The 500-plus volunteers gathering signatures, manning lemonade stands, and staffing phone banks to support a recall of School District 11 board members Eric Christen and Sandy Shakes have about three weeks to complete the controversial endeavor that could change the makeup of the district's feuding school board.
In order to put a recall question on the Nov. 7 ballot, recall organizers must garner 15,000 signatures per petition by Aug. 11. As of deadline, the recall effort, called "End the District 11 Chaos," had collected 7,500 for each petition, according to organizer Ann Oatman-Gardner.
Oatman-Gardner anticipates the group will need 19,000 signatures for each petition to ensure that they have enough valid names and addresses. Against that goal, they are better than one-third of the way there.
"The fact that I don't have [all the signatures] in my hand doesn't worry me," says Oatman-Gardner. "We are highly motivated."
Oatman-Gardner, together with former D-11 board members Mary Ellen McNally and Norvell Simpson, launched the recall effort just over a month ago, following the June 1 firing of then-superintendent Sharon Thomas. Christen and Shakes voted with board members Craig Cox and Willie Breazell to terminate Thomas' contract, handing her a settlement of nearly half a million dollars.
But Oatman-Gardner admits that concerned citizens had been talking of a recall since the day after Cox, Breazell, Shakes and Christen were elected to District 11 in 2003. "We thought the firing would be an excellent platform to launch it," she says.
If the recall organizers gather enough valid signatures, the petitions will pass through a protest period, during which any person can question the legitimacy of the recall. If the recall makes it to the ballot, the questions will appear alongside a list of candidates who could replace Shakes and Christen.
"End the District 11 Chaos" has not yet endorsed replacement candidates.