Petitions to recall Grosse Pointe board members rejected

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
The Grosse Pointe Public School Board of Education listens to an audience member during their meeting, Monday, June 24, 2019, at Brownell Middle School in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.

Wayne County election officials rejected recall petitions this week for three Grosse Pointe school board members, who were targeted because of a controversial school closure plan, the district said.

The Wayne County Election Commission found that all three documents, filed June 6, 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.

A hearing was scheduled Wednesday to approve the recall petition language targeting Judy Gafa, Kathleen Abke and Christopher Profeta.

An attorney listed as working with the person who sought the recall did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Board president Brian Summerfield, who did not respond to a request for comment, this week told The Detroit News that he did not know who was behind the recall, which he described as a “terrible distraction for the community.”

Grosse Pointe Public School Board of Education President Brian Summerfield listens during a Board of Education meeting Monday in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Gafa, the board's treasurer, also could not be reached for comment. She told The Detroit News this week that the effort appeared tied to the controversial downsizing plan for the district.

"Part of me thinks it's an intimidation tactic so we don’t close whomever's school is behind this," she said. "We don’t know who is behind it. But it’s the democratic process."

On Monday, the 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.

Some who spoke out at the meeting Monday urged the board to consider other options.

State civil rights department director Agustin Arbulu has criticized the decision and had called on the board to consider a “racially conscious approach.”

One of the two schools to close, Poupard, primarily serves low-income black students, state data shows.

Officials with the NAACP chapter for Grosse Pointes/Harper Woods said they are reviewing the move.