JeffCo board recall campaign halts signature gathering

WHEAT RIDGE - For 17 days, Loreli Bratton felt different working as a volunteer circulator for Jeffco United For Action.

"I started out extremely angry about this board," Bratton said. "A few weeks before this recall was announced -- feeling angry and helpless."

Bratton would sit all day in the park talking to people about signing a petition to recall conservative school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams.

"I immediately felt empowered and inspired," Bratton said.

She is one of 300 volunteers that Lynea Hansen would manage every day. Hansen is the campaign organizer for the parent group trying to gather at least 15,000 signatures for each candidate starting on July 8. Jeffco United for Action officially stopped gathering signatures Saturday even though the government allowed them a 60 day window.

"We've been collecting signatures for 17 days. Our goal was 20,000 to 25,000 signatures and have surpassed that goal already," Hansen said. "I think it also says very loudly and clearly that Jefferson County wants this recall."

Bratton thought it would take longer to gather enough signatures.

"It's been incredibly inspiring," Bratton said.

Hansen says Witt, Newkirk, and Williams have shown a lack of transparency and have abused school board policy.

"Everybody's really worried about the direction that JeffCo Schools is headed in and this is their answer to helping stop that change that isn't good change."

Sheila Atwell is the executive director of another parent group called Jeffco Students First. Atwell says the current board majority has made positive reforms for the district since being elected in 2013.

"I think the board has done some amazing things in pushing local control and treating all students fairly in terms of funding," Atwell. "They weren't satisfied with the status quo and what this board did immediately upon election was focus on student achievement."

Atwell says she's surprised it took the recall campaign 17 days to gather enough signatures. She thinks it should've only taken a week.

"Just a little over 10 percent and possibly that could overturn the will of the electorate and possibly cost half-a-million dollars to the district which would be a shame," Atwell said.

Hansen says Jeffco United for Action plans to submit the signatures to the Jefferson County Clerk next week. With the clerk's 15-day processing period and 15-day protest period, the timing should be right to place the recall election on the November ballot. Voters will already have to decide on the regularly scheduled election of two board seats. Adding a recall election to that ballot would not add significant cost, Hansen says.

"We've done everything inside our power to make sure this is a November election," Hansen said. "We may have sprinted through the first 100 yards, but we've got a long ways to go still."

Bratton says she's happy the effort has gotten this far, so far.

"I was confident but I didn't think for sure we'd be able to pull it off," Bratton said. "So, it's been incredible that we did."

(© 2015 KUSA)


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