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February 08, 2022 04:29 AM MST

School Board Hubris: It's 2015 All Over Again

  • by: Colorado Pols
Ousted Douglas County Schools Superintendent Corey Wise.

In the last week, a plot by the newly-elected conservative majority on the Douglas County Board of Education to oust the district’s popular superintendent Corey Wise and roll back the district’s equity policies to something more satisfactory to the far right exploded in controversy after conservative board members allegedly violated open meetings laws in the process. Wise was fired by the district in a 4-3 vote ending over a quarter-century of service to DCSD, but as Denver7 reports, the backlash is just ramping up:

Students across Douglas County walked out of school Monday to make their voices heard following the decision by the school district’s Board of Education to fire now-former superintendent Corey Wise on Friday.

“He’s done so much for the teachers here,” junior Audrey said Monday…

A lot of people don’t really care about the school board. But there are quite a few teachers and parents and students who genuinely know Corey Wise and loved him,” Audrey said. [Pols emphasis]

Douglas County protests against the firing of Superintendent Corey Wise.

The Denver Post’s Jessica Seaman:

At Monday’s walkout, students felt Wise supported the district’s equity policy and now they fear that without him the district will disband the equity advisory committee, said Mia Warren, 18, who served on the student board that helped select the former superintendent to lead the district.

“All their voices went into the trash,” the Highlands Ranch High senior said. “We wanted somebody who did believe in equity. It’s just really sad to see it go away so fast.”

Meanwhile, in similarly conservative Mesa County, a similar drama is playing on as School District 51’s leadership face a hostile new board majority with parent and teacher support. As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Nathan Deal reports:

Diana Sirko, [Brian] Hill and Tracy Gallegos each received a warm welcome Monday night from hundreds of School District 51 students, staff members and parents who are concerned about the futures of the three officials in Mesa County schools.

The superintendent, assistant superintendent, and director of equity and inclusion, respectively, were flooded with support before a special Board of Education meeting at R-5 High School in which a private executive session was held discussing the contracts of each…

Nick Allan, who ran against now-board Vice President Will Jones for the District D seat on the board in November and lost 52% to 48%, said that the events in Douglas County “100%” sparked more motivation for students, staff and parents to demonstrate their opposition to the new conservative bloc of Jones, President Andrea Haitz and Secretary/Treasurer Angela Lema potentially pursuing similar actions with Sirko, Hill and Gallegos’ employment.

In both locations, you have new ideologically polarized conservative majorities making sudden changes impacting not just nonpolitical career professionals but also students in tangible ways. In doing so, they’re alienating parents and students, and galvanizing political opposition to the new majority–and the very real danger is that freshly aggrieved opposition will be much more motivated than those of the majority.

Recalled Jeffco school board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, Julie Williams (WNW).

That’s exactly what happened, as longtime readers will recall, in 2015 in Jefferson County after a right-wing school board majority snuck into power in the otherwise-sleepy 2013 off-year elections. Not only did the “WNW” majority go down in flames, losing their seats by a consistent over 60% margin in a recall election, but the campaign to oust the Jeffco board majority established lasting political networks that have helped cement Democratic control in once-swing Jeffco in the years since. DougCo and Mesa County are a long way behind Jeffco in terms of that kind of political maturation, but school board ideological overreach is proving itself to be a reliable waypoint on the road to lasting change.

When you teach the kids early on who they can trust, they remember.


26 thoughts on “School Board Hubris: It’s 2015 All Over Again

  1. No gigantic prediction here, but right-wing takeovers of school boards will pop up again in this space time to time like Groundhog Day, the movie. Unlike what Pink Floyd tried to warn about, some people do believe they need thought control. Leave those kids alone!

  2. We say we’re “following the science” in becoming more lenient about masks in indoor spaces. Jeffco schools, for example, will no longer require masks after Friday, February 18. The science this is following is a steep decline in cases, per CDPHE.

    However, hospitalizations are up. Filled ICU beds are up.Medical staff shortages are up. Even if it’s mostly the unvaxxed gasping on ventilators, which it is, should we not as a community stay masked until hospitalizations trend down, too?
    I’m not a fan of masks- nobody is. But I’m less a fan of killing off the elders and the immuno- suppressed, as well as unstudied long term effects of COVID on very young children.

    Not everybody can choose to be vaccinated, and some are more vulnerable than others.
    We’ve danced this dance before – cases down, masks off, Oops! New variant, cases up, masks on.
    I just wonder if we’re really “ following the science”, or following political convenience.

    In Mesa County, mask mandates will go away, partly because of this Bannon- inspired school board thuggery. But Mesa is also a COVID hot spot- one of the worst in Colorado.

    COVID hospitalizations and deaths will rise in Mesa County. Is this the price they’re willing to pay for “owning the libs”?

    1. I'm not an epidemiologist, by any means.  But the CDPHE website is something I've become pretty familiar with, as I try to decide just HOW cautious I'm going to be. 

      These days, CDPHE dashboard shows statewide hospitalizations are falling:

      select:  Hospital data > Hospital level > Currently hospitalized

      New Admissions are falling, too: select:  Hospitals > Admissions > Weekly

      1/2   2199  +36%

      1/9   2559   +16%

      1/16  1922   -25%

      1/23 1586  -17%

      1/30   819   -48%

      Then add in that a larger number of those admitted to hospital are there "with Covid," not "for Covid."  Which means people are going to the hospital for something — illness other than COVID, trauma, or whatever —  getting tested when they get there, and finding out they are positive.  They still are a burden on the facility, but fewer are needing ICU or ventilation.

      Things clearly aren't good — 44% of the reporting facilities still expect staff shortages (but that's down from 52% a couple of weeks ago).  25% expect ICU bed shortages (down from 33% or so a couple of weeks ago).

