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School board recall efforts tied to COVID

By Abbey Smith


An effort to recall Robert Hesselbein and Minza Karim from their positions on the Middleton-Cross Plains School District Board of Education in Wisconsin began in October 2020.

The effort started after the board voted 5-4 on Sept. 28 to keep students in virtual learning for the rest of the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The other option, which did not pass, would have allowed students in pre-school through second grade to return to in-person instruction starting on Nov. 2. Hesselbein and Karim were two of the five members who voted in favor of continuing virtual learning.

The recall effort was started by the group Parents for Change. Angela Rachidi, an organizer of the group, said that the board members’ votes to continue virtual learning did not represent the wants and needs of the community. She also said that virtual learning did not support an equitable education.

Both Hesselbein and Karim both said they stood by their votes. Hesselbein said that though he understood families’ frustrations, safety had to come first while COVID-19 cases were rising in the county and the state. Karim said she voted to keep schooling virtual “for the sake of safety and health for the students, staff and the entire community.”

The Middleton-Cross Plains Board of Education has nine members. Hesselbein is one of the four Area IV representatives of the board, and Karim is the Area III representative of the board. Both of them have terms ending in 2022.

To get the recall on the ballot, supporters must collect approximately 5,000 signatures in 60 days. The number of signatures is equal to 25% of the votes cast for governor in the school district in the 2018 election.

Hesselbein and Karim are not the only school board members included in a recall effort in Wisconsin this year. An effort to recall three of the seven members of the Appleton Area School District Board of Education began in September. That effort also centers around the board’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

~ Center Square News Service distributed this story on behalf of, a non-partisan election tracking organization.


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