By Craig Jonas, PhD – Parent
Published October 30, 2013
Denver Post Your Hub
Three new developments spurred me to write an article on the Douglas County School Board race – I know there is not a lot of time:
- The negative, big money ad campaign currently running on TV and online.
- Scott Gessler’s announcement that he is throwing his conflict-of-interest support behind the reform/incumbent candidates.
- Responses I received from teachers.
I saw the ads on TV. My son said they are “all over” YouTube. The ads represent a big money, negative smear campaign in a local, supposedly non-partisan school board race. Really? “Too extreme” to vote for candidates that are strongly supported by those closest to the issues at hand – students, teachers and parents? Nothing about the failed experiment that has been going on the past few years, supported by the same outside money that is bankrolling the negative ad campaign?
Why is so much money being spent on these ads? Because there is so much money at stake. The incumbent candidates (only one of whom actually has a student at a neighborhood public school in the district) want the money to flow away from public education and into various reform agenda programs that will eventually attempt to privatize the system. The money involved is staggering. With a budget over $400 million that could be redirected, the stakes are high. The redirection of funds may be potentially advantageous for a select few, but not good at all for the majority of students, their families and our community at large.
What is happening in Douglas County feels a lot like the Government shutdown. A very few people outside of the district, with significantly concentrated power and wealth, are trying to dictate a “test” direction for a district that historically had been one of the best in the country. How can the state official who is in change of making sure elections are fair, throw his political mite behind a local, non-partisan school board race?
In Douglas County, I consider this a tri-partisan issue. Republicans, Independents, and Democrats have common ground, here. All agree that we want excellent schools in our community. Great schools lead to better communities and higher home values. It is the reason we moved here. The question on the table is how to accomplish this common-ground goal. Should the county pursue excellence through proven, tested methods that are deeply supported by the teaching profession, or should our district adopt unproven “reforms” that lead to the privatization of public schools.
As a former teacher and current parent, I have been continually impressed by our kids’ teachers and their schools (one of our graduates is thriving at Colorado College and the other is a sophomore at Rock Canyon). Recently, we started to notice changes. Our high school son has large blocks of time off. Exceptional teachers are leaving DCSD. Our fees are rising. Morale within the schools is plummeting. What is going on? I do not blame the school administration as they have been good to us – they immersed in a complex leadership challenge.
I must admit that before the negative ads inspired me to look into this deeper, I had little idea what was going on. Douglas County residents and neighbors I talked to had no idea. All seemed to assume that people who run for the school board are locally engaged citizens who want what is best for our kids and our teachers. I have been doing my own research. I attended The Reformers movie . I talked to Douglas County teachers.
I know this. Great teachers are leaving and that can’t be good. This is a quote from one of the best teachers both of my sons ever had (he left a couple weeks ago and said many are on their way): “I can’t find words to articulate how pitiful the district made me feel. I loved teaching at Rock Canyon. While I loved every second of my time in the classroom (and at school events), I felt repeatedly slapped in the face by the district’s actions. For the first time in my life, I was being bullied. Even worse – it was this seemingly intangible relentless beast of a bully with an outward appearance of excellence.”
We need to try Barbra Chase, Bill Hodges, Julie Keim and Ronda Scholting and return to the excellence our community deserves. This is a non-partisan issue and we should ALL want what is best for our kids and their education. It is our future.
The many painted cars in our neighborhood have it right. The outside money supporting the ad spending and the reform candidates have it wrong.
Do your own research. Vote 4 Kids. Vote for all 4.
Craig Jonas, Ph.D