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Community members, many of whom said they feel inspired by the recent outcry against Jefferson County School Board actions, met Oct. 14 to talk about increasing the Douglas County School District's public accountability.
About 40 people gathered at Parker's PACE Center for a two-hour community forum.
“I feel like Jeffco's given us some new opportunity,” said former school board candidate Julie Keim, who was among the meeting's five panelists. “They have come together as a community and brought the attention to what's happening in their schools. We need to all start working together. We've been stopped a little too much in Douglas County and no more. It's time."
Former teacher and meeting leader Gary Colley formed the Community Accountability Committee for DCSD in late 2013 to work with the board on education issues.
“We have to get ahead of the game in terms of what's happening in Douglas County,” he said. "There's nothing wrong with having differing views. What's wrong is when you expect your view to stand for the whole county.”
Colley, who has spoken about his concerns at almost every board meeting for several years, invited four board members to attend the Oct. 14 meeting; none came and Colley said only board member Judi Reynolds responded to his invitation, saying she had a conflict.
Five Douglas County women who launched groups or took legal action in response to DCSD issues spoke to the audience, and then helped lead breakout sessions. The full group reassembled to present their suggestions for addressing some concerns about the district.
“We have to restore trust in this district,” said Laura Mutton, president of the nonprofit Strong Schools Coalition. “That means the board of education needs to empower the district accountability committee and listen to the concerns being brought up.”
One session focused on teacher and staff concerns.
“We discussed a lot of mistrust,” said Cherie Garcia, who launched the SPEAK for DCSD Facebook page. “There are concerns with teachers and staff (who) didn't feel comfortable sometimes with HR or within their own building voicing their concerns about their schools and environment.”
Garcia also said teachers are concerned about the time required to document their self-evaluations, which feed into the ratings that determine pay.
“When our teachers and staff are busy doing their e-portfolios, trying to hit that moving target and so concerned about that, they're not spending time on our kids,” she said.
Garcia also suggested forming a teacher and staff community advisory group.
“I think it's time to take back control of our schools to help our teachers,” she said, “to help our teachers stand up and say, 'This isn't right.'”
Colley plans to host another forum in the near future.
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