Tagschool board elections

3 Nebraska school board members keep seats in Jan. 11 recall elections

The Waverly and Leyton school districts in Nebraska held recall elections on Jan. 11 against a total of three school board members. A majority of voters cast ballots against all three recalls, keeping the board members in office.

Ward 4 representative Andy Grosshans was on the ballot in the Waverly School District 145. Recall supporters said they began the effort due to Grosshans’ vote to extend an emergency resolution giving the superintendent the power to “develop rules and regulations deemed necessary for the government and health of the district’s students and devise any means as may seem best to secure regular attendance and progress of students at school,” according to The Waverly News. The school board initially passed the emergency resolution in April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, the board voted to extend the resolution through the 2021-2022 school year.

In response to the recall effort, Grosshans said, “For 12+ years, I have worked hard to make well-informed decisions to provide the students of District 145 with a safe environment in which to receive an outstanding education. In these difficult times, I hope for continued understanding and patience as we use key resources and area experts to do what’s in the best interest of all students.”

Recall supporters had until Oct. 30 to collect 88 signatures to put the recall against Grosshans on the ballot. A total of 548 voters cast ballots against the recall, while 116 voted in favor.

Suzy Ernest and Roland Rushman were on the ballot in the Leyton school district. The recall petitions listed the district’s increased legal fees since January 2021 as reasons for the recall against both Ernest and Rushman. The petition against Ernest said she took action without the full board’s approval on two items: placing the superintendent on paid administrative leave and signing an acceptance for asbestos removal. The petition against Rushman said he failed to follow the Board Code of Ethics and slandered district administrators.

In response to the recall effort against her, Ernest said her action to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave was authorized in the superintendent’s contract. Both Ernest and Rushman said the decision to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave occurred after the board received serious complaints. They said those complaints were the reason behind the district’s increased legal fees. Ernest also said that she signed the acceptance for asbestos removal under the direction of the then-interim superintendent.

To get the recalls against Ernest and Rushman on the ballot, recall supporters had to collect 138 signatures for each member. A total of 246 voters cast ballots against recalling Ernest, while 196 voted in favor. In the recall election against Rushman, 264 voters voted against, and 179 voted in favor.

Ballotpedia tracked 91 school board recall efforts against 235 board members in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.

In 2021, Ballotpedia covered a total of 346 recall efforts against 535 elected officials. This was the highest number of recall efforts and officials targeted since we started compiling data on recalls in 2012.

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Tracking school board elections by county population density

Ballotpedia tracked 96 school districts across 16 states that held elections on Nov. 2 where candidates took a stance on race in education, coronavirus responses, or sex and gender in schools. There were 310 seats up for election, and all but six have been called.

In each of the called races, Ballotpedia researched whether the winner incorporated a stance opposing any of the identified issues listed above. As a shorthand, we created these three categories: anti-CRT, not anti-CRT, and unclear.

Forty-seven of the 96 counties were located in dense counties, meaning those with population densities greater than 1,000 people per square mile. Thirty-four districts were located in moderate counties, with densities between 200 and 1,000 people per square mile, and 15 were located in sparse counties with densities less than 200 people per square mile.

Of the 47 school districts located in densely-populated counties, 21 (45%) elected at least one anti-CRT candidate on Nov. 2 compared to 13 of the 34 districts located in moderately-dense counties (38%). Twelve of the 15 districts located in sparsely-populated counties (80%) elected at least one anti-CRT candidate.

A further breakdown shows that, in districts located in dense and moderate counties, just under 30% of the winning candidates were identified as anti-CRT, roughly similar to overall trends. In the 15 districts located in rural counties, 21 winners (46%) were identified as anti-CRT and 18 (39%) as not anti-CRT.

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Recall election to be held Dec. 14 against Wisconsin school board member

A recall election against Gary Mertig, one of the five members of the Butternut School District school board in Wisconsin, is on the ballot on Dec. 14. Nate Pritzl filed to run against Mertig in the election.

