(The details are a little Denver- centric, but isn’t Greeley School Board having similar problems? . Seems like just the start and the story is going to more contentious before it gets less. Good questions – I am hoping we see some good answers. – – promoted by MADCO)
The recall of DPS School Board President Nate Easley is officially underway. Yes, you read that right–here we go again. Another recall attempt of yet another Denver Public School Board member. The back story surrounding who is behind this one is enough to make you pull your kids out of DPS and find a school that actually cares more about your children’s education than they do political payback.
John McBride, who ran and lost his bid for the DPS school board in 2007, filed a petition with the Denver Elections Division last week to begin the initiation of a recall. After being rejected due to multiple errors, McBride resubmitted the petition on Monday. The petition was formally approved Wednesday, January 26, 2011. The petitioners need to collect 5,363 signatures from District 4 within 60 days to get the measure on the ballot in May.
So why Nate Easley? An organization named DeFENSE (Democrats for Excellent Neighborhood School Education) provides some interesting clues.
Let’s look at what constitutes a mission statement from their website.
DeFENSE stands for Democrats for Excellent Neighborhood School Education. We defend the original intent of public education in the United States: ensuring equity and excellence for ALL. We defend the rights of school communities to use collaborative, non-corporate reforms to transform themselves into sustainable learning communities. There is ample proof that this approach works. Join us!
If DeFENSE suddenly seems to be everywhere these days, it’s not a coincidence. They created a new account on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Colorado Pols to weigh in on an education diary by Michael Bennet. Also on Tuesday, at 4:40 p.m., they created a new account at Square State and by 6:45p.m., had their first diary posted and promoted by the owner of the blog to the front page, with their real agenda front and center.
If you are inclined to give DeFENSE the benefit of coincidental doubt, think again. Their coordinated plan to push back against editorials that have come out against recalling Nate Easley is posted on their website. In an email sent out by DeFENSE in response to a scathing editorial by the Denver Post, DeFENSE lays out its strategy.
HERE’S HOW TO PUSH BACK EVEN MORE
We need your help in responding to the mythology that the Denver Post is hawking. Choose one or all of the following actions:
• Please go to the online version of the article and post a comment in rebuttal
* Please send a letter to the editor
* Write an article on your favorite education, community-centered or political blog
Now, according to blogger DefenseDenver who commented on Pols Tuesday evening, their organization is fighting for the little guy in the interest of preventing the “hostile takeover of our public education.” According to DefenseDenver, their goal is to prevent the “corporatized takeover” of our public schools in Denver.
Vague platitudes aside, their primary motive seems to be focused on an entirely different agenda. DeFENSE has aligned themselves with three DPS school board members–Andrea Merida, Arturo Jimenez, and Jeannie Kaplan–to remove the current board minority’s number one target, President Nate Easley.
You remember Andrea Merida, don’t you? She was the school board member that was facing a recall effort against her last fall. I wrote about the failed attempted spearheaded by Jose Silva in October and I stand by my defense of her. Recalling Merida was based on revenge and payback. She never engaged in an action that rose to the level of being forcibly removed from her elected position.
Interestingly enough, many of the same folks including Andrea’s own family that banded together to fight her recall and decry the outrageous expense this would cost the Denver School District, are now working overtime to do the exact same thing to Nate Easley.
So what is the ultimate goal of DeFENSE? To ensure that the current four person majority on the board that includes Nate Easley is permanently broken. There’s only one way to make that happen and that is to forcibly remove one of the four. If Easley is successfully recalled and a DeFENSE backed candidate wins election, the current minority will now be running the show.
DeFENSE asserts multiple claims to support their reason for recalling Easley, including having the audacity to vote against campaign contributors and failure to vote with Merida, Jimenez and Kaplan the way it was assumed he would vote when he was elected to the Board.
But what Easley really did is commit the unpardonable sin–he voted against the wishes of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA), an organization that he readily acknowledges spent quite a bit of DCTA time and dime to get him elected. DCTA also donated to Andrea Merida and endorsed her over her opponent Ismael Garcia, a founding member of the West Denver Prep Charter School, and a public supporter of turnaround plans. (The DCTA, if you will recall, was at the center of the controversy surrounding their opposition to the reform of Bruce Randolph School, the Denver school that Obama mentioned on Tuesday night in his State of the Union speech.)
