We’re not in DougCo, but we are paying attention.
And here’s why the rest of Colorado school communities should, too.
We wouldn’t be the only ones in Jeffco to tell you that just watching what’s happening in DougCo triggers PTSD. The time we spent between November of 2013 and November 2015 was draining to say the least. The results of the November 2013 school board election literally sent our school district into a tailspin.
Our community felt like it had been turned upside down and inside-out by the decisions and tactics used to make those decisions by the then majority school board members. The blatant lack of transparency via backroom, secret meetings. Shutting out the community and shutting out their fellow board members. Watching long-time, dedicated staff treated with no respect; and at times literally shuddering from being on the receiving end of arrogance, online, and in person abuse. We watched helplessly as our district was drained of valuable and historically knowledgeable staff in what felt like a mass exodus. Parent involvement and participation disintegrated as their positions on district committees were eliminated or re-assigned. The list goes on.
To this day, Jeffco is still trying to recover from the turmoil brought about in those two years. That’s why we are watching what’s happening in DougCo and asking other school communities to watch and keep your guard up.
This NBC News report (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/critical-race-theory-invades-school-boards-help-conservative-groups-n1270794) from June 2021 pretty much laid out for all of us what to expect with the upcoming November 2021 elections. In it, they talk about
“a movement that has amped up grassroots parental organizing around the country, bringing the lens and stakes of national politics — along with the playbook of seasoned GOP activists — to school boards.”
“Reinforced by conservative think tanks, law firms and activist parents, these groups have found allies in families frustrated over Covid-19 restrictions in schools and have weaponized the right’s opposition to critical race theory, turning it into a political rallying point.”
“…conservative activists are setting their sights on ousting as many school board members as they can, and local Republican Parties have vowed to help, viewing the revolt against critical race theory as akin to the tea party wave from a decade ago.”
We saw this take place in school districts across Colorado during the November school board elections. Some school boards flipped completely, in others only one or two seats were gained ( just enough to create chaos.) Using anti-CRT, anti-vax and anti-mask crowds, seasoned conservative operatives turned to the messaging of Parent Rights or Parent Choice. It was a winning message in Virginia for the governor’s race.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Youngkin’s win in Virginia
“Emboldened by elections on Tuesday that were swayed by hotly debated education issues, Republican leaders are already planning to inject schools into next year’s midterm House and Senate campaigns.”
“Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.)…“Youngkin’s success reveals that Republicans can and must become the party of parents,”
This October 2021 story in Popular Info uncovers the intent behind the 1776 Project to be used to target school boards. https://popular.info/p/the-right-wing-operatives-orchestrating
“Political consultant targets school boards
“The 1776 Project was created earlier this year in an effort to “raise funds to support school board candidates who oppose public schools teaching critical race theory and the 1619 Project.”
And in case you missed it, The 1776 PAC recently got credit on Twitter for its work in DougCo.
when Chris Rufo announced in his Feb. 8, 2022 tweet that Ryan Girdusky, Founder of the 1776 PAC (https://www.clayandbuck.com/ryan-girdusky-founder-of-the-1776-project/) helped flip the Douglas County School Board.
For many voters, especially those who do not have kids in public schools or new parents whose children are still too young for school, or may have only just started preschool or kindergarten; or if you haven’t been in a school for a long time or don’t associate in any way with an educator, it’s just not at the forefront of your priorities. But that’s when we fail our public schools either by not voting or not being well-informed voters. That’s when voters grab on to those 30 second sound bites and cleverly crafted mantras that make false promises.
School board elections are supposed to be non-partisan. But the truth is they are not, and of late they have become the focus of a national political strategy for the GOP as they look to the 2022 and 2024 election cycles.
When the process is flawed and violates the law (or the spirit of the law) without being called out, it’s giving permission to those violators to continue to operate in the same manner. When decisions are being made in secret, backroom meetings without the transparency that a community is entitled to by law; with the due process required under the policies and rules the school board has agreed to abide by; when the community is no longer allowed to have input; and when staff isn’t respected for the value they bring, these are violations of a transparent and ethical process by which you run a school district.
And, in case you were wondering, here’s the Code of Ethics for School Board Members (from Colorado Association of School Boards) https://casb.memberclicks.net/code-of-ethics-for-school-board-members?fbclid=IwAR1JwDY5j32P7p_ZzOyECL45iqGPRrZUP0FlWrjzK4dcul7RqoTCHKDySfA
In closing, if you are in a school district that isn’t experiencing this same turmoil we see in Douglas County, count yourself lucky but it’s no time to stick your head in the sand.
Want to read more on how school boards are targeted and how we got here?