Jeffco School Board Recall Petitions Obliterate Goal, Qualify for Ballot

Late last month, our Melanie Asmar reported that the parents behind a recall effort aimed at three controversial Jefferson County school board members — Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams — had turned in well over double the number of signatures required for the matter to reach the November ballot.

Jefferson County election rules required 15,000 voter signatures for individual board members — and the parents submitted close to 37,000 for each.

The vast majority of these signatures turned out to be valid.

Jeffco United for Action, the umbrella organization for the campaign, revealed the Jefferson County clerk's final tally:
Ken Witt: 33,942 valid signatures
John Newkirk: 34,188 valid signatures
Julie Williams: 33,900 valid signatures
Wendy McCord, one of the aforementioned parents (she's got three kids in Jeffco schools), was optimistic that Jeffco United had succeeded in its efforts when she talked to Asmar last month.

"For me, it is encouraging," she said. "And heartwarming. And as you go through this for the last year and a half, spend six hours at a board meeting, walk out at one in the morning and you’re devastated because of the disrespect and the clear evidence they’re not listening to what people really want, it starts to feel hopeless. To see so much community support, it makes me feel hopeful and encouraged."

Tina Gurdikian, another parent involved in the recall mission, strikes a similar tone in a statement issued along with the signature results.

“In an unprecedented move, we as a community collected more than double the number of valid signatures needed to recall school board members Witt, Newkirk and Williams in just over two weeks," she points out. "The message is clear, the people of Jefferson County want to hold this Board Majority accountable and demand a recall vote on November 3rd,”

There's still one more obstacle to overcome — a fifteen-day period during which citizens can issue a protest. But the overwhelming number of signatures beyond the 15,000 needed makes such a tactic unlikely. Expect supporters of Witt, Newkirk and Williams, of which there are many, to concentrate their efforts on rallying voters who agree with them.

Meanwhile, plenty of teachers are making their thoughts about Jefferson County schools known — by leaving them. My nephew attends Chatfield High School, and by his count, there are around twenty new instructors there this year. Disclosure: His mom (my sister-in-law) circulated recall petitions.

Whether there'll be a large turnover on the Jefferson County School Board in a few months is a question for another day. Election day.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts