I keep hearing about a recall here in town. What’s the story?
An intent to recall petition has been filed against school committee member Jennifer Lima. A copy of the paperwork can be found here.
Who wants to recall her and why?
The first signature on the paperwork is a recent NKHS graduate. People promoting the recall in public include current town councilors Mary Brimer and Kerry McKay; Hannah Zangari, the first runner-up in the November 2020 school committee election; and a group calling themselves Friends of NK Schools. Their petition alleges no wrongdoing or abuse of her office, only that they disagree with her positions.
In interviews, Mary Brimer has stated that Ms. Lima is actively and aggressively pushing CRT into the North Kingstown Schools and used that as an excuse for the recall.
Who's paying for the recall effort?
According to the state Board of Elections, there are no campaign finance rules for the signature-gathering phase of a recall election, so one really cannot know. However, the right-wing "RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity" (RICFP) and its associated non-profit (501c4), the "Gaspee Project", are raising money for the recall effort. These are statewide organizations, part of the Koch-funded network of such groups. RICFP is secretive about its finances, and refuses to identify its donors, but they belong to the State Policy Network, a network of several dozen right wing lobby groups. The SPN is funded by the Koch brothers, along with many other right-wing funders, as are many of its members. The Donors Capital Fund, a non-profit that counts several major conservative funders as contributors, including the Searle Freedom Trust, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the Charles G. Koch Foundation, donated a few hundred thousand to the RICFP in its early years, and has continued to support it as recently as 2019, according to Donors Trust IRS 990 filings.
What is CRT? And is she advocating for it here in town?
Over the past year, Critical Race Theory’s common usage has diverged from its exact meaning. Conservative activists and politicians now use the term as a catchall phrase for nearly any examination of systemic racism, past or present.
Lima is not pushing to bring CRT into NK schools. In fact, to climb down into the weeds for a moment, she disagrees with CRT theorists who claim that racism is inevitable because of the structure of our society. She says it is not, but it takes people with awareness and sensitivity to eradicate it. Ms. Lima ran on the premise that our classrooms need to be a place where being anti-racist is actively taught and is an expected part of the learning culture, and that is how we will build a world where all children are equally able to reach their potential.
She believes students deserve to be presented with age-appropriate, accurate lessons on historical and contemporary issues that help them become the critical thinkers we need to make this a more just and equitable nation.
What is the DEI Subcommittee?
The DEI Subcommittee (short for Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity) is a special subcommittee created by the NK School Committee on March 23, 2021 by unanimous vote. Its purpose is to examine how (among other things) race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status affect and influence district-wide practice. Its strategies and goals include but are not limited to:
Evaluating district-wide programs through an equity lens.
Developing and enhancing professional knowledge, skill sets, and implementation strategies to combat racism and bias, both in the school culture and in the curriculum.
Establishing systemic equity and inclusivity.
The DEI subcommittee, like all the other subcommittees, serves in a purely advisory capacity and reports back to the NK School committee with its findings and recommendations.
Ms. Lima is a co-chair of this committee.
I read somewhere she wants to spend $90,000 on an audit to find racism. Is that true?
Having an independent party conduct an equity audit of the district is something the DEI Subcommittee feels would be beneficial. They are drafting a request for proposal (RFP). They have yet to make a recommendation to the School Committee to go out to bid. Any decision to approve such an audit would need to be made by the full school committee.
The $90,000 that is being referred to came from an email obtained through an APRA request (Access to Public Records Act, our state’s Freedom of Information Act) in which a company was discussing the types of services they offered and what the pricing levels were. No such commitment has been made.
The DEI Subcommittee is currently looking only at NKSD policies and practices, not at the curriculum.
What about the rest of the school committee? Is she the only one who is a problem?
All School Committee votes since Ms. Lima has been elected have been unanimous with the exception of the masking vote. She voted with the majority in that instance.
Is racism a problem in NK? I keep hearing there are no documented cases.
Racism exists in every town. NK is not immune. Altercations are sometimes documented, but not casual insults and tilted playing fields. Ms. Lima believes that all children deserve a learning environment where they feel supported and valued. That is not currently what all children are getting.
How do I know which side to believe?
Great question. Just as when you were in school, primary sources are best. Go to school committee meetings. Go to DEI meetings. Hear for yourself what is being said. Jen has a campaign Facebook page that she updates regularly. Still not sure? Reach out to her directly. She wishes more people would do that. Her contact information is on the Facebook page and on the NK School Committee website. She is happy to speak to anyone who has concerns, or wants to hear more about what she does or does not support.
What is the process for the recall?
They need to collect 3100 signatures before October 8. If that many signatures are turned in to the Board of Canvassers by then, an election will be scheduled for later this year or early next year. Note that all signatures collected become public record. In order for the election to be valid, 6200 people have to vote in it. If Lima loses the election, Hannah Zangari, who was the first runner-up in the Novermber 2020 election, will be appointed to fill out Lima’s term. Zangari was among the people who signed the original petition to start this recall process.
What can I do to help make sure she is not recalled?
Spread the word about the disinformation campaign. Share your support on social media. Speak up about the need for diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools. Donate to Jen's possible recall campaign. Let your friends and neighbors know what the petition is that they are being asked to sign - and what it means if they do.