Friday, December 2nd, 2022
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MADISON — A grassroots group of citizens says it has the signatures needed to hold a recall election aimed at pushing out four of seven Mequon-Thiensville School Board members.

The initiative has faced plenty of hurdles, not the least of which was Mequon city officials attempting to silence the recall drive.

Recall MTSD (Mequon-Thiensville School District) School Board collected 8 percent more than the required 4,150 signatures to initiate the recall, according to Amber Schroeder, co-founder of the campaign. The petitions are now being reviewed, a  process that could take up to a month. If the numbers stand, a recall election could be scheduled within about six weeks.

“We are in awe of how this community came together,” Schroeder said. “We were told by multiple people, recall campaign experts, ‘You can’t get this done. Four (school board members) is too many. Sixty days is not enough time.”

So far so good, organizers say.

Fed up with what they assert has been the constant failure of the board to listen to the concerns of district residents and declining student achievement, Schroeder and fellow parent Scarlett Johnson launched the recall campaign earlier this summer. They were floored by how many volunteers stepped up to help.

Schroeder said recall signers and volunteers have different reasons for getting involved. Many are sick of the district’s stringent COVID-19 mitigation policies. Others have had it with radical curriculum and race-obsessed indoctrination in the classrooms. Schroeder, who has grown so frustrated she pulled her younger children from the district and enrolled them in private school, said a lot of recall supporters feel the school board is nothing but a “rubber stamp” for an administration disconnected from the community’s needs.

“Our candidates want to see a back-to-basics curriculum,” she said. “We want to teach, we want to educate, we don’t want to indoctrinate.”

School board members targeted in the recall are Wendy Francour, Chris Schultz, Akram Kahn and Erik Hollander. Francour issued a joint statement to CBS 58 only noting the “legal process to validate the signatures,” adding “the Board will move forward following that process.”

Opponents set up a website challenging the recall effort. They dispute education quality has suffered, and they insist the board has not abdicated its responsibility to independently vote in the best interest of the district.

The recall effort faced some constitutional obstacles along the way. City officials stopped Recall MTSD School Board from putting up signs promoting the petition drive on public property. On at least four occasions, Mequon police officers confronted Schroeder and told her the sign violated a city sign ordinance and threatened to issue fines.

“They tried to make it difficult to get signatures,” she said “No one is going to sign a petition when a police officer is at your table.”

The city’s strong-arm efforts backfired. Schroeder said even more volunteers stepped up to help. Some stood on the street and held up the signs for hours so the group wouldn’t be harassed by the city.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty issued a letter to Mequon Mayor John Wirth and City Administrator William Jones warning the city that attempts to enforce a sign ordinance against a group of school board recall organizers violates the First Amendment. WILL also highlighted how the City’s ordinance violates the constitution by regulating signs based upon their content, because the city allows other types of signs.

The city backed off and promised to review the current sign ordinance, according to the law firm. Mequon committed to halting any enforcement that may violate the constitution, WILL said.

“That’s not only a win for us, but a win for our community. Hopefully nobody, no matter what their beliefs, will have to go through this again,” Schroeder said, adding that she’s confident the recall effort will ultimately prevail.

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