Recall supporters said Mertig lied when he said community members would have input on the school district’s COVID-19 policies. Supporters said they were promised a meeting with all parties involved but that when the meeting was held, parents were not allowed to offer comments or ask questions.

Mertig said the community was allowed to speak at two out of the three meetings on the policies. The third meeting did not allow public comment because it was not listed on the agenda. “You have to be careful with the law. If it’s not on the agenda, you can’t talk about it,” Mertig said.

The recall petition required 126 signatures to be put on the ballot. It was signed by 130 residents of the district.

Mertig alleged that the way the recall signatures were collected violated state law. He submitted a letter to the Wisconsin Election Commission saying that at least eight residents who signed the recall were not witnessed by the petition circulator and that at least five people who signed were not residents of the school district. Mertig said those signatures should not have been counted, which would have stopped the recall election from being scheduled.

Wisconsin Election Commission Administrator Megan Wolf ruled that the recall election could proceed because Mertig did not file his complaints against the petition with the school district within the 10-day time period set by state law.

At the time the recall began, Mertig had been serving on the board for 31 years.

Ballotpedia has tracked 90 school board recall efforts against 233 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have 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 165 recall efforts against 263 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.

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Tracking school board elections by 2020 presidential results

Ballotpedia tracked 96 school districts across 16 states that held elections on Nov. 2 where candidates took a stance on race in education, coronavirus responses, or sex and gender in schools. There were 310 seats up for election, all but seven of which have been called.

In each of these races, once we knew the winner, we began to research whether he or she incorporated a stance opposing any of the identified issues listed above. As a shorthand, we have developed three categories in which a winner might fall: anti-CRT, not anti-CRT, and unclear.

Today we are looking at these results through the lens of which way their counties voted in the 2020 presidential election. Note that county and school board boundaries do not perfectly align. A county might contain multiple school districts. As a result, in this analysis, voters in a school district might represent only a portion of all the voters in the county in which it is located.

Of the 96 school districts we tracked, 65 are located in counties that Joe Biden (D) won in 2020 and 31 are located in counties won by Donald Trump (R). Overall, there were 60 counties with an identified school district.

Of the 65 school districts located in Biden counties, 26 (40%) elected at least one anti-CRT candidate on Nov. 2 compared to 18 of the 31 (58%) located in Trump counties.

A further breakdown shows that, in districts located in Biden counties, 50 anti-CRT candidates won (23%) versus 139 not anti-CRT candidates (65%). In districts located in Trump counties, 39 anti-CRT candidates won (44%) versus 30 not anti-CRT candidates (34%).



Baldon and Jones win Atlanta Public Schools runoff elections

Runoff elections for District 2 and At-Large District 7 of the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) school board took place on Nov. 30, 2021. Aretta Baldon defeated Keisha Carey in the runoff election for the District 2 seat, 50.6% to 49.4%. Tamara Jones defeated KaCey Venning in the runoff for the At-Large District 7 seat, 66.9% to 33.1%.

Nine seats on the Atlanta Public Schools school board in Georgia—three at-large and six district seats—were up for general election on Nov. 2. Districts 1, 4, 5, and 6 and At-Large Districts 8 and 9 were decided in the general election.

Baldon was the District 2 incumbent and ran against challengers Carey and Bethsheba Rem in the general election. Baldon received 48.5% of the vote and Carey received 29.5%, followed by Rem with 22%. At-Large District 7 was an open seat, as incumbent Kandis Wood Jackson did not seek re-election. Five candidates ran for the seat, with Jones receiving 39.5% of the vote, Venning receiving 20%, and candidates Patricia Crayton, Royce Carter Mann, and Stephen Spring receiving 15% or less.

With one-quarter of APS students enrolled in charter and partner schools, standards for renewing and expanding charter schools were a major issue in this race. COVID-19 response policies, including mask and vaccine mandates, were also an issue.

