Efforts to recall school board members in the Vail Unified School District and the Litchfield Elementary School District in Arizona did not submit the required signatures to get on the ballot.
In the Vail recall effort, two of the five school board members were named in the recall petitions, Board President Jon Aitken and Clerk Claudia Anderson. To get the recalls on the ballot, recall supporters would have had to collect 4,364 signatures per board member by Aug. 27.
The recall effort started after parents and community members held protests over the school district’s requirement to wear masks. Recall supporters said that under Aitken’s and Anderson’s leadership, “the mental, emotional and physical health of the Vail students has steadily declined to an alarming level.”
After a school board meeting was canceled in April 2021 due to a protest, Superintendent John Carruth said, “This past year has been incredibly intense and emotional. Providing education during this pandemic has produced an endless series of new challenges that must be overcome.”
In the Litchfield recall effort, two of the five school board members were named in the recall petitions, Kimberly Moran and Melissa Zuidema. To get the recalls on the ballot, supporters would have had to file petitions with 6,856 signatures per board member. The petition against Zuidema had to be filed by Aug. 27, and the petitions against Moran had to be filed by Sept. 1.
The recall effort started after the board voted to approve an equity statement in December 2020. The statement outlined how the district’s administration could make the district more inclusive and successful, according to The Arizona Republic. After the vote, board member A. Jeremy Hoenack sent emails to district parents and community members, accusing his fellow board members of adopting critical race theory. Groups of community members who opposed and supported the district’s equity statement and goals attended school board meetings throughout March and April 2021. In April 2021, the district announced it would revise its equity goals and seek feedback through the end of the 2020-2021 school year. The recall effort was started by two district parents who opposed the district’s equity goals.
In response to the recall effort, Moran said, “It’s been challenging to receive emails or feedback from parents or students or community members who have very different sources of information that they believe to be factual.”
The Vail Unified School District is located in Pima County, and the Litchfield Elementary School District is located in Maricopa County. Vail Unified served 13,392 students during the 2018-2019 school year, and Litchfield Elementary served 11,566 students during the 2018-2019 school year.
Ballotpedia has tracked 62 school board recall efforts against 158 board members in 2021, which is the highest number of school board recalls that we have ever tracked. The second-highest number of school board recall efforts—39—was tracked in 2010.
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 we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.