By Tricia Zabelin, parent
Posted Your Hub, September 26
My Facebook friends must be sick of me. Well, perhaps not “me,” but of the continual posts I share regarding the upcoming school board elections here in Douglas County. Those who know me recognize that I am not usually a political person. I detest partisan politics and loathe ugly political campaigns. When campaigns get ugly, as I feel this one has on the part of the current school board and their incumbents, I usually just stop listening.
But the “mama bear” in me won’t let me turn a blind eye to this election as the outcome will directly and profoundly affect my children. Last week, the 6th week my kids have been back in school, my son’s teacher finally had parent volunteers come into her classroom because she is FINALLY able to teach after weeks of state and additional district-mandated assessments.
I am a co-coordinator of our school fundraiser which just raised over $47,000 while the current Board of Education (BOE) and administration have allowed our fund balance to quadruple to $83 million. This is about $60 million more than it needs to not only comply with the law but to maintain an A++ bond rating, yet the BOE has made millions of dollars in unnecessary and harmful cuts.
As direct result of these cuts, graduation requirements have been lowered and instructional time cut by 10 hours for high school students, making it very difficult for some students to get into the colleges of their choice. Our ranking in reading, writing, math, and science among metro schools has slipped, and we no longer have ANY schools on the Dean’s list. There are elementary schools that do not have music or art, and some can only afford to keep the school’s library open for one day per week.
Our average class size has gone up, while the average teacher salary has gone down. And contrary to what the district would like you to believe, we are losing many, many of our best teachers to neighboring districts. We lost our “Accredited with Distinction” rating in 2010 (the first year of the current administration) and it hasn’t been restored. Four years ago, when this administration took over, we were a nationally-recognized district for how well our schools performed and also for how well the school district leaders and the local union worked together. We were to be looked at as an example of how unions and school district administration could work together to provide the best possible education for our children. But now the district has cut ties with the union, calling them “thugs” who are keeping money out of our classrooms.
This is pure politically-charged rhetoric. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If you are more persuaded by facts than rhetoric, the DCEF, Douglas County School District’s fundraising arm, whose funds are meant to support students and teachers in the classroom through grants, has spent $50,000 in consulting fees with former U.S. Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, including his 90-minute speech on Sept 25 at Lone Tree Arts Center in which he lauded the efforts of our school board.
I see this as nothing more than a campaign speech for our current BOE and struggle to see how this will support students and teachers in the classroom. As a Douglas County citizen I am extremely concerned about the direction of our school district and what affect it will have on our community; as an educator, it breaks my heart to see our school district slipping, our teachers unhappy, and our students paying the price; as a mother I am outraged at the audacity of this board to continually lie, demean, intimidate, and bully its teachers and community with utter disregard for what’s best for our kids.