The 2021 election was the last election during which every board seat was up for election simultaneously, as Georgia’s HB 1075 changed the state’s school board election process so that members’ terms are staggered based on whether they serve in even or odd-numbered districts. Jones will serve a two-year term that will expire Dec. 31, 2023, and Baldon will serve a four-year term that will expire on Dec. 31, 2025.



Election results in Clallam County, Wa.

The cities of Port Angeles, Sequim, and Forks, in Clallam County, Wa., held general elections for 26 municipal offices on Nov. 2. The primaries were held Aug. 3. The top two vote-getters in each race advanced to the general election. Races in which fewer than three candidates filed to run appeared only on the general election ballot.

Results of the races are pending. The Clallam County Auditor’s office releases updated vote totals on a daily basis until all ballots are counted. As of Nov. 5, the Auditor’s office estimated it had 50 ballots left to count and that it had counted a total of 27,045 ballots. Voter turnout was 47.31%.

Clallam County is located in the northwestern corner of Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula. It has the nation’s longest unbroken record of voting for the winning presidential candidate, going back to 1980. Since 1920, voters in the county backed the winning presidential candidate in every election except 1968 and 1976. 

Port Angeles

Port Angeles, the county seat, had eight offices up for election in 2021, including four city council seats and two seats on the school board. Six of those races were contested and two were uncontested. 

Incumbents were on the ballot in seven of the eight races, including in all four city council races. As of Nov. 5, all incumbents look to have won re-election. In two city council races, the margins separating the candidates are below 5% but the incumbents are leading in votes. 

Here are the results:

  • City Council Position No. 1: Incumbent LaTrisha Suggs faced challenger Adam Garcia. As of Nov. 5, Suggs leads Garcia by 2.54% (159 votes).
  • City Council Position No. 2: Incumbent Mike French defeated challenger John Madden, winning 58.92% of the vote to Madden’s 40.82%.
  • City Council Position No. 3: Incumbent Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin ran for re-election against challenger Jena Stamper. As of Nov. 5, Schromen-Wawrin leads Stamper by 1.87% (117 votes).
  • City Council Position No. 4: Incumbent Kate Dexter defeated challenger John W. Procter, winning 53.43% of the vote to Procter’s 46.28%.
  • School District Director Position No. 1: Incumbent Sarah Methner defeated challenger Lola Moses, winning 54.23% of the vote to Moses’ 44.97%.
  • School District Director Position No. 2: Mary Herbert defeated Gabi Johnson. Herbert won 56.98% of the vote to Johnson’s 42.64%.

Two seats up for election in Port Angeles in 2021 were uncontested: Port of Port Angeles Commissioner District No. 1 and Port of Port Angeles Commissioner District No. 2. Only the incumbents—Colleen McAleer and Steven Burke—filed to run. They were re-elected.

Sequim

Sequim had eleven offices up for election, including five of seven city council seats. Seven of those races were contested.

Incumbents appeared on the ballot in eight races, including in all five city council races. Five incumbents won re-election. Incumbents lost in three of the five city council races. 

  • City Council Position No. 2: Challenger Kathy Downer defeated incumbent Sarah Kincaid, winning 69.61% of the vote to Kincaid’s 30.23%
  • City Council Position No. 3: Challenger Vicki L. Lowe defeated incumbent Mike Pence. She won 68.17% of the vote to Pence’s 31.71%.
  • City Council Position No. 4: Incumbent Rachel Anderson defeated challenger Daryl Ness, winning 67.63% of the vote to Ness’ 32.25%.
  • City Council Position No. 5: incumbent Brandon Janisse defeated challenger Patrick Day, winning 65.86% of the vote to Day’s 33.86%.
  • City Council Position No. 6: Lowell Rathbun defeated incumbent Keith A. Larkin. Rathbun won 65.28% of the vote to Larkin’s 34.57%.
  • School District Director at Large, Position No. 4: Kristi Schmeck defeated Virginia R. Sheppard. This race is a multi-county race that includes both Clallam County and Jefferson County. Schmeck won 55.93% of the overall vote, while Sheppard won 42.72%.
  • Fire District #3, Commissioner Position No. 1: Jeff Nicholas defeated Duane Chamlee. This race is a multi-county race that includes both Clallam County and Jefferson County. Nicholas won 64.78% of the overall vote, compared to Chamlee’s 34.82%.

