© 2024 Aspen Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Garfield County residents start recall petition for Re-2 school board president

Tony May confers with the school board's secretary during a break in the October 25, 2023 meeting. May was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism for how he handled the district's social studies conversation.
Caroline Llanes
Aspen Public Radio
Tony May confers with the board’s secretary during an Oct. 25, 2023 board meeting. He’s now facing a recall for his behavior towards staff and parents in his handling of the social studies conversation.

Pueden encontrar la versión en Español aquí.

A group of community members in the Garfield Re-2 school district has started collecting signatures to recall school board president Tony May.

The recall petition alleges May has misused his position on the board to push a personal political agenda, and says he has bullied district staff, parents, and community members.

This comes after a months-long fight in the district about adopting new social studies standards. May was in favor of the controversial, conservative American Birthright Standard. The standard was developed by the conservative Civics Alliance, and emphasizes patriotism, western civilization, and Christianity. It rejects diversity, equity, and inclusion, and what it calls “so-called anti-racism.”

The school board ultimately rejected American Birthright during its October 25 meeting, in a 3-1 vote, and instead selected Colorado’s 2022 state approved standards. May was the only member to vote for American Birthright and against the state standards. During the meeting, May was on the receiving end of criticism for his handling of the social studies discussion.

Prior to the meeting, May had removed the social studies item from the agenda, even though a volunteer committee had spent weeks preparing a recommendation for a social studies standard for the board. The vote proceeded after other school board members successfully moved to put it back on the agenda.

Ann Guettler served as president in 2021, and was term-limited. At the board meeting she said that she and others had high hopes for May when he was elected.

“Instead you've bullied staff, you bullied board members, community members,” she said during her public comments. “You've abdicated responsibility in engaging the community by refusing to put the social studies adoption on the agenda. You've circumvented processes by insisting the district consider (American Birthright) and you've recommended the use of a narrow-focus consultant and you tried to force a single-minded extreme agenda on our district. The community is saying enough.”

Meriya Stickler served as president on the school board with May before resigning in 2022. She also spoke up at the meeting to criticize May.

“I honestly didn't think I would witness something more ugly than what I did during the COVID times of sitting on the board, but I stand corrected,” she said of May’s behavior. “And Tony, I hope that you start doing the right thing for the community and not for your personal agenda.”

Re-2 parent Willow Brotzman is part of the coalition behind the recall petition, and was similarly appalled by how May handled the issue.

“He has failed to listen to his constituents, throughout that whole process, which was the social studies debacle,” she said. “But… social studies is not what our grounds for recall are based on. It's kind of what brought everything to light… The role of the board president is to be a neutral administrator. And that is what he has not been.”

Brotzman said prior to the social studies discussion in the district, she’d never been to a school board meeting, but now she’s invested.

“It really threw me into it, and I'm not alone,” she said. “I know a lot of people who are part of our coalition who… kind of the same thing happened. Everyone kind of went, ‘woah, we can’t let this happen.’”

And that community activation has translated to an overwhelmingly positive response to the petition, Brotzman said.

“We’ve gotten a great response, and a lot of people coming out of the woodwork to volunteer,” she said. “You know, every day I'm getting more and more contacts of people who want to be involved.”

The Colorado Secretary of State and the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder have both approved the petition, and the group will be collecting signatures at the Silt branch library this weekend. Brotzman said the group plans to have Spanish interpretation available.

They’ll need 2,378 signatures before Jan. 26, 2024, though Brotzman says they’re aiming for more. Once the signatures are verified, May will have five days to resign, or a special election will be held for his seat.

May has not yet responded to Aspen Public Radio’s request for comment.

Caroline Llanes is a general assignment reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering everything from local governments to public lands. Her work has been featured on NPR. Previously, she was an associate producer for WBUR’s Morning Edition in Boston.