      1. I was looking at Mesa County stats. , and Jeffco’s  You may be right in interpreting CDPHE data that show hospital and severe disease down in the state as a whole.
        But in practical terms, it’s all about the community in which one lives. In Jeffco, for example, January hospitalizations for COVID were 3.63/100,000, trending down now to 2.63/100,000,  but still high as at the beginning of the pandemic. Infectious  hospitalized cases in Jeffco are as high now as they were in April 2020, with mortality higher for elderly people. 
        The point is, should we really be unmasking and not taking precautions? I’m vaxxed x3 so feel fairly safe, and finally persuaded my family to do the same, but who knows what variants are mutating right now? 
        And the grands are still too little to vaccinate.

        I think this relaxing of restrictions and mandates  is bowing to political pressure, and maybe not really based on the science. 
        I fear that we’ll keep spiraling around this epidemic. 

    1. Depends how you define terms.

      Emphasis — obviously — on the “you”? Just like every other word and every other term in your world, . . .

      . . . e.g., “intended audience,” “rape,” “evolve,” . . . ??

  3. The Doug Co teacher conniption fit was totally predictable. Teachers have boldly declared their allegiance to the Teachers Union. Gone is any pretense their profession is “for the children”. The next election will see the defeat of the renaming social justice warrior school board members. It’s time to defund the Teacher Union, and expand school choice for all students.

      1. “complete nonsense…?” Only in your world. We have debated this matter before. The teachers union has undue influence in JeffCo schools. The three conservatives had a chance to make a difference, but failed miserably due to their allegiance to far right wing dogma.

        Nobody cares an iota about the taxpayers who fund the schools, but do so without having any kids using the schools. Of course, your ignorant reply to that has always been to accuse me and others like me of “not supporting” the kids.

        1. What is your actual gripe with the JCEA

          Are you with the conspiracists who hate masking and imaginary “ critical race theory” instruction? Those folks go to school board meetings and send threatening letters to the Board members. Jeffco voters elected 3 new Board members to counter this thuggery. Are you mad that the conservatives didn’t win those races?

          Colorado is still 39th to 47th * in the country on per-pupil funding and teacher salaries.  True, we did rebuild several schools with local bond issue funds- they should have better HVAC systems and be safer. Do you take issue with rebuilding Alameda, Jefferson, and the other rebuilt/ remodeled schools?
          * depending on metrics used – per Colorado Legislature. This document also shows that local funding in property taxes has dropped as a share of school funding- probably due to Tabor.

          Rather than speaking for me, and what you think I think, please clarify your own resentments as a childless taxpayer.

          1. It’s really a waste of time trying to have a reasonable dialogue with you. Here, you immediately go off on a tangent of masking and critical race theory when I said nothing of the kind. And you always pick and choose with the statistics.

            Even your fellow progressive Diogenesdemar had to take you to task a couple weeks ago for your smear effort against State Rep. Ron Hanks. There is enough already not to like about Mr. Hanks without having to create stuff out of thin air. Perhaps you can go back and re-review comments I made in the past about JeffCo schools.

            1. Meaning: you can’t answer reasonable questions about your gripe with teacher’s unions, or the JCEA, in particular.

              Meaning: You can’t answer what the heck you’re angry about, specifically.

              Meaning: You insist on telling me (and the world) what you think I think, instead of telling the world what you think.

              Meaning: Because you are unable to honestly answer the above questions, you try to drag in some completely unrelated issue with an unrelated person to derail the “conversation”. Fail.

              You are correct. Trying to have a dialogue with you is a waste of time. You’re not honest.

              1. Not honest, not honest! Hello, nothing is honest on this site. That’s why contributors use avatars and stupid names to identify themselves. This whole site is a cesspool of idiot commentary, that’s why sometimes it’s necessary to stir the shit so it can decompose into something useful. Unfortunately useful is not the purpose of the PolCats.

                1. Sooo…”Nasty Old Man Suffering from Dementia” is your real name? Have you forgiven your parents?

                  Oh…I see..that’s just made up….

                  Since I post here under my real name, I consider your comment irrelevant tripe…but, that’s what I expect from intellectually challenged trolls.

                2. Roger, Roger, Roger, you ignorant проститутка (channeling my inner Putin this morning). Michael Bowman is really going to be pissed when he finds out someone has been using his name on this site.

                  As Duke Cox (his real name) mused: irrelevant tripe.

                  How many versions of yourself have you used on this site?

                  You’re the consummate mascot for the Trumpian klan.

  4. Replying to Dio (can’t reply directly due to being on pbone)

    We cannot be sure we have all the facts as the DougCO school board is clearly outclassed in the PR department.  My strong suspicion is that there is a lot more to this story than simply a disagreement over masks.

    1. Regardless, Dougco will face an exodus of teachers. Teachers are leaving the profession, anyway, due to the pressures of COVID ( not feeling safe, outside cynical political pressures to stay masked vs unmasked ,  kids trying to adjust to in-person mores after a year at home or remote,  trying to teach both modalities (in person and remote), as well as all the normal pressures of a relatively low-paid, but essential, job.

      Then Dougco wants to layer on top of this pressure to tiptoe around race issues or whitewash them, care for the fragile white psyches while ignoring the equally fragile psyches of students of color. Not too surprising that teachers will continue to say, as they did in 2012 , 2014, and 2015,  "No thanks, Dougco."

  5. Not sure what the big deal is …

    There is probably a sizeable chunk of the Douglas County electorate who questions the need for public schools in the first place. After all, how much edjukayshun does one need to go work at Wal-Mart or drive a truck for 
    Powerful Pear.

    If people want to learn, they can pay for it themselves: private schools, home schools, DIY schools. And that way the county can cut its education budget and give big tax cuts to undeserving rich people.

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