Four races in Sequim were uncontested. The Sequim School District Director District No. 2 was the only one that didn’t feature an incumbent. Patrice Johnston was elected to that seat. In the other uncontested races—Park and Recreation Commissioner Position No. 1, Park and Recreation Commissioner Position No. 2, and Sunland Water District Commissioner Position No. 3—the incumbents won re-election. Those incumbents are Ray L. Henninger, Frank Pickering, and Alan Frank, respectively.

Forks

Seven offices were up for election in Forks. Three of those races were contested.

Incumbents appeared on the ballot in six races, two of which were contested. All incumbents won re-election in Forks. 

  • Forks City Council Position No. 2: Clinton W. Wood defeated Josef Echeita, winning 65.98% of the vote. Echeita won 33.86%.
  • Forks City Council Position No. 3: Incumbent Joe Soha defeated challenger Sarah Holmes. Soha won 66.99% of the vote to Holmes’ 32.03%.
  • Forks Mayor: Incumbent Tim Fletcher defeated challenger Steve Wright, winning 84.6% of the vote to Wright’s 12.7%.

Four races in Forks were uncontested—Quillayute Valley School District Director District No. 2, Quillayute Valley School District Director District No. 4, Quillayute Park and Recreation Board Commissioner Position No. 1, and Fire District #6 Position No. 3. The incumbents—Kevin Hinchen, Ron Hurn, Donald Grafstrom, and Tom Rosmond, respectively—won re-election.

To read more about elections in Clallam County, including analyses of the county’s presidential and statewide voting record, click here.



School board recalls in 2021

Ballotpedia has tracked 84 school board recall efforts against 215 board members in 2021. This is the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members. Between 2009 and 2020, Ballotpedia tracked an average of 28 recall efforts against an average of 64 school board members each year.

One driving force for the high number of recalls this year was reactions to the coronavirus and government responses to the pandemic. We tracked 48 school board recalls (57.1%) that were related to the pandemic in some way. 

So where do these recall efforts stand after the Nov. 2 elections?

  • Efforts against 69 board members are still underway
  • Efforts against 119 board members have ended without going to a vote
  • Eight board members have resigned
  • Efforts against 19 board members have made the ballot

Of the efforts that made the ballot, 16 recall elections have been held so far this year. Another three board members, all in the San Francisco Unified School District, will face their recall elections in February 2022. 

Out of those 16 board members that faced a recall election in 2021, one was removed from office. The other 15 kept their seats after a majority of voters cast ballots against their recall elections.

Of the 69 board members that still have recall efforts against them underway, three are waiting for recall elections to be scheduled as the recall efforts have been certified for the ballot. Efforts against 12 board members have filing deadlines passing in November, and efforts against nine board members have filing deadlines passing in December.

Twenty-five of the 84 school board recall efforts we have tracked this year are in California. Wisconsin has the next-highest number of efforts with 11, and Arizona is third with 10.

California and Wisconsin tied for the most recall efforts in 2020 with five each. Idaho came in third that year with four. 

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Two Atlanta Public Schools races head to runoff election

Nine seats on the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) school board in Georgia—three at-large and six by-district seats—were up for general election on Nov. 2. Districts 1, 4, 5, and 6 and At-Large Districts 8 and 9 were decided in the general election, but District 2 and At-Large District 7 will go to a runoff election scheduled for Nov. 30, 2021.

General election winners were Katie Howard in District 1, Jennifer McDonald in District 4, Erika Yvette Mitchell in District 5, Eshé Collins in District 6, Cynthia Briscoe Brown in At-Large District 8, and Jason Esteves in At-Large District 9. Aretta Baldon and Keisha Carey will advance to a runoff election for the District 2 seat, while Tamara Jones and KaCey Venning will advance to a runoff for the At-Large District 7 seat.

