GRANT, Mich. (WOOD) — Recall petitions were filed Tuesday against four Grant Public Schools Board of Education members who voted to cut ties with the organization running the health clinic in the district’s middle school.
The petitions seek to recall Rachal Gort, Ken Thorne, Richard Vance and Sabrina Veltkamp-Blok, citing their June 19 votes to issue a letter to terminate the school district’s partnership with Family Health Care.
Some parents previously objected to the inclusion of LGBTQ+ symbols on a student-designed mural at the Child and Adolescent Health Center inside Grant Middle School. Though the board has not said so directly, many people think Family Health Care’s contract was ended because of the mural.
“The art, the mural on the wall painted by a student, it certainly seems like that is a grudge or an issue that they still have with the health center,” Joshua Stein, who is helping organize the recall effort, said at Monday night’s board meeting.
Board member Robert Schuitema seemingly agreed that the mural is the cause of the controversy.
“I am tired of sitting here month after month trying to figure out a solution that we can work together. I thought we had made a compromise to the painting, the mural, which on its face value when you look at it has no violations of our policies whatsoever,” Schuitema said. “And yet constantly from then until now, I have seen examples of discrimination, or discriminatory practices based on these criteria from several members of this board and I, for one, am not going to stand for it.”
Stein told News 8 the recall language was approved during a Tuesday morning hearing at the Newaygo County Courthouse. The petitions would have to gather 1,091 signatures for the recalls to make it to the ballot.
“Our preference is for them to resign, but will continue forward with the recall until they do,” Stein told News 8 Tuesday morning.
“Since they have not resigned or listened to the pleas of the community, the recall process will be moving forward,” Megan Wirtz, parent of a Grant student, said at the Monday board meeting.
Wirtz supports what’s being called the Grant School Board recall initiative.
“By recalling these board members — Rachal Gort, Sabrina Veltkamp-Blok, Richard Vance, and Ken Thorne — we can pave the way for new leadership that understands the importance of transparency, inclusivity and the well-being of our students and staff,” Wirtz asid.
High school junior Blake Curtis wants to kickstart youth engagement on this matter.
“It’s not our parents’ health center, it’s not the board members’ health center, it’s our health center. And I feel like that’s the way we need to portray this,” Curtis said.
FHC filed the challenge to the decision to end its contract, saying the school board may have improperly advertised the June 19 meeting and violated the Open Meetings Act. It also said the school board has not brought up any operational problems with the health center.
In July, the school board unanimously approved a resolution to enter negotiations with FHC or another provider to run the clinic.
At the meeting, a representative from Family Health Care spoke up about stalled negotiations.
“We are trying to work through these negotiations as quickly as possible as the clock is ticking with the new school year beginning in just two weeks. After the last school board meeting, we did not hear from the board and their attorney until recently, giving us very little time to negotiate prior to the start of school. We remain optimistic,” said Carol Burba, a program supervisor with FHC.