Niles woman files to recall Niles board members

Published 1:05 pm Friday, April 1, 2022

NILES — A Niles woman has filed wording with the Berrien County Clerk’s office to circulate petitions seeking the recall of three of seven Niles Community Schools Board of Education members.

Krystal McCully, of Niles, filed three petitions on Monday, March 28 against President Mark Wortham, Treasurer Kyle Zelmer and Trustee David Fish. According to the petition language, Wortham, Fish and Zelmer moved to support a submitted modification to the district’s Return to Learn Plan during an Oct. 18, 2021 meeting.

The petitions refer to a letter from superintendent Dan Applegate from the meeting, which stated the modification included an indoor mask requirement under specific circumstances and did not indicate parental approval was required for implementing the indoor mask requirement.

“I commend the parents for doing what they believe is right and for standing up for what they believe in. That is one of the principles this country is based on,” Zelmer said. “It saddens me that we could not come together as a community and listen to these decisions and problems a little bit more and talk about them before we went to lengths such as this. It does hurt me that we are going to these lengths because it makes me believe that we’re going to lose well-qualified, elected officials in cases such as this. Nobody is going to want to run because of issues like this.”

Both Fish and Wortham were unable to be reached for comment.

The clarity hearing for the petitions will take place at 10 a.m. Monday, April 12 at the Berrien County Administration Building, 701 Main St., St. Joseph. NCS is one of three school districts in Berrien County to receive notice of recall petitions against board members this week, the other two being St. Joseph Public Schools and Watervliet Public Schools.

According to the Michigan Association of School Boards, before recall petitions can be circulated in the community for signatures, Berrien County’s election commission must determine whether the reasons for recall are stated clearly and factually in the petition language.

After the petitions have been signed, filed and checked by the filing official, the school board member named in the petition can challenge these signatures.

If enough valid signatures are collected, a recall election is then held. The targeted official becomes a candidate for the current seat and any other qualified resident may also run to fill the remaining portion of the term as well. Whichever candidate wins the election, incumbent or challenger, that person fills the remaining part of the current term.

A school board member named in a recall remains a full-fledged member of the board of education and must continue to perform all duties at least until the election is held and the results are certified.