Six incumbents were seeking re-election: Brown (At-Large District 8), Esteves (At-Large District 9), Baldon (District 2), Michelle Olympiadis (District 3), Mitchell (District 5), and Collins (District 6). Three incumbents did not seek re-election: Kandis Wood Jackson (At-Large Seat 7), Leslie Grant (District 1), and Nancy Meister (District 4).

With one-quarter of APS students enrolled in charter and partner schools, standards for renewing and expanding charter schools were major issues in this race. In 2018, the board voted 5-4 to allow KIPP Metro Atlanta, a network of charter schools, to continue to operate until 2023 when the charter must be renewed or terminated. Of the incumbent candidates in this election, Esteves and Collins supported the KIPP charter, while Brown, Mitchell, and Olympiadis opposed it.

COVID-19 response policies, including mask and vaccine mandates, were also an issue. In addition to implementing a school-wide mask policy and mandatory twice-weekly testing requirement for staff for the 2021-2022 school year, APS released a statement on Oct. 7, 2021, saying the school district would “continue to study the feasibility and need for a vaccine mandate in our district.”

The 2021 election is the last election during which every board seat is up for election simultaneously, as Georgia’s HB 1075 changed the state’s school board election process so that members’ terms are staggered. The candidates who won in odd-numbered districts will serve two-year terms expiring Dec. 31, 2023. Candidates who won seats in even-numbered districts will serve four-year terms ending Dec. 31, 2025.

Atlanta Public Schools is located in northwestern Georgia in Fulton County and DeKalb County. It is classified as a large city school district by the National Center for Education Statistics. The district served 52,377 students during the 2018-2019 school year and comprised 89 schools.



Kansas school board recall election defeated

A recall election seeking to remove Amy Sudbeck from her position as the District 1 representative on the Nemaha USD 115 Board of Education in Kansas was on the ballot on Nov. 2. The majority of votes were cast against the recall, keeping Sudbeck in office.

The recall effort started after a majority of board members voted in April and May to keep the district’s policy to require mask-wearing due to the COVID-19 pandemic rather than changing the policy to say masks were recommended. The recall petition said Sudbeck failed to perform her duties and “violated Kansas Statute 60-5305 by not allowing parents to make decisions regarding the healthcare of their children when attending school.”

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.”

Three signatures were required to get the recall on the ballot, and the clerk verified eight signatures.

Sudbeck was appointed to her position on the seven-member board in 2020, and she sought re-election in 2021. She advanced from the primary on Aug. 3 and was on the regular election ballot in addition to the recall election ballot on Nov. 2. She won re-election.

Ballotpedia has tracked 84 school board recall efforts against 215 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have 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 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.

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Jeffco County Education Association-backed slate wins election to Jeffco Public Schools in Colorado

The District 1, 2, and 5 seats on the Jeffco Public Schools school board in Colorado were up for general election on Nov. 2, 2021. Incumbents Brad Rupert (District 1), Susan Harmon (District 2), and Ron Mitchell (District 5) did not run for re-election. 

Danielle Varda defeated Jeffrey Wilhite in District 1. Paula Reed defeated David Johnson and Theresa Shelton in District 2. Mary Parker defeated Kathy Miks in District 5. Those victories maintained the board’s 4-1 majority of teachers’ union-backed members.

Varda, Reed, and Parker ran together as the Jeffco Kids Slate. The Jefferson County Education Association, the local teachers’ union, endorsed this slate. Another slate of candidates with no formal name, composed of Wilhite, Shelton, and Miks, was endorsed by the Jefferson County Republicans. According to Chalkbeat, the Jeffco Kids Slate prioritized staff hiring, teacher retention, and neighborhood schools, while their opponents ran on the issues of fiscal management and expanding school choice.