After multiple developments in the push for the recall of three Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools school board members, including the resignation of chairperson Margaret Samuels and the creation of a counter-movement called Stop the Recall, the recall movement has come to an end.
CHCCS is one of two school districts in North Carolina out of 115 that allows school board members to be removed from their position. This can happen if someone who's registered in the district obtains signatures from at least 10 percent of the district’s registered voters in a petition and a majority in a recall election.
The recall effort arose after community members accused three board members, James Barrett, Pat Heinrich and Margaret Samuels, of unethical conduct surrounding their vote to expand Glenwood Elementary School’s Mandarin dual language magnet program.
Jeff Nash, CHCCS’s executive director of community relations, said while CHCCS staff members were aware of the recall effort, they did not take a position on it, as it's a separate issue.
“We know about this, and we kind of pay attention, but it’s not the daily grind of our jobs,” he said.
Rachel Leahy, a parent of two children in the MDL program and a part of the Stop the Recall movement, said she got involved because she felt the recall effort undermined democracy. She said she thought it was a strategy anti-MDL parents were using to change how the school board votes in the future to prevent the MDL expansion from moving forward.
“This is a group of parents, and obviously all of these parents care about their kids very much, but what they’ve done, I think, is a horrible example of how communities should work,” she said.
Riza Jenkins Redd, a member of the recall movement, explained that, while her children do not attend Glenwood, the expansion of the MDL program concerns everyone in the school district.
“Everyone in the district and in the community can give input because our tax dollars are paying for it, and we should be paying attention to it, right, because we want the best thing for any child that comes through our district,” she said.
Leahy discussed the potential cost of a recall, which the group said the Orange County Board of Elections estimated to be between $84,000 and $130,000. This cost would not include the public records request that exposed the accused violations, which she said is estimated to have been $30,000.
“They went on a very expensive fishing expedition with no target in mind other than looking for dirt on the MDL program and the MDL program people who have voted favorably for it in the past,” she said.
Jenkins Redd, on the other hand, said she thinks ensuring transparency is worth the cost.
“The cost for adhering to policies and knowing we have a good and honest board is priceless,” she said.
She said that if the school board makes decisions based on special interest groups or has some influence with other groups, then it is not making decisions that are in the best interest of the district’s over 12,000 students.
Jenkins Redd announced the end of the recall movement on Thursday. She said the community input about the potential divisiveness of the recall effort and the change in school board leadership contributed to the decision.
She also explained that, though she thinks the school board still has a lot of work to do in rebuilding the trust of the community, there have been positive signs in terms of transparency of the board’s new leadership.
The recall group has formed a new group called Together CHCCS, which advocates for transparency, policy and process, high ethical standards, equity and genuine community engagement within the board.
“Our work isn’t stopping,” Jenkins Redd said. “It’s just changed in terms of what we’re doing.”
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