STEVENSVILLE — Berrien County has determined there were not enough valid signatures obtained to force a November recall election against two Lakeshore school board trustees.
Recall petition signatures were submitted Aug. 1 for Lakeshore school board President Jason Beckrow and Trustee Rachel Wade, whose terms expire Dec. 31, 2024.
On Tuesday, Berrien County Election Administrator Sheila Reitz said 2,165 valid signatures were needed for each board member to force a recall election in the upcoming general election.
Of the 2,400 signatures submitted for Wade, Reitz said only 2,019 were valid.
For Beckrow, Reitz said only 2,052 of the 2,388 signatures submitted were valid.
Reitz said one common problem was people signing the wrong petition form. By law, she said people need to sign the petition for the municipality they are registered to vote in.
Lakeshore Public Schools covers all or parts of the village of Baroda and Stevensville and the townships of Baroda, St. Joseph, Lake, Lincoln, Oronoko and Royalton.
Reitz said after her office receives the petition sheets, her staff makes sure the language is correct before sending them to the local clerks for signature verification.
She said another problem was that some of the addresses were filled in by someone other than the person who signed the petition.
In the case of someone signing the petition more than once, she said all of the signatures from that person are thrown out. In addition, she said signatures are valid only if the person signing the petition is a registered voter.
In a written statement, Beckrow and Wade said they remain committed to their duties as public servants to “maximize the safety and achievement of all students.”
“While we’re pleased with the outcome of the recall process, we are greatly saddened by the division that we see in our community,” they said in the joint statement. “Our focus now needs to be on helping our community – our entire community – move forward together with a shared sense of purpose and service.”
Stevensville resident Aimee Foster submitted two sets of petitions with almost identical language, with both sets being approved by the Berrien County Election Commission in April.
Reitz said the petitioners used the language quoting Michigan law, stating: “It is the natural, fundamental right of parents and legal guardians to determine and direct the care, teaching and education of their children. The public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with the pupil’s parents.”
The petitions further stated the trustees on Oct. 11 supported requiring students to wear masks indoors in the district’s return-to-learn plan.
Foster is a member of “We the Parents,” an organization that is backing 30 school board candidates across 10 school boards in Southwest Michigan.
Victory Woodall, spokesperson for the group, issued a statement on behalf of We the Parents.
“Today, we were informed by the county that our Lakeshore recall petition drive has come up short. Although we are very disappointed in this result, it should be noted that our Lakeshore team collected 2,400 signatures for each of two petitions which was 235 signatures over the requirement of 2,165,” the statement read. “At this time we have not been briefed by the county as to the reason our petitions failed. In any case, this setback affects only two of our 30 school board candidates across 10 districts in Berrien County. What we were hoping to accomplish in one election cycle may now take two cycles. We are still determined to return the public education system in Berrien County back to the parents, families and taxpayers to which it is intended to serve.”
We the Parents has also formed a campaign political action committee, supporting its candidates.
In addition to the Lakeshore petitions being denied, The Herald-Palladium previously reported the submitted petitions for Niles Community Schools have also been denied.