By Julie Keim, Parent
Submitted to Our Colorado News January 2014
I would like to address the school district’s attempt to “spin” the results of the court ruling finding Douglas County School District to be in violation of the Colorado Constitution and Fair Campaign Practices Act (FCPA) for using public funds to pay for a “consultant” to write political propaganda and then disseminate that information as a factual, third party review to more than 85,000 people. The Hess report was titled “The Most Interesting School District in America?” and was written to evoke a response from readers who were not truly informed about what is happening in DCSD. I have read this report and Bill Bennett’s report several times, and if I had not been living the degradation of my children’s education, I too would have been easily persuaded by the claims of these papers and likely been proud of my community’s accomplishment and encouraged to see it move forward.
When many parents and community members read the Hess report, they complained to Superintendent Fagen about the political nature of the content. Fagen attempted to alleviate this concern by again utilizing the District’s email list of 85,000 to explain its actions as typical for districts to pay for third-party reviews of their operations. Kevin Larsen, the DCSD Board President, in his recent media release addressing the results of the judge’s decision, referred to the report as “positive news involving its education policy”. Interesting that a “third party review” dedicates more of its resulting report to “Electing a Reform Board” than any other topic. Was it “positive news”, a “third-party review” or political propaganda? The judge made that determination on Page 12 of the decision when she stated,
“It was clear as discussed in the Finding of Facts, that the Hess Report was not a third party, unbiased study. To the contrary, the report was an endorsement of the reform agenda and explained the advantage of have a unified Board to fuel that agenda…..The Hess report was purchased with public money to influence the outcome of the Board election”.
As more than 70% of Douglas County residents do not have school-aged children, they do not have the opportunity to separate fact from fiction. I might have been intrigued and swayed myself if I had not directly witnessed the destruction these reforms have caused and the lack of proper implementation of many policies and practices introduced under this administration in our school district. Unfortunately, the lofty ideas cited in the Hess and Bennett reports look great on paper, but the reality of what is happening to our educational system in Douglas County looks nothing like what is discussed at high levels in the ivory towers of the DCSD administration building. Even they are swayed by their own propaganda.
It is time for the DCSD Board of Education and Leadership to admit their wrongdoings, take the appropriate action for employees who have broken the law, and stop wasting public funds appealing a decision of guilt that was clearly established over two days of evidence and testimony before an Administrative Law Judge. The DCSD Board and leadership have caused a huge divide in our community with their inappropriate behavior. It is time they ask for forgiveness and start serving their constituents.
Julie Keim was a candidate in the 2013 DCSD Board of Education campaign. She is a parent to Douglas County students, actively involved at many levels in her children’s schools, and a proponent for responsible innovation in public education. Ms. Keim has extensive experience in accountability and responsibility of public entities through her former work auditing public entities (including schools), running the financial operations of a $2B agency and providing public sector consulting services to public agencies specializing in legal compliance and fiscal responsibility and integrity. Ms. Keim filed her complaints against the district prior to the results of a very close election. She continues to pursue this complaint and other issues to be sure DCSD makes decisions with the best interests of students, taxpayers and the public in mind.