What’s at Stake – November 2021

Jeffco school board election 2021

Laura Boggs is puppeteering your local school board election – again.

For those who are new to the Jeffco Schools scene, Laura Boggs is a former Jeffco School Board of Education Member who was censured – twice, for agreeing with a radio host that the then superintendent “should be shot” and for threatening to “tear this county apart.” Yes, that Laura Boggs:

She’s also known to have hidden behind an easel in a meeting trying to avoid being noticed, and even wrestled a high school classroom from a teacher’s control and then told the students that school is “stupid.” Yes, that Laura Boggs.

Unfortunately this very same effective manipulator Laura Boggs, “conservative” “reformer,” who, by the way, is really neither, has been identified as the mastermind behind the current opposition slate of Shelton, Miks, and Wilhite (SMW). People have been saying on social media they want proof; well, here’s the proof, clear as day.

This email screenshot is being spread all over social media in response to outrage that Varda, Parker, and Reed didn’t show to a Christians Who Care forum. More on that later. In this email, the forum organizer clearly identifies SMW as “her candidates.” Enough said. This alone should give everyone pause and raise your blood pressure, and hopefully, send you running to tell everyone you know who might be considering voting for “her candidates” to think again.

When the campaign took issue with Boggs being copied on the emails, this is how the forum organizer responded:

Further, Boggs has been an active part of the “grassroots” “independent” group that is promoting the opposition slate since the beginning, as seen in this Facebook discussion from January 2021.

Elections matter. We say this every election. And, seemingly, every election, Laura Boggs tries to come back. So what’s at stake this time? What’s different this time?

The short version: the (“conservative”) politicization of school boards on a national level as part of a national strategy. Laura Boggs and her Jeffco pals are trying to tap into this national strategy.

For example, from Fairfax, Virginia:

Note the last sentence.

Screen shot is from this longer thread: https://twitter.com/JuddLegum/status/1450081018040492038

The above quote comes from Fairfax County, VA—one of the largest school districts in the nation–where a so-called “grassroots” group calling itself Parents Defending Education is working for a Republican takeover of what should be nonpartisan school boards.

In one recent example, a parent told the Fairfax County school board that the high school library contained two books containing pedophilia—a claim that is completely untrue. As is often the case with such groups, Parents Defending Education isn’t particularly interested in facts, instead retweeting her public comment and repeating the allegation. Conservative school board candidates also continued to repeat the lie, arguing, “I believe that parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.”

Mind you, no such books exist in the school library.

In another story out of Southlake, TX, a school administrator told teachers that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom they should offer students books from an “opposing” perspective. Teachers were told this after a parent complained that a fourth grade teacher had a anti-racism book in her classroom (the book in question was This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell) and the school board voted to reprimand the teacher. We can’t make this stuff up.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/southlake-texas-holocaust-books-schools-rcna2965

The story also notes that a group of parents in that district have been fighting to block new diversity and inclusion programs in the school district there, as part of a broader national movement led by people opposed to lessons on racism, history, and LBGTQ issues—often referred to by the now-population catchphrase “critical race theory.”

Bringing it Home

And now, Laura Boggs and Friends are cutting-and-pasting onto your social media all over Jeffco…

Careful readers may have noticed that and several other similar phrases being thrown about on social media and news stories in Jeffco. We’ll post a few screenshots for those of you who, wisely, have avoided social media for a while. For example:

Or there’s this one:

And this one, in response to a post for Varda, Reed, and Parker on Nextdoor:

Hive mind? Just a steady stream of slogans from the same echo chamber?

Unfortunately, it’s part of this larger strategy to politicize school boards—one that has been alive and well in Jeffco for some time now.

Today, JCSBW just wants to focus on one of the issues: all the stuff found under the catchphrase “Critical Race Theory.”

That battle over Advanced Placement United States History from 2014? Here it is again, wrapped in shiny new packaging.

The claim is that (mostly white) children might feel badly about themselves if they learn about our country’s past. Last time around the fear was that our children might not become patriotic if they knew our country’s history (i.e., American Exceptionalism).

If the opposition is elected, we’re going to be right back to this same battle.

