Citing an unsafe and unproductive atmosphere existing in the Sparta School District since the school board voted to reinstate a mask mandate last month, board member Nancy Sikorsky resigned her position Wednesday.
Her resignation comes less than a month after fellow board member Eric Solberg submitted his resignation. Both Sikorsky and Solberg, who supported the mask mandate, were targets of a recall effort initiated by a parents group on Sept. 9.
On Sept. 8, the board voted 4-2 to reinstate the mask mandate in all Sparta public schools. While board members Josh Lydon and Collin Burns-Gilbert also voted to reinstate the policy, only Solberg and Sikorsky were beyond the first year of their current term, a requirement to be eligible for recall.
“If I stayed on, the best case outcome of the recall would be that the outside political group funding it doesn’t get enough signatures to force an election,” Sikorsky wrote in a letter to the Herald. “We could drag that process out for several months, as there are already some clear irregularities.”
“A worse outcome would be that the district is forced to waste tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on multiple elections,” she added. “In any case, the divide deepens.”
Sikorsky has said both she and Solberg received threats following the Sept. 8 vote. She also said school board meetings have become unsafe and unproductive and are setting a bad example for the students and community.
“Even after September 28th’s debacle, the underlying problems persist,” she said, referring to the meeting where police removed a mask supporter after he sprayed audience members with water. “I am no longer willing to be a part of this.”
While the recall group claims to represent the majority of the school district, Sikorsky insists it doesn’t, noting that 74% of the district’s staff supported the board’s mask mandate policy.
So far, the recall effort continues. School Superintendent Amy Van Deuren said organizers filed certification documents on Sept. 9, but the district has yet to receive any signatures. They have 60 days from the filing date to submit the signature, while the school district has 31 days to certify them.
According to Monroe County Clerk Shelley Bohl, the petition will require at least 1,679 signatures of eligible voters in the Sparta School District. However, she isn’t sure if the school district crosses into other counties, which could bring that count up.
That number represents 25% of Sparta School District voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election, held in November 2018.
Bohl adds that the cost of a recall election could be substantial. For Monroe County, the school district lies within the borders of 10 different municipalities, all of which will bill back the Sparta School District and ultimately its taxpayers. If enough candidates run for the two seats, triggering a primary election, that would double the costs.
Van Deuren said the district has received four applications so far for Solberg’s vacancy. The cutoff for accepting applications is 4 p.m. on Oct. 8. The school board will choose the replacement by majority vote.
Sikorsky’s letter can read in its entirety at left.