The Douglas County School District Accountability Committee is moving forward with a planned Sept. 12 school-board candidate forum, even though the four candidates who oppose much of the current board’s policies have previously scheduled commitments for the evening.
Incumbents Doug Benevento and Meghann Silverthorne, as well as Jim Geddes and Judi Reynolds — all supporters of the current board — already have confirmed they will attend.
The four candidates who have committed to the 6:30 p.m. Douglas County High School event are the slate endorsed by the Douglas County Republicans.
The four opposing candidates — Julie Keim, Bill Hodges, Barbra Chase and Ronda Scholting — say the Sept. 2 notice came too late. Keim requested in an email to DAC chairman David DiCarlo that the DAC change the date, “given the very short notice of this invitation.” But after discussions among DAC members, DiCarlo said they opted to proceed as planned.
“All the candidates were given the exact same notice,” said DiCarlo, an outspoken supporter of the current board and a district captain and central committee member of the Douglas County Republican Party. “It wasn’t as much notice as I would like to have provided. (But) I know of three other candidate forums that are happening in the coming weeks. None of them gave a choice of dates.”
DiCarlo said the Sept. 12 date was chosen based on availability of the venue and conflicts in October, including the fall school break and DAC obligations.
DiCarlo wrote in a Sept. 5 email to Keim that the school auditorium had “limited dates for availability and I chose the one that worked best.”
DCSD’s facility scheduling website shows the only September dates on which the Douglas County High School auditorium is not available are Sept. 12 — the date of the forum — and Sept. 27. Six dates are spoken for in October; the auditorium is otherwise also available that month. DCSD officials confirmed Sept. 9 the information on their site is accurate.
Chase will be out of town on a business trip Sept. 12. Scholting, Hodges and Keim had already RSVP’d for a Voices for Public Education-sponsored address from national education expert Anthony Cody in Castle Rock. Voices for Public Education, sponsored by DCSD voucher lawsuit plaintiff Taxpayers for Public Education, is hosting a series of talks on public education between now and the Nov. 5 election. Notice of Cody’s event first was posted on the Voices’ Facebook page on Aug. 8.
DiCarlo said he’s aware the absence of four candidates will appear intentional to some.
“All I can tell you is it was not planned to be that,” he said. “It bothers me we can’t get at least some of the four that can’t make it there. I have left the invitation open to them up until noon the day of the event.”
DiCarlo said he became aware of the Sept. 12 Cody event after he scheduled the forum.
“I only know about it because somebody sent me it after this all went down,” he said.
Keim said the DAC’s date choice and decision to move forward are “disappointing.”
“It’s the one forum that is put on by the district, so to have it happen this way is just not right,” she said. “It’s not fair for the parents and community members who want to be informed.”
During an Aug. 13 DAC meeting, DiCarlo said he had reached out to six of the candidates about the then-proposed forum. The candidate field then stood at 11. None of the current opposing candidates were among the six he contacted.
The DAC also plans to create and send candidate questionnaires to all eight contenders.
“I want to do something as a DAC that gets the opportunity for all the candidates to respond to questions from SACs (school accountability committees), and I think the questionnaires may be the best way to go about doing that,” DiCarlo said.