“Please come together tomorrow, February 11, at 4pm at Lakewood High School,” the email read “to discuss where we are and where we are going. This is not a rally and this is not an organizing meeting. This is simply a chance for us to come together and get some factual information. Please pass this along to others who are concerned.”
The subject line of the email said: “Jeffco – I know we’re all feeling unsure”
Approximately, 150 – 200 parents, community members, principals, teachers, and staff gathered. The first thing you noticed, driving into the parking lot, were the two people standing on the corner photographing license plates.
The information presented was pretty banal. One principal opened the discussion, stating the importance of moving forward as a district and talking a little about the concerns many have about the actions of our new school board. Another principal then read the job description of our elected school board members and from board policy (both can be found on the district website.) There was some talk about what’s happened in Douglas County, a brief viewing of a few segments of the documentary “The Reformers,” and a lot of talk about wanting what’s best for kids.
What did the audience learn? The Jeffco Board of Education is a policy governance board. They have one – and only one – employee, the superintendent. They are meant to set policy, provide guidance and oversight, and to ensure accountability. They are expected to conduct all business, except that relating to private, personnel matters, before the public. Any time three of them meet, whether in person, via email, phone or other means, they are considered to have convened a business meeting.
At one point, a parent stood up and pointed to two women sitting, literally in the shadows, in the back corner of the auditorium. “There are two people sitting in the corner recording this meeting. I would like for them to stand up and say who they are.”
One of them stood up. “I’m recording your secret meeting.”
“I also noticed there were people taking pictures of license plates outside.” The parent continued, then demanded to know the names of the ladies hiding in the shadows. They were not forthcoming.
“This meeting was not secret,” the principal on stage said.
Finally, another parent stood. “I am a stay home mom and I rented this room with my own money so that concerned community could come together and get some factual information.”
As people exited the auditorium at the close of the meeting, there sat twice censured, former school board member Laura Boggs, strategically placed so that every district employee would see her and know she had seen them.
The writing on the wall is clear. Despite the presence of a large number of parents and community members in the auditorium and though the meeting was open to the public, the spin will be that the unions tried to hold a secret meeting.
Then there are the intimidation tactics. Take pictures of license plates, get video, ensure employees see Laura Boggs seeing them. Make employees fearful of potential retribution for publicly disagreeing with this board and perhaps they will keep their mouths shut and do their jobs nice and quietly. Scare parents and community into silence via thinly veiled threats of possible harassment.
The fact is, there is a lot of uncertainty among district employees right now but they are not the only anxious folk. Parents are afraid of losing their best principals and teachers whether it be job loss or because they apply for jobs elsewhere. They are afraid that decisions made behind closed doors by three, rather than all five, duly elected board members, will have a detrimental effect on their children’s education. The one thing everyone can agree on? None of this is healthy for our schools. Ultimately, it is our children who pay the price.