After three years of insoluble infighting on the District 11 school board, director Eric Christen is finally out. Or is he?
It's been over a week since the recall target offered a teary public resignation at a local candidates forum, but Christen has yet to formally abdicate his seat. And many wonder whether the delay actually is a stunt designed to derail the Dec. 12 recall.
Christen first announced his resignation at the Black/Latino Leadership Coalition recall candidates debate on Nov. 21. He followed that with an incendiary letter sent to local media that claimed, among other things, that his detractors "sent [him] feces in the mail."
"... I have decided that stepping down is the best thing for all those who long for a better future for our children and country," wrote Christen. "Right or wrong I have become a lightening rod and a distraction from the important issues facing our education system."
But until Christen sends his letter to board president John Gudvangen, he remains on the fractured seven-member board.
While Christen's latest announcement represents his most public attempt to resign, it is certainly not his first. Over the past three years, Christen has offered to quit a total of four other times, twice trying to replace himself with a candidate of his choosing.
Most recently, Christen tried to broker a deal in September with current president Gudvangen to leave the board and give his spot to failed 2005 school board candidate Carla Albers.
But if Christen claims that this time is for real, fellow board members and recall organizers are holding out for a formal commitment. Asked if Christen might actually step down, Gudvangen said, "I have no reason to believe that at this point."
According to district bylaws, if Christen submits his letter of resignation at the next school board meeting on Dec. 6, then the board will have to vote on it at the following meeting, one day after the recall has been decided. If Christen sends Gudvangen his resignation before the next meeting, pending board approval, he may resign before his tenure goes up for a district-wide vote.
Christen denies suspicions that he is bluffing, and he says that he will include his letter in the board's agenda packet for the upcoming meeting which gives him a deadline of this Friday.
"He will have a letter," Christen says of Gudvangen. "The letter's been made public. [Its delay] doesn't change anything."
Recall organizer Ann Oatman-Gardner says Christen's antics could be risky for the recall. At an End the D11 Chaos press conference Monday, she said the group has fielded calls and e-mails from voters who wondered if they should cast their recall ballots, since Christen had supposedly left the board.
"I think people will want to make their voices heard on the recall if there is enough anger about him," says Oatman-Gardner, who pressured Christen and Shakes to resign before the recall ballots were printed.
Shakes, for her part, could face termination, since she expects to miss her third consecutive board meeting on Dec. 6.
Gudvangen says he will not replace Christen if he resigns; he will instead wait for the recall process to move ahead.
"I think this will provide some great opportunities to move forward that we haven't had in the past," he says.