So what motivated him to vote his conscience? Easley knows from firsthand experience how high the odds are stacked against a minority student attending high school in Denver. Nate Easley was a kid who grew up poor, one of five children, raised by a single mother, and a graduate of Montbello High School. When he enrolled at CSU, he got an ugly wakeup call about the quality of his education to date. His math skills were so poor, he was required to take a remedial algebra class. Currently, only six out of 100 students that graduate from Montbello go to college without being required to take remedial courses.
For Easley, the vote for the controversial Montbello turnaround plan was as personal as it gets. And it was filled with controversy from the get go. The plan included the possibility of hiring entirely new staffs of teachers, including a provision that required current staff to reapply for their jobs with no guarantee of being rehired.
The second part of the turnaround plan was the replacement of the six schools with charter schools. After seven hours of hearing from the public and local teachers, in packed rooms where emotions ran high, the board voted 4-3 in favor of the plan. Theresa Pena, Nate Easley, Bruce Hoyt and Mary Seawell voted yes. Andrea Merida, Arturo Jimenez and Jeannie Kaplan voted against the plan.
The writing of Easley’s demise was officially on the wall.
Easley had fair warning that some powerful organizations were targeting him if he voted the wrong way. None other than Andrea Merida’s own father threatened Easley that he’d be on his way out if he didn’t vote against the Montbello plan.
Easley told me this morning in a phone interview that Jorge Merida, John McBride and Chuck Crowley asked to meet with Easley for lunch, prior to the upcoming vote in November for the turnaround plan. Easley invited along the Superintendent’s Chief of Staff to the meeting. What Easley thought they were going to talk about turned instead into a discussion over Jorge Merida and friends “disappointment” in the way Easley had been voting and basically turned into a meeting to threaten him.
They told him, “We don’t like the way you’ve been voting. And if you vote for the Montbello turnaround plan, we’re gonna recall you.”
Easley told them, “Well, you do what you need to do and I’ll vote the way I need to vote.”
The Chief of Staff who was also at the lunch confirmed the conversation.
Nate shared some sobering and disturbing statistics regarding high school drop outs–they are eight times more likely to end up in prison and they face a 40% unemployment rate if they go into the workforce without a high school diploma.
Nate said, “No matter what happens here, I will continue to be focused on student achievement and please know–there is hope. There are schools in our district including Beach Court and West Denver Prep School that are doing great, an outstanding job and having some incredible results. My concern is with the schools that aren’t because every parent has the same dream–that their child will do better in life than they did. Every parent has a common goal–they want what is best for their kids.”
Let’s take another look at the organization behind the recall effort. Who is involved in DeFENSE? Good question. And good luck finding an answer on their website. After searching through their website as well as the Secretary of State’s for what type of an organization they are (527, PAC, corporation, political or issue committee, 501(c)(4), etc.) or if they had registered with the State, I came up empty handed. Do they even need to register? Simple questions that the organization has yet to provide simple answers to.
They offer a vague reference to their fundraising in a brief paragraph that links you to a Zazzle sales page that retails teachers and union related buttons and t-shirts. There are no contact numbers listed, no basic information which a reputable organization normally provides. They solicit for donations but donations for what exactly? What efforts would my money be funding? A recall effort? Educational research? And who is the money going to?
Because DeFENSE is not propped up by private foundation funding, we depend on donations from regular people like you and on the sale of items on this page. Know that proceeds from your purchase go to furthering the DeFENSE mission, which is to equalize the discussion of what neighborhood schools need to be successful.
Who’s authoring all of the articles on the website? Currently, I see no attribution. I think these are reasonable questions that most concerned parents and citizens would like answers to before donating their hard earned dollars to an unknown.
Welcome to Pols, DeFENSE. I look forward to your organization providing answers to some basic questions about who you are, how you are funded, whether or not you have a board for oversight of the organization, who your treasurer is, what type of an organization you are and who your contributing members are.
Philosophical differences and opposing votes on a school board do not rise to the level of recall. Why was a recall of Andrea Merida four months ago a horrible, malicious, vengeful idea that would do nothing more than take the focus off the children of DPS? Why is the same vengeful tactic okay when it comes to her fellow school board member Nate Easley? There is an agenda here and it isn’t just about Nate Easley.
Frankly, I’m not sure what I find more revolting about this–Andrea Merida’s sudden and uncustomary silence about the fervent support of the same sort of recall action that she was decrying 4 months ago or the sheer hypocrisy of her cronies so blatantly trying to maneuver and remove, by hook or by crook, an ideological opponent whose greatest sin appears to be disagreeing with his campaign contributors and three fellow board members who hold conflicting views on how to promote education in Denver schools.
A power grab is not democratic; it’s a coup d’état.