­­­Former school officials draft suggested policies

Group shares concerns about current direction

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Eight former Douglas County School Board members concerned about the current board’s policies met Oct. 8 to draft recommended best practices for the group.

Former board member Clare Leonard, who served three years on the board, called the meeting because of district-level changes she believes negatively affect the schools.

“I just couldn’t stand by and see a fabulous school district disintegrate,” she said.

Leonard said she extended invitations to 33 people on a list of 54 board members dating back to the district’s 1958 founding; contact information was not available for 14 of them and seven have died.

County resident Gail Schoettler, Colorado’s former Democratic lieutenant governor and former Douglas County School Board president, chaired the hour-and-a-half meeting at Franktown’s Pikes Peak Grange. The group plans to send its document to the board of education, and distribute it via social media and to news outlets.

They hope voters will hold current and future boards accountable to the practices, and that the recommendations are a model for other school districts to follow.

While those in attendance held similar concerns about the district, some who declined to come condemned the gathering.

“I have absolutely no interest in participating in the kangaroo court/pro union love fest you will be conducting,” wrote former board member Dan Gerken, who resigned from the current board in January, in an email to Leonard. “That a meeting like this would occur just before an election when the meeting’s organizers have been largely silent for years tells me that this is all political theater intended to promote union candidates.”

Gerken said he was proud of the current board’s accomplishments, including ending the partial payment of some union employees’ salaries and the revamped pay-for-performance program.

The group’s topics of focus included partisanship, executive sessions, budget policies, school choice, relationships with teachers and collaborative decision-making.

Jacqueline Killian said the outcome of the Nov. 5 election won’t necessarily stem concerns about the influence of partisan politics.

“What is so concerning to me is the polarization we could potentially be facing a month from now,” Killian said. “That is not better than today. The only way you’re going to get there is if you put aside your partisan positions.”

Several cited concerns about lengthy executive sessions and reduced public comment time.

“There’s also a lack of decorum in the way in which parents and the general community are treated,” said Emily Hansen, who lost her seat in the 2009 election to current board member Meghann Silverthorn.

Pieter Kallemeyn said he’d like to see more public involvement in major decisions, saying the voucher program introduced in 2011 “was sprung on the community.”

The former board members also want a more transparent budgeting process.

Herman Anderson doesn’t think current school leaders will consider the policy recommendations.

“It isn’t going to do any good to go to the board,” he said. “They’re just going to ignore it. We’re talking to the voters.”

Scott Campbell, absent from the meeting, also objected to it in an email to Leonard.

“While I appreciate, and may even applaud, the intent of the meeting, I am concerned that this approach could actually mislead voters,” he wrote. “Any consensus achieved will only reflect the opinions of the attendee subset, not the opinions of past … boards.”

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