Petitioners now are collecting signatures in an attempt to force a recall of three school board members. The recall is based on concerns about decisions made by the school board about the coronavirus pandemic, including requiring face coverings. Named in the recall are Kathy Gebhardt, Richard Garcia and Lisa Sweeney-Miran.
Two of the recall petitioners, as well as the husband of a third, spoke at the meeting to urge people to sign the recall petitions, while a parent and her son spoke in opposition. Both recall petitioners and board members also talked about a climate of incivility.
Board President Tina Marquis said a recall petitioner yelled expletives at her while collecting signatures at the Boulder County Farmers Market, while Gebhardt said she’s been called a child abuser and “all sorts of things” for supporting Boulder County Public Health. Both questioned why those upset at school board decisions didn’t run in the regular November election.
“This is the only four months where I’ve felt hostility and harassment,” said Marquis, who is nearing the end of her eight years on the board and is term limited. “I believe the free (November) election was the way to go to change the direction of the board.”
Board member Donna Miers, who noted she has not “instigated or been part of the recall effort,” said her home was vandalized after she advocated that the district give parents choice around student mask wearing. She added people organizing the recall have received threats.
“Let’s get out and vote, but most of all let’s be kind and honest and understand each other’s point of view,” Miers said.
Mark Leslie, one of the petitioners, said during public comment that those opposed to the recall are encouraging illegal behavior and trying to intimidate the petitioners by posting their addresses and jobs on social media. His wife, Kirsten Leslie, another petitioner, said they have been “censored, bullied and threatened.”
Tangi Lancaster, a BVSD parent who is opposed to the recall, questioned whether all the petitioners live in the school district and said it’s part of a broader extremist movement in the country.
“This recall effort isn’t honestly about masks and children’s health,” she said.
At the anti-recall protest, Alejandra Montes, who has a child at Fairview High, said she’s especially upset at the attempt to recall Garcia, the only Latino member of the school board.
“He is our voice,” she said.
The cost of the recall is another concern that several of the protesters shared, saying the money would be better spent on students. The estimated cost to conduct a recall election in Boulder, Broomfield and Gilpin counties is about $670,000.
Carlos Campos, who participated in the protest and has children at Boulder High, said he supports the school mask requirement and the board members named.
“We don’t want to remove them,” he said. “Boulder is an inclusive community. They support Latin people and Latin students.”
The petitions list eight reasons for the recall, including ignoring dissenting opinions, demonstrating a “callous disregard” for students’ physical and mental health by mandating masks and promoting coronavirus vaccines authorized for emergency use.
In their rebuttal, the three board members said they reject the recall effort “as a potential threat to public health, a distraction for our community, and a waste of Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) monetary resources.”
Two of the original petitioners, Melanie Gisler and Will Gaw, were replaced on the revised recall petitions approved Sept. 30 by the Boulder County Clerk’s office.
Concerns had been raised by those who oppose the recall whether Gisler, an osteopathic family physician, is a Boulder County resident. The address she provided on the petition is for a commercial business location in Lafayette that includes a PostNet mail center, while she appears to have a medical practice in Los Angeles.
The new petitioners, both listed on the petition to recall Sweeney-Miran, are Karen Cobble and Mark Leslie. The other petitioners are Michael Gaeta, Margaret Arnett, Athena Mills, Carlos Torrico and Michele Van Fleet.