Some examples:

  • First, a recent Colorado Sun article highlights a curious pattern in which conservative candidates around Colorado are focused on the same issues.
  • That Parents Defending Education group we talked about above? It’s also actively involved in the Mesa County School Board race. Yes, that Mesa County, the one where County Clerk Tina Peters was recently banned from having any role in the November 2021 election.
  • Meanwhile, the Colorado Sun also reported that in Colorado Springs, Church Voter Guides published candidate responses to a series of questions, including queries about critical race theory, sex education and coronavirus protocols, and the El Paso County Republican Party sent a questionnaire to board candidates in that county that included questions about critical race theory, mask and vaccine mandates, and false allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

See the pattern yet?

If not, how about this from the Summit County School District where another so-called “grassroots” group claims to be concerned about budget issues, academics, and politics in schools.

One of the Summit County candidates is also very concerned about school library books (just like in Texas), and wants to see books with “left-leaning points of view” balanced with books from a conservative perspective. She also is concerned about social justice and gender identity being incorporated into coursework, claiming it’s “the job of parents” to teach those issues at home.” Not content with that viewpoint, she raised the bar, claiming that teachers think they have the right to “almost raise our kids for us.”

One version of this played out here in Jeffco night before last, at a candidate forum by a group calling itself “Christians Who Care” —a group that is loosely organized at best because JCSBW couldn’t find any information about the group at all. Much ado has been made on social media because the pro-public education candidates, Danielle Varda, Mary Parker, and Paula Reed pulled out of the forum at the last minute.

Why?

Let’s start with the questions that candidates were provided ahead of the forum (typed as written in the screenshot, with three bolded by JCSBW for emphasis):

  1. What are your qualifications for being a Board of Education candidate, and what do you see is the most important issue you would like to address?
  2. 55% of Jeffco’s 3rd graders are not at grade level reading. 74% of sixth graders are not at grade level math. Overall student achievement as declined as has student enrollment. In contrast, annual spending continues to increase. How do you explain these statistics and trends, and as a Board of Education member, how do you plan to address these issues?
  3. We are aware that the Union has endorsed certain Board of Education candidates. How does a Union endorsement or non-endorsement influence your decisions, when making critical education-related decisions?
  4. Several of the most highly contested issues in the educational systems in Jefferson County relate to mandated masking and vaccinations. As a Board of Education member, how would you address parents’ concerns? [JCSBW note: Neither Jeffco nor Colorado has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and any future mandate would be approved by the state legislature, not the school board.]
  5. As a member of the Board of Education, how would you address the increasing intrusion of government into educational systems wherein the rights and responsibilities of parents are eroded?
  6. From a Christian and parent perspective, how will you address the canceled culture/Woke mentality in schools with special attention to the political themes of Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory?

No wonder VRP declined to show to this forum. It was clearly a trap.

JCSBW apparently is not “woke” enough to understand what “woke indoctrination,” “woke curricula” or “woke mentality” are, much less “canceled culture,” but none of them are tied to grassroots movements.

Turns out that some of those questions come directly from Parents Defending Education. Their website includes encouraging parents to create social media pages to “document examples of woke indoctrination” and waging lawsuits against “woke” curricula. 

Now consider the questions in bold above. Coincidence? No.

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to protecting our Jeffco neighborhood, option, and charter schools.

JCSBW supports three candidates — Varda, Reed, and Parker — who will support all of our local schools and all our students.

If she gets her way, Laura Boggs won’t just be organizing candidates, she’ll be commanding them to “tear apart” the county again.

There’s more to come. In the meantime, remember to vote for Varda, Reed, and Parker. Ballots are due by 7 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 2!

One Mom’s Recommendation: ‘Clean Slate’ of Lasell, Rupert, Mitchell, Stevens, and Harmon

This from a Jeffco mom who trusts teachers:

My daughter’s elementary school teachers came and knocked on my door yesterday to give me a brochure for Jeffco United.

I was so grateful.

They gave their all to their students all day, then they dug a little deeper and found more to give back to our community.

