Let the Chaos Begin

No one can remember the last time people became so enraged over the antics of members of a local school board that they threw the rascals out. But today the group End the Chaos cleared a major hurdle in attempting to do just that.

El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink announced that enough signatures have been collected to move ahead with a recall of Eric Christen and Sandy Shakes, two of seven members of the city’s largest school district.

According to Assistant Election Department Manager Liz Olson, who directed the recall petitions review process, 19,848 petitions signatures were submitted to recall Eric Christen and 16,443 of those signatures were valid; and of the 19,329 petitions signatures submitted to recall Sandy Shakes, 16,003 were determined to be valid. Fifteen thousand signatures were required for each petition in order for the recall petitions to be valid.

As reported yesterday by Colorado Confidential, the recall efforts could have an unintended impact on other races leading to the November General Election in El Paso County, as volunteer efforts and other resources could potentially be diverted into the school board race.

Christen and Shakes were elected in 2003, two of a slate of four candidates whose campaign was orchestrated by Colorado Springs developer Steve Schuck, a major player in the national school voucher movement. (In 2004, the Colorado Springs Independent published a two-part investigative series exposing the successful hijacking of the district, with 30,000 students. It can be read here and here).

However, Shakes soon defected from the four-member majority, and the board has been rife with infighting and backstabbing ever since – including Shakes rejoining forces with her old pals-turned-enemies-turned-pals and helping to fire the district’s superintendent of one year.

End the Chaos organizer Ann Oatman-Gardner has called on Christen and Shakes to step down from the board, rather than face a recall. However, today the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that is unlikely to happen, at least with Christen. 

“I’m not going to change what I believe because of what people who disagree with me are trying to do,” said Eric Christen on Friday, “and at the same time I’m not going to be distracted from the agenda I came here with, which is improving student achievement.”

He plans to protest the sufficiency of the petition and has not decided if he will campaign if that protest fails. One thing he will not do, he said, is step down on his own.