By Stefania Scott, DCSD Parent
With the myriad of issues facing Douglas County Schools, on September 30 I joined another parent in a meeting with district superintendent Dr. Fagen to discuss some of our concerns. These are the three most “interesting” points of that meeting… things that made me say HMMMMM…
1. Dr. Fagen was asked what data supports former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett’s statement that there is parent/community buy-in of the district “reforms”? She didn’t have any data except “election data” (i.e. from 2011). When it was pointed out that 70% of voters don’t have kids in DougCo schools, and thus really don’t see the day to day impact of the reforms in our schools, she was asked how she gauges parent support. She answered – by talking to principals….hmmmm. (Important fact: according to the CDE 62 principals have left the district in the past two years).
2. Dr. Fagen was asked what she thought of Bennett’s “white paper,” which appears to be politically motivated. Published right before the election, it’s created immense anger and raised serious concerns in the community. She responded that the paper is not political, and that it’s common for educational institutions to pay consultants for third-party validation. She further commented that the district did not “buy” the opinion….hmmmm. (Important fact, Bill Bennett was paid $50,000 for his opinion by the district – a fact he did not disclose in his paper). Even more concerning is that the payment came from the Douglas County Educational Foundation, a 501(c)(3) and the district’s fundraising arm which provides grants and other educational opportunities to students. How many children benefitted from this $50,000 paper? I would rather have art restored to my children’s school for $50,000. Dr. Fagen also was asked whether the district has hired any third parties who have disagreed with the district’s direction. She said there were education experts who have done work for the district who have not agreed with its direction but they did not prepare “white papers” because it wasn’t something they do…..hmmmm. Not even for $50,000? (Side note: if they had, I wonder if the district would have emailed a white paper that disagrees with the district’s direction to its 65,000 student families like it did with Bennett’s paper).
3. Dr. Fagen is listed as a speaker on the Friedman Foundation’s speaker’s bureau. The Friedman Foundation has clearly articulated its position and support for the privatization of our public education system. When asked if she was concerned that her name was associated with an organization that believes in privatizing education, Dr. Fagen said she didn’t realize that, and that she was a speaker for “choice” options, which does not mean she subscribes to the philosophies of the organization…..hmmmm. If the Friedmans think these choice options are a way to privatize public education, how is that any different? Why would a superintendent want to be associated with an organization that holds such anti-public school sentiment?
Unfortunately, My meeting with Dr. Fagen did more to raise additional concerns than it did answer questions.