Belding school board recall fails to make ballot

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 12:07 pm on Thursday, September 20, 2012

BELDING —An effort to add recall elections of two Belding school board members to the Nov. 6 general election ballot has failed after failure to acquire the necessary amount of signatures.

On May 14, recall language for school board members Timothy Flynn and Tom Humphreys was submitted to Ionia County Clerk Tonda Rich. The language was approved on May 25 by Rich and the Ionia County Election Commission.

In order for the recall to appear on the November ballot, 678 signatures, to be gathered within a 90-day period 95 days before the election, were required for each petition. The deadline was Aug. 3. According to Rich, no signatures were turned in, meaning the recall will not appear on the ballot in Ionia County.

The recall effort began days before school board members approved a decision to privatize the district’s janitorial staff by accepting a three-year bid from Grand Rapids Building Services on April 16.

Former Belding Area Schools Superintendent Leslie Mount said at that time the decision would save the district $802,315 over the three-year period and that the decision was made in response to a reduction in state aid as well as a decline in student population.

As many as 10 janitorial workers were affected by the decision after they were laid off permanently on June 30.

Lynn Mason, the acting spokeswoman for the group behind the recall effort, said the decision to pursue the recall was a direct result of the board’s decision to privatize the janitorial staff.

“We did not get enough signatures,” Mason said. “I still believe that part of the issue was educating people and getting the message out there of what was disappointing to citizens, that the school board didn’t listen to the concerns of people brought to them about privatizing.”

Mason said she is disappointed, but believes “time will tell” whether the board’s decision to privatize the janitorial staff was the right choice.

“I think what people are waiting for is the time to evaluate whether it was a good choice to privatize or not and I think people will be watching,” she said. “What custodians do matters to our kids.”

Mason said there was difficulty in explaining to people that the signatures were part of an effort to have the recall appear on the November ballot to give people the chance to decide by voting.

“People have a hard time signing petitions when they are not exactly sure what it means,” she said. “Signing a petition for a recall is asking if you want it to be on the ballot or not. I think people thought, ‘I don’t know if I agree or disagree,’ so they weren’t sure if they should sign or not. There was a great deal of time spent trying to educate people about what it really means.”

According to Rich, signatures could still be turned in up until Nov. 21, which would allow the recall to appear in a future election either in February or May.

“Right now the language is still valid until Nov. 21, however, the signatures are only good if collected within a 90-day period.” Rich said.

Mason said she is not sure where the group behind the recall effort will take things from here.

“I haven’t heard of anything continuing on from here,” she said. “We had people who didn’t feel their voices were heard and starting this recall effort was one of the major ways to do something about it.”

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