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Let the recall begin 

Efforts to replace D-49's entire board keep pushing forward

Some of them show up every day. They head straight from the office to evening rendezvous in parks, then spend long weekend afternoons in front of Walmarts.

The devoted show up in matching yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the words "D-49 Community," and go door-to-door collecting signatures when most people are cooking dinner. Their mission is simple — to change the elected leadership in Falcon School District 49.

On a mild Monday night, the routine plays out again. The yellow shirts comb a Stetson Hills area neighborhood until dusk brings lightning and rain. Ann Fletcher and Linda Johnson staff a table in a park bordering Odyssey Elementary on Bridlespur Avenue, gathering signatures from people like Kathy Kotik, who stops by with two of her four kids to sign and gab.

"Since the beginning of June," says Fletcher, "we've really hit it hard."

Like dozens of others who show up to these events, Fletcher, a mother of four, is mad. She says the D-49 Board of Education members are power-hungry and don't care about community input. She's waiting tensely to hear the board's choice for a new superintendent. The board initially deadlocked, but was scheduled to discuss it again Thursday, July 2.

According to May surveys, D-49 residents strongly favor Colorado Springs School District 11 Deputy Superintendent Mike Poore, one of three remaining finalists. But based on board members' informally voiced preferences, Poore does not look like the favorite.

As far as Fletcher's concerned, that's more fuel in the recall fire. More reason to hit the streets every night.

This is a labor of love. Fueled entirely by disgust.

"[The board] is completely out of control," says Donna Arrington, another D-49 parent. "And it's time to stop."

Some thought the disgruntled parents and community members who launched this recall effort would never get enough signatures to oust Dave Martin and Kent Clawson. But by the evening of June 29, it appears the detractors are wrong.

The petition needs 3,500 valid signatures. As of Wednesday, the recall folks say they have more than 3,900 and hope for 4,200 by the time they turn in the petition on July 6 — enough of a buffer, they believe, to keep the petition valid when some signatures are inevitably thrown out. Already, more people have signed the recall petition than voted for either Martin or Clawson in the 2007 election.

Martin and Clawson's terms end in November 2011, but if the recall is successful they would exit following this fall's election. A successful recall could mean a complete turnover of the board, since the other three board seats are up for a vote in 2009.

While no announcements have been made, the community group's leaders say they have a group of qualified candidates, ready to enter the race and hopefully lead the district in a new direction. That is, so long as the movement doesn't hit any roadblocks.

And no one's completely sure about that. Some say they hear rumors that Martin and Clawson plan to resign before November and let the board appoint replacements to serve out their terms, dodging a recall. Legal experts consulted by the Independent say the legality of that scenario is difficult to determine.

Recall leaders like Tom Harold are already preparing for that battle.

"If we have the will of the voters," he says, "they need to let democracy take hold."

stanley@csindy.com

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