School Board Watch Column: Details on Recall Election Requested
By Sara Marls
Officials within the walls of Bliss Educational Services Center this week say there’s long been talk of recalling some members of the Stevens Point School Board- and now, questions pertaining to the procedure of a recall election are often heard in hushed voices.
But those voices have been getting louder in recent weeks following a string of school board meetings which focused largely on the antics of two school board members. The two members in question, Lisa Totten and Kim Shirek, have never had to publicly account for their actions, which include insulting other board members as well as reacting to their colleagues’ remarks by audibly scoffing and sighing dramatically, as well as rolling their eyes and laughing as a direct response.
All in open session with a camera rolling.
The two also unilaterally lambast district employees in public, including those from the business affairs office, as well as human resources and finance departments with a kind of moral outrage usually reserved for the pulpit and the fumbling professionalism of an over-eager intern. The pair can then turn on a dime and demand a higher level of respect when making their own remarks five minutes later.
But more than the unprofessional and at times bizarre behavior, Shirek and Totten have delayed countless votes because of their unchanged lack of knowledge in the fields of ethics, business, finance and municipal government. Despite being halfway through their second term each, neither seems to understand the concepts or ideas behind the projects, programs or contracts presented to the board. They even rallied against a relatively inexpensive agreement with Clean Power, arguing the district could handle its own janitorial services and holding up the contract’s resolution for a whooping nine months.
Karlyn Krautkramer from the district’s business services office said she’s already had phone calls this week from at least concerned party asking how to initiate a recall election.
The process of recalling a board member is a lengthy one, but it starts with forming a recall committee and registering the committee’s specific intent for recall via form GAB-1. The committee must then circulate a petition and return it to Krautkramer’s office within 60 days.
Krautkramer said 25 percent of all voters from the last gubernatorial election must sign the petition, adding she’s required by the state to use a complex formula in determining the number of voters from within the school district.
The district does encompass a small portion of Wood County, she said, making the process a bit more complicated.
“It’s not as simple as just being able to grab numbers from the municipality,” she said. “But you’re not the only one who’s asked for that information. We’ve had another request for that number so they know how many signatures [for a recall] are needed.”
On Wednesday Krautkramer confirmed 26,194 residents from the district cast ballots in the Nov. 4 gubernatorial race. In order to initiate a recall, 6,549 of those voters need to sign the petition.
Provided enough signatures have been gathered, Krautkramer said the recall election must be held on the 6th Tuesday after the petition has been verified.
The costs associated with a recall vote can vary widely. According to Tom Owens, the district’s business services director, a recall election could possibly be held congruently with a regular spring or fall election, keeping the district’s cost at a minimum of about $3,000.
But sometimes a stand-alone election best suits voters so they can “really focus on that specific election item,” he said.
“It all depends on what the recall committee wants,” Owens said. “But a special election, like with a recall, would cost in the area of $40,000, because we have to take on the whole election process ourselves; printing ballots, training poll workers, the whole works.”
In order to be included with the spring election next April, a petition would need to be verified by late February.
The idea of recalling a school board member is nothing new to the district. In 2005 a committee attempted to recall then- Board President Mike O’Meara, who currently is running for reelection on the City Council. The reasons given by that recall committee include: refusal to openly and honestly communicate with constituents; sending messages to children which reflect lack of accountability; and ignoring strategic plans, procedures and policies set by the Stevens Point Area School District. That recall failed due to an insufficient number of petition signatures.
For additional information on a recall election, Krautkramer can be reached at 715-345-5432.
To learn more about what’s involved in serving on the school board, see Sunday’s School Board Watch.