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Wisconsin Parents on a Mission To Recall Board Members Who Opposed Reopening

Parents also oppose Mequon-Thiensville School District's embrace of critical race theory

empty classroom
An empty classroom during the coronavirus pandemic / Getty Images
• August 25, 2021 3:30 pm

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A group of Wisconsin parents, incensed by their school board's inaction in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, is on a mission to oust board members.

"When you sign up to be a board member, you take an oath. And when you do nothing, you are complacent with the people who are hurting our children," Mequon-Thiensville School District parent Amber Schroeder told the Washington Free Beacon. "You are complacent. You're an accomplice at that point."

Schroeder is a member of Recall MTSD School Board, a parent group that submitted thousands of signatures to recall four school board members who refused to vote on the district's coronavirus mitigation strategies in August 2020. Their inaction gave Superintendent Matthew Joynt power to keep schools closed through September.

Parents across the United States organized during the coronavirus pandemic to hold to account school board members who refused to return students to the classroom, even though mounting scientific evidence proved it was safe to do so. A similar story is unfolding in Fairfax County, Va. There, parents collected 5,000 signatures to recall an official who not only kept kids from returning to the classroom but also neglected to take stances on important topics and allegedly ignored constituents.

A member of the school board has 31 days to authenticate the nearly 4,500 signatures that Recall MTSD collected per candidate. Verification will trigger a special election this fall for the seats of school board members Wendy Francour, Erik Hollander, Akram Khan, and Chris Schultz.

Recall MTSD members say that by keeping students out of the classroom for the 2020-2021 school year, the board members were complacent in the erosion of the district's quality of education. Schroeder pulled her two younger children from Mequon-Thiensville schools during the pandemic and placed them in a private school that gives in-person instruction.

After facing pressure from parents, the district began offering an in-person learning option for students in September 2020. Throughout the year, however, the schools went back and forth between in-person and virtual learning based on rates of coronavirus cases in the community. The superintendent changed the district's reopening plan nearly a dozen times throughout the 2020-2021 school year.

Recall MTSD also faults the board members for not opposing Joynt's embrace of critical race theory. The district spent tens of thousands of dollars on equity consultations, which included presentations and webinars on "privilege."

"There's a reason why critical race theory is so popular. It's so cultish, and when you see how it's being put into practice by educators and consultants, the way they talk to teachers and consultants … it gives you a weird vibe," Recall MTSD member Scarlett Johnson told the Free Beacon. "But I think the jig is up."

Districtwide performance has fallen as schools turned to critical race theory, parents told the Free Beacon. Districtwide reading proficiency declined more than 10 percent for kindergarten through eighth grade from the 2015-2016 to the 2020-2021 school year.

Andrea Lorenz, a mother of three current and former Mequon-Thiensville students, said the board members failed to address "tough questions" such as the decline in test scores.

"The school board seems to be either unaware or deliberately hiding the pre-pandemic academic decline," Lorenz said. "I believe a competent school board would have asked the tough questions of the administration as to why this was occurring and looked into possible solutions."

The nation's top two teachers' unions led the push to keep schools closed during the pandemic. American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten caught flack last month after she failed to commit to reopening schools for the 2021-2022 school year.