District 8 resident starts recall process for two school board members

District 8 resident Chris Jundt prepares to send two recall petitions to the Secretary of State in Bismarck for approval. Jundt is on a committee seeking to recall two District 8 school board members.

A resident of Williams County Public School District No. 8 has started the process to recall two school board members.

Chris Jundt sent two recall petitions to the Secretary of State in Bismarck on Monday, Oct. 21. According to state law, the office must respond within five to seven business days. From there, Jundt will have to collect at least 24 signatures on each petition to recall board President Penny Soiseth and board Vice President Curt Sullivan.

Jundt said on Monday that there is “no question” about gathering the required signatures. He said he hopes to have the petition officially filed with the district by Oct. 31. From there, the district’s business manager has 30 days to certify the petition and call an election.

The election must be held between 95 and 105 days from the day the petition is certified and potential candidates must file to run at least 64 days before the election. Soiseth and Sullivan will automatically be on the ballot.

“This is step one here today,” Jundt said.

Jundt said he chose Soiseth and Sullivan because he believes they haven’t been transparent and haven’t listened to constituents about how to handle a request from Williston Public School District No. 1 to contribute $12 million to an expansion of Williston High School.

In September, the two boards met and District 1 board President Joanna Baltes made the request. A little more than a week later, the District 1 board voted to no longer allow out-of-district students to attend WHS.

District 8 has never offered high school and its students attend other high schools in the area. The majority, about 208, go to WHS.

District 1 has said the high school, which was built to handle 1,200 students, is overcrowded and has an enrollment of 1,315.

The District 8 board voted 3-2 on Monday, Oct. 14, to start offering high school in the 2020-21 school year.

Jundt, who is the chairman of the committee that is sponsoring the recall petition, also put out a survey about how residents of the district wanted to resolve the high school question. He said about 78 percent of the 122 residents who responded wanted the district to either dissolve or merge with District 1.

Jundt said residents told him they want a voice in what District 8 decides, and he said the recall petition is a way to make that happen.

“There’s a lot of people that are in support of the recall election,” he said.

Sullivan won re-election to the board in June 2018, and Soiseth won a her first term during the same election. By state law, he must gather at least a quarter as many signatures as there were votes in the election where the two last ran. In 2018, when both won seats on the board, there were 94 votes cast.

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