Recall petitions for Sleeper, Dallas turned in

Signature verification process begins with special election expected in fall
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Two Shawano School Board members are facing a recall election this fall after community members turned in petitions with more than enough signatures to trigger it.

Petitions seeking to recall Michael Sleeper had 1,958 signatures on them, according to Shawano parent Bobbi Lemerond with 1,829 the minimum needed. Petitions to recall Chuck Dallas were also turned in with 1,923 signatures. July 25 was the deadline, with signatures turned in just an hour before the deadline.

The next step is to verify the signatures to ensure that they’re from current Shawano School District voters. State law allows up to 31 days for the district to complete that work, and unless enough signatures are disqualified, Sleeper and Dallas will face off against potential opponents to try and keep their seats.

Lemerond made the announcement during the school board’s July 25 meeting. Sleeper and Dallas were both absent from the meeting.

“For the past two months, our community has come together out of concern for our students and the staff of the Shawano School District, and 3,881 signatures have been collected through the recall process, exceeding the threshold to recall two sitting board members,” Lemerond said. “After speaking with thousands of our community members, the common thread woven through thousands of conversations was the lack of confidence in our head building administrator and the board’s lack of action to prevent the mass exodus of our teaching staff.”

The recall petitions were taken out in the wake of the recent turmoil in the district. Parents and community members have been attending board and committee meetings in force for the most part since March, when it was announced that there was a potential $2 million deficit in the district that could have required closing a school, cutting staff and/or eliminating programs.

Many in the community have questioned whether Superintendent Randi Anderson is to blame for the deficit and the exodus of dozens of teachers, all school principals and other staff members, utilizing the community comments portion of board meetings to speak out on issues. The petitions were taken out shortly after an April board meeting where Sleeper, then the board president, curtailed public comments where 20 residents had signed up to speak, denying Lemerond the chance to speak about an online petition through with about 1,200 signatures seeking Anderson’s firing.

Sleeper, at that time, claimed the board did not have time to listen to all the comments and picked out community members who would not speak directly against Anderson or board members, citing district policy that does not allow direct criticism of individuals.

Lemerond has also said that she took out the petitions against Sleeper and Dallas because they were on the board when Anderson was hired to replace the retiring Gary Cumberland in 2019, and they continue to defend the superintendent even though community members and staffers who have left claim a toxic atmosphere exists in the schools because of Anderson’s decisions and leadership.

“We have a community here who loves this school, that loves our former staff, our current staff and is here to support all of these teachers who mold our children,” Lemerond said. “The other main factor I have heard is that we need to put our children first, and the people that take care of them every day. That is all I’m asking you to do as a board.”

Although multiple community members have been circulating the petitions in the last two months, Lemerond herself used vacation time to go door to door, to community events and to stand in front of local businesses to solicit signatures. A few days before the deadline, Lemerond told NEW Media that she had anywhere from 1,200 to 1,300 signatures, so much of the recent effort came in the final days before the deadline.

“It’s like a weight lifted,” Lemerond said after the board meeting. “I was nervous the last couple of weeks, but then I had a wonderful number of people jump in, which was a saving grace.”

She noted that there should be sufficient signatures to proceed with a recall in the fall. State law gives Dallas and Sleeper 10 days after the signature verification is complete to challenge the petitions, and if there are none, an election will take place six weeks later. Because of the timeline, the recall election could take place prior to the November general election.

“We actually exceeded what we needed,” Lemerond said. “Hopefully that’s enough of a margin for error to succeed. The community really pulled together.”

Lemerond said there would be candidates to oppose Sleeper and Dallas but did not provide specifics.