2 of 3 petitions to recall Grosse Pointe board members approved

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
An unidentified woman cries after finding out that two Grosse Pointe elementary schools, Robert Trombly Elementary and Charles A. Poupard Elementary, are now due to be closed after it was voted on by the GP Board of Education, Monday, June 24, 2019, in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.  (Jose Juarez/Special to Detroit News)

Detroit — Wayne County election officials approved two of three recall petitions for Grosse Pointe school board members, who were targeted because of a controversial school closure plan.

Recall petition language targeting board treasurer Judy Gafa and board secretary Kathleen Abke was approved by the Wayne County Election Commission, school district officials confirmed on Thursday. Recall petition language targeting board member Christopher Profeta was not approved.

Gafa said, "I am disappointed but this how our democracy works. I will begin putting together my election committee to prepare to fight for my seat in November."

Gafa said she had not decided whether to appeal the commission's decision.

Abke was not immediately available. An attorney representing the petitioner was not immediately available for comment.

According to state law, the number of signatures needed is 25% of the votes cast in the district for all candidates for the office of governor at the last November general election.

A separate petition must be circulated for each officer who is being recalled.

Brian Summerfield, president of the school board, said there is a short window to collect signatures and he had heard they needed about 7,500 for each targeted member.

"I've never seen a recall before and I've been here six years," Summerfield said. "I oppose the recall. I support the two board members. They have worked hard."

On June 26, petitions for all three were rejected by the commission because documents filed were "not of sufficient clarity to enable the officers whose recall is being sought and the electors to identify the course of conduct which is the basis," according to a letter the group sent to the petitioner.

On June 24, the school board voted to close two elementary schools and approved a K-4 and 5-8 reconfiguration. The reconfiguration will result in the move of all fifth grade students to three middle schools starting in the 2020-21 school year.

The actions follow 15 years of declining enrollment in the district, which has meant financial losses for the affluent Metro Detroit district, officials said.

With each student equal to around $10,000 in school revenue, the district's average 100-student drop per year is $1 million lost.