It’s as if a strong recall effort was launched two weeks before new members of the Douglas County School Board are sworn in on Nov. 30. time — unfolds according to this plan. This is how unions weed out troublesome reformers from public school boards.
Let’s start at the beginning. Last fall, slate of “Kids First” candidates Mike Peterson, Christy Williams, Becky Myers and Kaylee Winegar ran for office promising reform to an electorate frustrated with hidden mandates and concerned about the politicization of agendas.
The district angered voters when it sued the county health department over a policy allowing students to be exempt from mask requirements. Additionally, like many parents across the country, parents in Douglas County were concerned that the divisive and destructive rhetoric based on critical race theory would find its way into the classroom. Their concerns were not unfounded. After adopting an equity policy, the district paid the Gemini Group $37,000 for the training necessary to implement it. During training on systemic racism, implicit bias, intersectionality, oppression and microaggression, Gemini consultants made it clear that “equality is good, but equality will not get us nor to equity”. “Equity is about outcomes” and inequitable outcomes are the result of racist policies and implicit biases rather than differences in student ability and effort.
The Kids First list won, and the majority of the board wasted no time in lifting the general mask warrant and passing a resolution directing the superintendent to recommend changes to the equity policy and its implementation.
The resolution, which is worth reading in its entirety, encapsulates how most Americans want their children to be treated in school—that is, with dignity, fairness, and aspiration, regardless of personal differences. The council is also working to increase teachers’ salaries.
New board members were frustrated by false rumors about board decisions and what they perceived to be the superintendent’s failure to communicate a unifying message and quash misinformation. The members feared, Peterson told me, that the superintendent’s loyalty rested on the old board and his political preferences. Two majority council members spoke with Superintendent Corey Wise about his future in the position and word of this conversation spread throughout the district.
It is not unusual or illegal for one or two board members to meet with the superintendent or one-on-one, nor is a change in leadership after the election; a board deserves a superintendent who will enthusiastically support its decisions. However, members of the minority and the superintendent were understandably unhappy that there had been no discussion of concerns about Wise’s leadership at previous council meetings and that the majority appears to have made this decision in conversations in face-to-face.
This misstep was the occasion for what would be just one of many public circuses designed to tire the public and build a record of recall. More than a thousand teachers called in sick to take the day off to protest, prompting the district to cancel classes. During a stormy board meeting, the superintendent was fired. A student walkout, no doubt instigated by adults since few teenagers have an innate interest in the law of public meetings, took more time out of class. Radio and TV commentators fired at each other on Twitter. And, a resident sued the majority of the district for allegedly violating the open meeting law.
A Douglas County district judge issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting majority council members from “engaging in discussions of public business or taking formal action by three or more members of the BOE, either as a group, or through a series of meetings of less than three members at a time.” They maintain that they did not break the law and can appeal.
The drama will continue. That’s the point. This is part of the playbook used by unions to oust Conservative members from school boards. It worked at Jeffco Public Schools in 2015. Opponents launched a recall effort before reform members were sworn in. The National Education Association sent agents to organize rallies, demonstrations and provocations. Board meetings have been suspended. At one point, the council members needed a police escort to their car. Jeffco United, the so-called community group behind the recall, turned out to be a union-funded front, a fact revealed after the court-ordered election. The recall effort was so successful that the AEN brags about it on its website.
As one of the targets of this recall, John Newkirk, told me, unions know “they can upset the kids, upset their parents and destabilize the community to the point where voters will send non-union candidates to suitcases just to ‘stop the noise.’ This strategy of ousting duly elected board members undermines education, teaches students that the end justifies shameful means, and divides the community.
Douglas County voters should not fall for this.
Krista L. Kafer is a weekly columnist at the Denver Post. Follow her on Twitter: @kristakafer.
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