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2 Platte Canyon board members beat recall, retain seats

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By Sal Christ

Two Platte Canyon school board members have retained their seats after Park County residents rejected measures to recall them on Tuesday.

Board President Chet Lawrence and board member Jon DeStefano were both up for recall on the Nov. 8 ballot after community members collected more than 650 signatures targeting each. The results:

• 65.53 percent of those who cast ballots voted not to recall Lawrence, while 34 percent endorsed a recall.

• 65.6 percent of those who cast ballots voted not to recall DeStefano, while 33.6 percent supported a recall.

In a phone interview, DeStefano called the election results “super.”

“We feel great because we felt that basically the people have the right to decide and, to be very honest, if our public had done their homework, they’d realize what these people were pulling: a fast one, and they weren’t able to fool the community,” DeStefano said. “I’m really grateful for my team — they’ve helped me believe in something I’ve always believed in, which is the people.” 

Lawrence said he was thankful for the results, but added that the board needs to listen to the community and communicate about what it’s doing for the school district. 

“I made a commitment seven years ago to do my time on the board and try to do it well,” Lawrence said. “I’m thankful the voters said to keep going. There’s going to be a lot of changes, and we’re just going to keep improving.” 

Originally, all five school board members were targeted for recall, with more than 650 signatures collected each for Lawrence, DeStefano, Katie Spodyak, Susan Carpenter and Katy Davis. However, after 177 signatures were withdrawn, Park County Clerk and Recorder Debra Green declared three of the petitions insufficient on Sept. 15. As a result, Parents and Citizens for Education — the organizers of the recall effort — had 15 days to collect more signatures for the three insufficient petitions, but election officials said no new signatures were delivered by the Sept. 29 deadline.

Challengers Cyndie Sherriff and Jacob Spinsby each delivered enough signatures Oct. 10 to be placed on the ballot and would have replaced Lawrence and DeStefano if voters had approved the recall. Both candidates have children attending school in the district, and Sherriff serves on the district accountability committee.

Recall efforts were launched earlier this year after Rim Watson’s contract as principal of Fitzsimmons Middle School in Bailey was not renewed. 

Led by parent Bryan Curtis, PACE charged that the school district isn’t delivering on “high student achievement” in the form of ACT scores and graduation rates, and that the school board discourages public involvement in decisions. The group also expressed concerns about poor management in the district and about water quality and emergency exits at Deer Creek Elementary School.

Contact reporter Sal Christ at sal@evergreenco.com or at 303-350-1035.