Thursday, February 17, 2022

School board recall petitions are circulated

Voters in the Romulus Community Schools district are being asked to reconsider their choices for members of the board of education.

Petitions seeking a recall of board President Debi Pyles, Vice-president Judy Kennard and Secretary Susan Evitts are being circulated throughout the community and have already gathered 1,000 of the needed 3,000 or so signatures, according to organizer Rita Hampton. The number of signatures required is based by state law on the number of voters in the last school election. Valid signatures of 25 percent of the number of voters in the last election for each petition are required to schedule a recall election. Hampton is hoping to collect the signatures within the 60-day state mandated time limit to force the issue onto the November ballot.

A long-time educator, Hampton said the recall was prompted by the board members' handling of the suspension and subsequent firing of Superintendent of Schools Benjamin Edmondson. Hampton said the three board members and Trustee Nicole German have been united in their voting on nearly every issue concerning Edmondson. German is not targeted for recall as her term expires this year.

Despite the objections of the other three members of the board, Edmondson was abruptly placed on administrative leave during a Sept. 27 public meeting. Pyles said at the time the leave was to facilitate an investigation into district financial operations and that Edmondson was not a target of the probe but that his leave was necessary to complete the investigation.

Following several fractious and contentious board meeting during which the actions of the board were publicly criticized by members of the public, educators, students and union representatives, the four board members voted to terminate Edmondson during a Dec. 29 meeting. He has subsequently filed a lawsuit against the district and the board members citing racial discrimination, a sustained campaign of harassment and whistleblower retaliation.

Pyles said she agrees with a statement issued by Evitts regarding the recall petitions.

“Our job as board members is to ensure the kids are learning, the taxpayers' money is properly accounted for, and the schools are providing a safe, effective environment for our students to prepare for their futures. At a recent board meeting we signed an agreement recommitting all of us to those goals. It was a formal gesture, acknowledging the people of Romulus want us to stop bickering and work together for the kids. 

“Some board members chose not to join in that gesture. That is their decision. Some in the district want to continue pursuing a recall. Again, that's their decision. If they put this much effort into helping the school move forward, our kids would reap those benefits. We've left the door open for them to join us in the work that lies ahead. We're not fighting. We're not bickering in public. We're here for the kids of Romulus Community Schools, and we're taking care of business for them, and that's it. In the coming weeks and months, parents in the district are going to see clearly our challenges, our enormous potential and our plan to achieve some of the important goals our parents have asked for. It's an exciting time,” Evitts said. 

Hampton said she has received strong support for the recall effort and that many residents have displayed lawn signs supporting her efforts. She said that an anonymous donor funded the installation of a large billboard near Wayne and Ecorse roads in support of the recall and the resignation of German.  She added that she will personally take the recall petition to any qualified voter who wants to sign onto the effort.

“I'm going to keep on fighting because this is about the future of our society,” she said.

Hampton can be reached at (734) 754-1177.