Phone survey on schools flawed, many say

Leader of pro-board group says recorded call worked fine

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A phone survey conducted by a group that supports the current Douglas County School District board outraged many who attempted to take it.

Dozens of people report that the automated survey would not register any response that expressed disagreement with the school board and the changes it’s made.

Additionally, the Douglas County Democrats said a statement made about them in the survey is false.

Randy Reed, who runs the Douglas County Education Alliance that conducted the survey, said he found no problems with the recorded call.

“The survey worked fine,” Reed wrote in an email.

The former mayor of Castle Rock summarized criticism of the survey’s mechanics as “the trumped-up outrage of this week from the (teachers’) union.”

But DCSD parents Connie Ingram, Cristin Patterson and dozens of others who took the survey insist it was faulty.

The recorded message lists changes made under the current school board, including “a pay-for-performance plan for teachers, expanded school choice and charter schools” and discontinuation of paying a portion of union officers’ salaries. It concludes by asking the caller to press “1” if they support the board’s reforms, “2” if they disagree, and “3” if they’re not sure.

Ingram said the survey wouldn’t accept the “2” response. 

“I pressed ‘2’ and nothing happened,” said Ingram, who received the call at her Highlands Ranch home July 16. “So I kept pressing ‘2,’ and it would go back to repeating the question. Finally, I hung up.”

“I believe it was deliberate the number ‘2’ answer is not accepted,” she said. “But I would be curious if they called back and I pressed ‘1’, to see what happens.”  

Patterson said both she and her husband had similar experiences.

“I pressed ‘2’ and there was a long, long, long pause; then it returns to the questions again,” she said. “It made us feel like ‘Yep, that’s about par for the course — the people conducting the survey don’t want anyone to disagree.”

Reed said the DCEA survey reached thousands of Douglas County residents, and data gathered from those calls includes an assortment of “1,” “2” and “3” responses.

“We will be happy to share those internal results when the ACLU and the AFL-CIO drop their various lawsuits with the district, and these liberal attack groups admit that test scores are up, the dropout rate is down and that they are really just trying to create a bogus boogeyman that distracts from the fact that every metric shows this school district is improving and moving forward,” Reed wrote in his email.

The recording also states that groups including the local Democratic Party “have outspokenly opposed the school board.”

Douglas County Democrats’ chairman Mike Jones said that’s not true.

“As a party, we haven’t made any official statement on the school board,” he said. “Since it’s a nonpartisan race, we would tend to stay neutral on it.”

Teachers’ union president Brenda Smith said concerns about the DCEA survey aren’t union-related.

“Obviously, this is the drum that they’re going to beat,” she said. “This is just a way they’re belittling the parent and community concerns that are out there. They would love to make this a union issue instead of what it really is — a community issue. This is a huge concern across the school district in general.”

The AFL-CIO is the umbrella organization for U.S. unions, including the Douglas County Federation teachers’ union.

The ACLU is among those who filed suit against the district in 2011 over its voucher program, in a fight that could go before the Supreme Court. The DCF filed suit against DCSD in February 2013, alleging unfair hiring practices and termination of a sick-leave bank. The suit has not yet gone to court.

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