Tension in Mequon and Thiensville on the eve of school board recall election

NOW: Tension in Mequon and Thiensville on the eve of school board recall election

MEQUON, Wis. (CBS 58) - People in Mequon and Thiensville are getting ready to head to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 2 to vote in the district's recall election.

Jenni Hofschulte, the outheast regional organizer for the Wisconsin Public Education Network, said, "There's been a national push towards creating partisanship on school boards."

Amber Schroeder is the recall organizer for Restore MTSD. She said, "This is getting a lot of attention. The community knows what's going on."

Organizers of the recall effort say they're confident the community will be able to come together, but a statewide organization fears it's setting a dangerous precedent. The months-long efforts to elect new school board members or support the current members comes to a head Tuesday in one of the highest-profile recall campaigns in the area.

The Mequon city clerk said more than 4,500 people voted early, which is one of the highest numbers recorded for a school board election. Organizers in support of the current school board, and those against it, are still campaigning to get the word out.

A philosophical battle will be decided in Mequon and Thiensville Tuesday night as the community weighs not just in which direction the school board will go, but who should have a say in that decision. The statewide Wisconsin Public Education Network says too many outside interests are involved. Hofschulte said, "A group of people that have latched onto some ideas and been led in some directions by some powerful people and some moneyed interests."

The recall effort has focused on often-politicized issues like curriculum and COVID response strategies and has garnered attention from around the country, which Schroeder embraces. She said, "The national attention has been incredible because I think it's good for people to know they're not alone. It's not just them whose child can't read at grade level, it's not just them who's upset with COVID mitigation policies."

Hofschulte says this recall and others like it are fueling fear that's hurting school boards across the state, and ultimately students. "We received probably two dozen phone calls from current sitting board members who are in a panic because this isn't just like 'I want Sally Sue off the school board,' these are people coming to microphones and threatening families."

But Schroeder thinks the Mequon-Thiensville community will remain strong no matter the outcome. "If we lose this battle tomorrow, we still had a lot of great victories for the community. We still uncovered a lot and we're not going to give up, per se, we're going to keep going and speaking up at board meetings and running again in April."

Schroeder said the four candidates up against the current school board are all parents who had or have kids in the district. She said the current board was too strict on COVID restrictions and is concerned about declining test scores.

"If they're ready for change and want to get the district back on track, if they want to be on a team that plays fairly, they should vote for this slate of four," Schroeder said.

"This type of change will change our district like never before," Paul Buzzell said.

Paul Buzzell is a former school board member and part of Inform Mequon-Thiensville. He said overhauling the current school board would be detrimental to the district. He said the district is still performing at a high level.

"You don't want to elect a majority. This is also a non-partisan position and it's unpaid. What's happened is people have brought in politics," Buzzell said.

He wants people in the community to do their research before heading to the polls Tuesday.

"It's not too late to get the information. Talk to your friends, see what they think. But if in your gut, something doesn't feel right, then follow your gut," Buzzell said.

Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and ballots will be tabulated at the high school. The county clerk's office expects to know the results at around 9 p.m. Tuesday night.

To find your polling location, click here

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