School boards are facing increased scrutiny across the country partially due to the inclusion of Critical Race Theory (CRT) into curriculum that is mandatory for all students. I know several people who serve on our local school boards and on a personal level, I like them. They don’t get paid to serve, which is one reason the job is considered public service, and that is indeed praiseworthy. The job requires that decisions they make are transparent and accountable to the population that they represent. Public schools should be representative of the community they serve. The very idea of public schools is that they teach children age appropriate materials that impart the knowledge they will need to be functional adults. Social engineering by segments of our society always bring conflicts, and inevitably schools become embroiled in controversy when they exceed what parents deem to be their purview. Locally, we just saw an example of that with the recall of a RE-1 school board member over the issue of how voters perceived his interactions with students and the community.
The Cortez RE-1 School District recently hired a new superintendent, after hiring a contractor to conduct the process. Part of that process was establishing stakeholder groups to give input to the school board from different perspectives within our community. As it should be, except the educational industry, representing the district staff and teachers loaded the community stakeholders group with representatives that ensured their pick would be the result. So much so, that Lance McDaniel, the recalled school board member, was selected to be a stakeholder member of the community group. Essentially having a presence on the group that recalled him from the Board of Education. The chair of the community stakeholder group, who should have been the voice for the committee was usurped by the view held by Karen Sheek, a retired teacher. For those of you unfamiliar with the stakeholder groups the contractor devised, there was one for teachers, one for administrative staff, one for the community at large, and one for parents. The entire process as it unfolded was an affront to civic engagement. The announcement for the public to meet the three candidates under consideration was minimal at best. The meet and greet for the three finalists had a very poor turnout, which I believe was by design. One candidate which needed to be present by remote was reduced to one small laptop in the high school cafeteria and was prone to connection and auditory issues that basically reduced him to an odd presence in the cavernous room. Talk about a snark attack! This is not the first time that the District’s IT staff has been kneecapped by the administration. We all remember the infamous incident when an RE-1 school board meeting was hacked by an outside entity that threatened Lance McDaniel’s daughter. That remains unsolved. The biggest takeaway from the stakeholder process is that the administration and teaching staff’s preferred candidate was the one who signed a two-year contract with the RE-1 School Board, with a one-year review option.
A second recent decision that the RE-1 School Board confronted was the roll-out of a new Language Arts curriculum for grades 6-12. The notification for the public to review the materials was buried in the classified advertisements of a local paper. The process was that only one copy was available for review during business hours Monday through Friday at the Administration building and could not be removed from the premises. The current website that RE-1 uses is not particularly user friendly, but in this technological age the proposed curriculum could have been posted to their website for review by the community. The seventh grade curriculum was not available for review at all. Such utter disrespect for taxpaying citizens is completely unacceptable. Clearly, a message of who serves whom needs to be delivered. There is a growing sense that public education is serving the outlook of a socialist collective teacher’s union rather than our constitutional republic. It seems as though the wants of a few outweigh the needs of the many. However, after a year of chaotic schooling, parents are speaking up on a variety of issues. Here is a link to two such recent encounters that made national headlines.
A healthy, honest, public dialogue on public education has been long overdue. Reality is that public education has become more of a burden rather than a blessing. A bloated bureaucracy that is more interested in preserving itself through political power and feel good rhetoric rather than producing a majority of its students with measurable competency in core academic courses. As parents and taxpayers, we are not getting our money’s worth out of the current system. A few years ago, I listened to a school board president deliver the usual message of, “we need more money because we have students who have parents due to social-economic factors are not good parents, and schools need to become the parent.” I once had a teacher call me a “helicopter parent” because I asked questions on the level of academic standards for the classroom. Another one said our daughter was more skilled than other students and hurt their feelings by being so capable. Good-bye public school, hello private school. The truly sad part about that, is I believe in public education as a civic responsibility. Unfortunately, that is not what we are witnessing today. The fact is that lying has become far too acceptable in today’s society. Unless you are under oath, there is no law against lying. There is the thought that a constitutional republic to be sustainable requires a majority of its people to have moral convictions. Our public servants owe us the truth if we are to uphold our principles.
It is my understanding that here in the Montezuma Valley this November, there are six of the seven school board positions on the Cortez RE-1 School Board up for election. Dolores has three open seats, and Mancos has two open seats.
I often listen to people who say they want to defend the promise that our republic stands for. Well, here is your chance to do so. Make a difference. Show up and make the people on your local school board accountable for what you believe in, and pay dearly for.
Valerie Maez writes from Lewis, Colo.