Here’s the bottom line:  Our teachers have been so mistreated by our current school board majority that they were considering a strike.  Instead, they’re collectively donating hundreds of hours of their personal time to support the recall and the five “Clean Slate” candidates Jeffco desperately needs.

It is no surprise that our teachers are feeling re-energized by the possibility of the Clean Slate winning.  Each member is a patch in a quilt that pieces together powerfully.  Here’s how it looks:

Clean Slate

Ali Lasell used her 25 years of teaching in Adams 12 to develop a skilled hand in advocating for all students.  She is willing and practiced at listening to community members, parents, and school employees.

Brad Rupert comes to the voters as the jack of many trades.  His legal background in business, real estate, and his many volunteer hours in agencies helping to provide food to families in need make him an essential player in addressing Jeffco’s facilities and funding needs.

Ron Mitchell is a bold, honest, hard-working man who dedicated his career to Jefferson County Public Schools.  He brings one clear mission back to the table:  Get the politics out and the good teachers back in.

Amanda Stevens is amazingly skilled at listening to many ideas and bringing them together into one workable, thoughtful solution.  Her years in the classroom taught her how to look at the district’s data and turn it into schools addressing the needs of the actual teachers, principals, and students who depend on their school board to make good choices.

Susan Harmon will be an experienced voice for collaboration.  These five candidates may be running together, but that doesn’t mean they always agree.  Susan has the necessary skills to keep dignity, respect, and teamwork at the forefront during times of tough decision-making.

We send our children to Jeffco’s teachers hoping they’ll learn.

Now, we have the opportunity to learn from their teachers as well.  If these are the candidates our teachers are knocking on doors to support, then we need to be the voters that elect a school board they can proudly work for.

STORY #7 FROM 2013-2015 POLL RESULTS: NEWKIRK AND WITT DIRECTLY PREVENT JILL FELLMAN FROM ATTENDING MEETING SHE WAS SCHEDULED TO ATTEND

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #7:

What Happened: This is the most recent story in the list, one based on a message that Jill Fellman sent out just a few weeks ago:

“Many people who support the recall of the school board majority have recognized that it is not just the substance of what this group is doing, but the dismissive and disrespectful way they are doing it. Here’s the latest example. There is an Agenda Setting Meeting with the Superintendent and his Cabinet a week or so before every board meeting. The purposes of these meetings are to determine how much time agenda items might take and to give appropriate direction to Cabinet members to ensure agenda items meet the needs of the Board. According to practice, Mr. Newkirk and I alternate going to these meetings. Today was my day to attend the meeting – so, I drove to the Ed. Ctr. Mr. Witt arrived at the meeting with Mr. Newkirk and informed me (in the presence of several staff members) (1) I was not needed and (2) Mr. Newkirk would be attending the Agenda Setting Meetings until the election. I’m a big girl, and I can deal with the lack of respect that I see every day from this Board majority. At the same time, our District deserves elected officials who treat each other and the public with respect, even when they disagree on policy. It’s up to Jeffco voters to make that change.”

Newkirk, Witt and their allies were trying to “stack” the District Accountability Committee (DAC) with their allies only and no dissenting voices, and that’s just what they did.

Why It Matters: How many ways can we count?

  1. Spiting Transparency: WNW ran on a campaign of transparency and keep boasting that because school board meetings are live-streamed, they are setting new standards in transparency. Then this kind of stuff gets reported all the time. It’s completely disingenuous.
  2. Really, Who Does This? OK, a few weeks before that we saw Mike Huckabee’s crew physically prevent Ted Cruz from joining Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis on her jail-release-celebration stage. Then again, the Davis situation was…unusual. Newkirk and Witt let Fellman drive to the meeting, enter the meeting, and then they told her to leave? What was she going to do if she stayed? Actually speak and maybe disagree?
  3. “Listen, Listen, Listen, Decide” was a mantra of Newkirk’s campaign.  Did he decide to just skip the first 3/4 of that mantra? Or is listening only with people who he agrees with?
  4. People Expect Much Better from Elected Officials. And they should. They are representing the public as a whole. Witt recently held a press conference to “prove” that he’s not the type to make decisions behind closed doors. Does repeatedly having meetings behind closed doors, including when you kick out fellow board members who were slated to be there, sort of erode that trust?
  5. Witt stated that he was “glad to have a discussion” with the public about the accomplishments of the school board. Then why this kind of behavior?

