Recall proponents suspending effort to oust Douglas County School Board directors

Group says it will focus on November elections after vote for in-person learning


The man spearheading a recall of four Douglas County School Board members says he is suspending the effort after directors voted to send middle and high schools back to 100% in-person learning.

Road2Recall committee member Nate Ormond said the group will stop circulating petitions for the time being, although he's willing to resume the effort if district schools don't remain in full in-person learning for the entire fourth quarter.

“Just in case the board does an about face in the next two or three weeks,” he said March 3.

The group began circulating petitions in February to oust board President David Ray and directors Susan Meek, Elizabeth Hanson and Christina Ciancio-Schor. Among the recall group's allegations were frustrations directors had not returned all students to 100% in-person learning.

Elementary schools began full in-person learning on Jan. 5 while middle and high schools started this semester remotely. Secondary schools then launched hybrid learning in early February and are now slated to begin 100% in-person learning on March 22.

Hanson and Ciancio-Schor were not immediately available for comment.

Meek said she wants to focus on students moving forward and urged unity in the community.

“I'm pleased we can put the distraction behind us as a community. Recalls have long-lasting negative impacts,” she said, “as they create division and anger.”

Meek said the recall effort never influenced her decision-making as a board director. She supported resuming in-person learning now because teachers have either received first doses of the vaccine or have had an opportunity to make appointments, she said.

Vaccinations were “a game changer” for secondary schools, she said. While elementary schools enroll hundreds of students, high schools enroll thousands, she said, affecting how well they can follow pandemic protocols.

“The vaccinations are an additional mitigation factor that will help with the middle and high schools opening,” she said.

She has been critical of the recall group in the past, saying a special election would divert funds from classrooms needlessly when a general election is months away.

Ray said during directors' March 2 meeting that district leadership has been planning for a full return since July and resuming 100% in-person learning has always been the goal of board directors.

As the district moved in and out of learning models this school year, directors and interim Superintendent Corey Wise have cited issues including health agency requirements for schools, substitute teacher shortages and fluctuations in the state of COVID-19 locally as factors influencing which learning model they implemented at a given time and at a given grade level.

Speaking to Colorado Community Media, Ray said he did not understand why the recall effort launched, partly because of its proximity to a general election.

Ray said he voted for a full return to in-person learning during the board's March 2 board meeting because of declining COVID-19 cases in the county, the availability of vaccinations for teachers and because Tri-County Health Department Executive Director John Douglas gave the plan his blessing.

Safety metrics have been the major factor influencing his votes on which learning models the district implements, he said.

“I know people are frustrated and want kids in school,” he said. “Regardless of the recall effort, we would have come to the same conclusion (on March 2) that we did.”

In response to Ray's board meeting comments, Ormond criticized directors for their pandemic handling in January, saying in-person learning was not “even on the table” at that time.

He has said all schools should have been able to safely offer in-person learning under state guidelines for students who prefer it.

Recall proponents had gathered roughly 40% of the signatures needed to call a special election, Ormond said. If the group decides to pick the effort back up, Ormond said he's confident they could gather enough signatures before the deadline for filing signed petitions.

Although some group members are disappointed in the recall effort's suspension, others see it as a successful grassroots effort that pressured directors into implementing in-person learning, Ormond said.

Moving forward, the recall group is shifting its focus to the November election, when four seats are up on the board.

A key issue for the group, newly minted as the “Road2Recovery” committee, will be how well directors execute the district's plan for COVID-19 recovery, Ormond said, and the performance of the district's permanent superintendent, who will likely be named in May.

“We're not going to let up any pressure there,” he said. “From a high level, my vision is to get the Douglas County School District to be the No. 1 school district again in Colorado, like it was a few years ago when I moved here.”


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