%


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

This is special interest politics at its worst. The petition is motivated solely by the Board's decision not to hire for superintendent the petitioners' preferred candidate. It was intended to disrupt the hiring process and signal that the new superintendent will face opposition (or more accurately harassment). I believe this petition proceeding played a part in the first candidates refusal to accept the offer of the position. I am not a fan of the present Board and agree with some criticism I have seen, but they are elected officials, serving at the pleasure of the voters. This power hungry group will have ample opportunity to campaign for any candidate for the Board that they wish in the next election. The allegations are mere opinion issues and do not arise to the level of misconduct requiring an elected official to be removed from office.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:23 a.m.

Is the hearing at 1 PM? I can't tell if the meeting time given as 1 is the same meeting as the one on 220 N. Main. If so, putting time and location in same statement is better than a page apart. If not, what time is the 220 N. Main one?


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 11:13 a.m.

I am against this recall. It is not that I am in "love" with these school board members, but rather the lack on the part of the people doing the recall. They lack: 1) Alternate candidates and reasons why those candidates are better. 2) A plan, if their candidates are elected (what candidates ?) - What will they do to make things better? 3) Reasoning that matches the performance of the individual school board members. Not all of these reasons fit each of the candidates While some of these people probably don't belong on the board, the community elected them, few people have stepped forward to run and the selection of alternatives is non-existent. Adding a recall to the woes of the district right now, is the wrong thing to do. There will be an opportunity in just about a year to replace in an election 4 of these 6 people, enough to tip the balance. The question is will 4 qualified candidates step forward to run against them and will they have a plan for going forward. Please do not sign this recall petition, please do not heap more problems on the district. Please do sit down with your friends and neighbors and help plan for the 2014 election. Let the ballot box work for all of us in 2014.


Thu, Aug 1, 2013 : 10:57 a.m.

While I agree that the board seems to spend a lot of time congratulating themselves, rehashing items that are largely decided, talking about their feelings and agreeing with people and then going on and on and on....with their own reason for agreeing, that's not a good enough reason for a recall. On the other hand, when one trustee (Baskett) alters a report that was issued jointly with another trustee (Thomas) without alerting him and surprising him at a public meeting with the alterations, that's a different story. I think a lot of these people like hearing themselves talk and just need to learn to say, "Yes, I agree with trustee so and so" and leave it at that.