We could carry on, but we’ll leave it at that.

Suffice to say that if they survive the recall, this kind of behavior will be commonplace!

Vote Lasell, Stevens, Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell, and remember that Merritts and Johnson are aligned with WNW! 

Keep fighting, JeffCo! And remember to VOTE by Nov. 3!


 

Story #8 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Koch Brothers and Other Major Outside Funding Flood Jeffco for WNW

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

Note that if we had run the poll this week, we certainly would have included Witt’s bizarre and appalling press conference that even his media allies can’t restrain themselves from criticizing and joking about. Safe to say that his presser will be on everyone’s mind for a while.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #8:

Koch

What Happened: To summarize what we posted a few weeks ago, in 2013, WNW sent approximately 6 mailers out across much of Jefferson County. Jeffco Students First also sent out “The Jeffco Observer.” According to multiple professional estimates, the mailers alone would have cost *at least* $200,000 dollars for design, printing, and postage. The Observer, designed largely to support WNW, cost a lot too.

These communications were paid for by sources outside of their official campaign reporting, by third-party organizations that were nonetheless formed specifically to aid WNW. This is what’s often called “dark money.” WNW’s campaigns also raised some money.

Clear as day on mailers was “Americans for Prosperity”: The Koch Brothers’ political advertising and activism machine. As for other donors? It appears that WNW’s biggest fundraiser took place in Arapahoe County, and the guest list was packed with wealthy donors from outside of Jeffco.

Meanwhile, Tonya Aultman-Bettridge, Jeff Lamontagne, and Gordon “Spud” van de Water each raised in the $35,000-$60,000 range for their official campaigns. Those numbers were indeed higher than the “official” reporting for WNW’s campaigns, but A LOT LESS than the money that was spent on all of the mailers via the “dark money.” Why is that “dark money?” Because most or all of it came from the Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity, or the other wealthy donors from outside Jeffco, and THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT.

It’s like comparing two families’ spending on food for a month, and saying that one spends a lot more after just comparing their grocery bills, neglecting the fact that the other family that’s spending less on groceries is only doing so because someone is paying for them to eat out at restaurants all the time. In the end, which family spent more?

It’s simple: WNW easily outspent their opponents in 2013. In their usual sneaky tactics, WNW’s allies are just looking only at the official campaign contributions in order to convince you that they were outspent, to further the idea that their elections were driven by a “grassroots” effort.  That’s both laughable and sad. As you can see, WNW really weren’t outspent, and that’s a major reason we’re in this mess.

Why It Matters: We think that everyone intuitively understands why this matters. Political research indicates that more than 90% of elections are decided by those who spend more money. Of course, some of that is because the candidates have real grassroots support among the people that know them, but the Kochs and others wouldn’t be doing this unless they knew that it was usually successful. In local elections, although people joke about putting mailers straight in the trash, they do work because they’re often the only exposure many busy voters have to candidates. Send a good mailer, get a vote.

The juxtaposition is shocking. Not that long ago, winning school board candidates in Jeffco commonly raised $10,000 – $20,000 for some yard signs and brochures, and perhaps a mailer to a cross-section of voters. The sudden transformation from the $10,000 range to $1,000,000+ should cause anyone alarm. That kind of jump in spending, especially on a nonpartisan election, should raise huge red flags about the political nature of the fight. It should also raise your hackles.

It is a disturbing trend that anyone can spend unlimited amounts, mostly hidden, wherever there want, on any local race in the country. Somehow it seems even more painful in Jeffco. Maybe that’s because we’re from Jeffco, and we pride ourselves in the rich history of independence and spirited debate among locals here. This is Colorado; this is Jeffco; we are independent and don’t take well to outsiders with an agenda trying to buy elections and supporting candidates that they don’t even know.

It also matters because it looks as if they’re on an even bigger spending spree to support WNW in 2015. Look for “Americans for Prosperity” on that TV ad, door hanger, or mailer…and then vote for Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell, who have vastly more local support in every way.