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Committee Petitions to Recall School Board Chairman

| November 8, 2016 | 1 Comment | News
Volunteers with Prince William Committee for Quality Education petition voters for signatures at Glenkirk Elementary School.

Volunteers with Prince William Committee for Quality Education petition voters for signatures at Glenkirk Elementary School.

Prince William residents heading to the polls may be faced with another choice they had not expected: whether they want to support a recall effort for School Board Chairman-At-Large Ryan Sawyers.

At several polling places around the county, volunteers are outside asking voters if they would like to sign a petition to help to recall the Prince William County School Board Chairman.

“This is really bipartisan,” said volunteer Rich Egan, presenting the petition to voters at Glenkirk Elementary School. “We feel that he’s misused his office.”

An alleged non-partisan group of parents called The Committee for Quality Education organized the petition. The groups’ founders are not making themselves available for comment, operating only behind a website and local volunteers.

The committee’s goal is to receive between 6,000 and 7,000 votes throughout the county. That would be ten percent of the votes that Sawyers received when he was elected in November of 2015, and enough for a judge to consider his recall.

The petition is being done officially with residents signing in front of a witness, rather than online. And, since people are attending their voting precinct, it ensures they are all county residents.

Woman signs the recall petition for School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers.

Woman signs the recall petition for School Board Chairman Ryan Sawyers.

Supporters of the recall hope that the petition coupled with a review of Sawyers’ actions as school board chair will be enough for him to be recalled or removed from his position.

They count among the most egregious of his actions the polling of school board members to decide whether to hold Patriot Principal, Dr. Michael Bishop’s employment contract. Some believe this action was illegal since Bishop was in the process of suing Sawyers over an employment matter at the time, and because of the secretive manner by which the poll was conducted.

It was School Board member Justin Wilk (Potomac) who initiated the straw poll, while Sawyers chose to abstain. Regardless, some suspect Sawyers was behind the poll, and Bishop is now suing both Sawyers and Wilk for conducting it.

The recall volunteer at Glenkirk explained that for him the recall is about Sawyers not following the proper processes a chairman ought to follow.

Egan said he believes that persons in public office should first identify a problem then apply a solution, but Sawyers often arrives at a solution without public input, impact statements or research.

“It’s a total lack of following the process. I don’t know if it’s a political agenda [Sawyers is following] personal agenda or just a lack of experience,” Egan said.

Voters spoke to Egan about how Sawyers wanted to add LGBT people to the public schools’ nondiscrimination policy, kicking up an issue about transgender people using the bathrooms that match their gender identity: an issue that was hotly contested at a school board meeting in late September.

Egan said many people don’t want those of the opposite gender using their bathrooms and they do not like the way Sawyers handled the issue. Additionally, he believes Prince William should have seen the issues Fairfax was having over the issue and stay out of it.

Egan and he and other volunteers at Glenkirk collected approximately 125 signatures. That was before noon, Tuesday.

At Victory Elementary a Recall Sawyers volunteer named John handed out information sheets to voters. John said he likes to explain to voters the reason behind the proposed recall.

“It has nothing to do with how Mr. Sawyers has acted or behaved as much as what he did that’s wrong. It’s not about the kids,” John said.

The big three issues for him are the polling to hold Dr. Bishop’s contract; the way in which he challenged a replacement member for Gil Trenum, school board representative of the Brentsville District; and the renaming of Godwin Middle School to Hampton Middle School with little community input.

John was upset that the renaming of the school cost taxpayers half a million dollars, but Sawyers described that as “peanuts” when the schools are experiencing great overcrowding.

“It’s mismanagement of the schools,” John said, adding, “he’s made it political.”

John while he had 75 signatures, the response has been very positive. Often times people seek him out. Other times, they do not know about the issues, but take a flyer and then return to sign the petition.

John also could not shed much light on who was behind the recall efforts, only saying a friend asked him to volunteer. However, he was in communication with volunteers at other polling places.

“It’s in every district as far as I know,” he said.

Chairman Sawyers did not return a request for comment at publication time.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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