The town clerk’s office has officially received petitions with enough apparent signatures to set into motion a recall of School Committee member Dick Bachelder.
Kent Kilgore of the group Coaches and Kids Matter said his group filed petitions late Tuesday with 1,072 signatures, about 400 more than the needed 697, or 10 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election. The group had until Friday, Feb. 9, to submit the documents, and Kilgore said several more are out in the community and may be submitted in the next day or so.
Kilgore said Coaches and Kids Matter worked to gather as many signatures as possible “in case we need a cushion. Because we don’t know if a few fell through the cracks. We’re pretty sure of those where we had people actually collect signatures, but some were left at businesses. You can never be 100 percent sure.”
The group is seeking Bachelder’s recall because members believe he was a catalyst in the termination of former football and basketball coach Randy Small. They have charged that he did not want to see Small coach two varsity teams. Kilgore said the petition is a way for “people to get answers. We’ve had very little pushback (when gathering signatures). A lot of people said they were glad we were keeping an eye out for this.”
He said the petition does not seek a termination of Bachelder’s position, but rather sets in motion a recall election, when all voters of York can weigh in. Under the town’s Home Rule Charter, petitions verified by the town clerk are then submitted to the Board of Selectmen. The board must then ask Bachelder to resign and gives him five days to do so. If he does not, the board schedules a recall election.
Bachelder, as a School Committee member, was not involved in Small’s termination. That decision was made by interim Superintendent Mark McQuillan. School Committee member Julie Eneman said she has no evidence that Bachelder violated the School Committee’s Code of Ethics.
Further, Eneman said Wednesday, she is concerned about the timing of the petition. Bachelder is up for re-election in May, and a recall election could be held as late as early May. According to the charter, the selectmen have to call the election between 25 and 60 days after the town clerk’s certification. Town Clerk Mary-Anne Szeniawski has said it will likely be the end of the month before she completes the verification process.
“I think this is unfortunate,” she said. “I’m by no means saying that people don’t have a right to exercise whatever means is available to them in a democratic society to voice their opinion. I think it’s unfortunate, given the timeline, given the fact that Dick’s up for re-election in May, that they would choose to pursue a recall election at a cost to taxpayers when they have the chance to voice their opinion at the May election.”
Bachelder did not respond to a request for comment.
In a related matter, Kilgore said he sent a written request to Eneman asking to sit down with her to discuss future practices with regard to hiring stipend coaches. Coaches and Kids Matter have a stated goal of working to revamp school policy to give stipend coaches the same rights to appeal a decision as is granted to teacher/coaches.
“What we’re looking for is, in the future, these coaches get the same protection everyone else is afforded,” he said. “When I went to school, most of the coaches were teachers. Today, it’s just the opposite. And we don’t want to turn people away.”
Eneman acknowledged receiving the request. She said any response will have to “come with the approval of the rest of the board.”
“We also want to hear what they have to say in a venue that is not going to create more discord, so that it’s a constructive opportunity for them to share their concerns about coaching contracts,” she said.
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