Baa Baa Black Sheep

Not many people know this about me but I grew up in, what some would call, a cult. It bothers some of the people who I related to in this cult to call it that but…when you have to get permission from the Elders to take a family vacation, or obtain their approval before dating someone…basically, if you are ever involved in a group where you can’t think for yourself, you are in a cult. Consequently, I am very leery of anything that large groups of people are into.

Oprah, for example. I loathe her. If Oprah says it’s a good book I can hardly bare the thought of reading it; whereas most of society runs out and buys anything she endorses. What really sucks is when she’s right and the book is awesome but then I have to make it clear that I’m reading the book because I like good reads, NOT because it has that big old “O,” stamp of approval on the cover.

I was super resistant to things like Twilight and Hunger Games because EVERYONE was reading it. I don’t want to read it if EVERYONE is. (Hm. It seems I have a real issue about my literature endorsements…Ha!) I don’t want to eat what EVERYONE is or listen to the music EVERYONE listens too. I’m the last to start watching a hot new TV series because the very fact that EVERYONE is talking about it is a major turn off for me. People are sheep. I do my best not to be.

Enter politics.

One day, seemingly out of the blue, my Facebook news feed was flooded with comments from parents in my district who were angry with the school board. Apparently they have plans to amend the AP US History curriculum to make it more “palatable.” They’d like it to “portray America in a more positive light” and to “not encourage civil disobedience or disregard of the law.” Here is where every person who ever made a different in history rolls over in their graves. I can think of very few major changes that happened with out civil disobedience and even with some law breaking. The next thing I know there are teachers staging “sick outs” and students protesting as well. I mean, it was quick. Boom! The community was up in arms in the matter of a day or two.

A friend of mine, who knows that I support our fabulous, hard working educators and that I have students in this district, invited me to a Facebook group that is described as a place to obtain “Information about Jeffco School district, its board members, and ideas about action.” Now my newsfeed was really rolling in it. Every other post was from this group. I was reading that it’s more than the AP History curriculum. There’s secrecy going on with the board, doors are locked to what should be public meetings, survey results given to parents in the district are being ignored, there are emails saying the board needs to have “less liberals and more Godly conservatives,” the teachers are being (unfairly) graded in order to determine their pay, etc… Man, was that everything? I don’t know. It’s a lot. A LOT of stuff that this board is doing.

I felt overwhelmed by all of the voices and also alarmed by how quickly this escalated. There are a lot of unhappy people. A lot. It started to make me unhappy as well. Something must be done! But about what? There are so many holes in the boat. What is the real source of the problem? Plus, I had that familiar check in myself; that desire to do the complete opposite simply because lots of other people are doing it.

These issues are important because I have students in this district. As a parent it is my job to make sure they are getting a good education and so as a parent I have to know what’s going on here. However, there was so much in the Facebook group I could not tell what was happening. It was very hard to pick out the meat and leave the bones.

So I asked. I made a post myself asking what is the real issue here. What is the main source of the problem? “There is so much jaw flapping that I can’t decipher what the real problem here is.” “Jaw flapping.” People didn’t like that but I think it was a good description. The posts were often people venting frustrations and I was even told by another member of the group that that was what the group was for. It was a place where they could vent. Funny. It’s not described as such. It’s described as a place for information and organization. But OK. Facebook is not a place to get information. It’s a place for socializing. I would really like my social media to go back to that. Go back to being social. Ugh. Anywhoo, there were many who offered me direction to websites that could explain the grievances against the board better. There were also several who immediately became defensive and made biting comments. Basically, if you are not for us, you are against us.

I would say the majority of my friends and fellow parents are not Pro Board but I do have a few who are. Those few have made their voice heard as well. I challenged some of their points as well and was again met with some helpful information and some…defensive posturing. Yes. That’s a nice way to put it. My words were twisted and I was called out as a coward on my one timeline simply for not having chosen a side on this matter.

Sitting on the fence sucks. What happens is the dogs in both yards start barking and growling, which, quite frankly, does not make me want to come down and play in either yard. But on the fence I must be until I’ve sorted through these issues myself. I must because now my son is wanting to get involved as well.

“What is this all about mom? I’m hearing that it’s about teachers pay, about US History books, about secrecy from the board. What is the real issue here?” Buddy asked after school one day.

*sigh* “Exactly. It seems that it’s about all of those things. I’m not sure what parts are true and what’s propaganda so I’m doing research.”

“Well, I’ve heard that they want to rewrite our history books so that America is portrayed in a ‘better light.'”

“What do you think of that, Buddy?”

“I think that ‘he who does not learn from history is condemned to repeat it.'”

He’s right. That’s a very true statement but are our history books really being rewritten?

A friend had sent me a link to the proposed curriculum. Friday morning I woke up and began to read it. So far, so good. Nothing bothersome or white washed about it.

“What are you doing, Mom?” Buddy asked.

“I’m reading the proposed curriculum for the history book. By the way, I’m hearing that the middle school students are thinking of protesting. What have you heard and what are you thinking of doing?”

“That’s right. They are talking about it but I don’t know when yet. I…would like to protest but…I also REALLY don’t want to miss class for it. I have all A’s and one B and I need to get that B up and I don’t want my other grades to drop.”

“Well, I think that’s wise. Listen, I don’t have a problem with you protesting if you know what you’re protesting about.”

“Oh I know what it’s about! I don’t want to have blind love for my country. I’m gonna love it warts and all. Hiding the facts is no different than lying. It’s total rubbish!”

“I don’t disagree with what you’re saying but where are you getting that from?”

“Car pool. Ms. M was telling us about it and the other kids were talking about it.”

“Well, I’m hearing a lot as well but that’s why I’m doing research. I don’t want to take action until I’m certain of what’s going on. If you feel that you should protest, well, I don’t want you to do anything or not because your parents told you. You do what you feel is the right thing to do but…don’t just do it because that’s what your friends are doing either. Don’t make an emotional call to arms. Do your research as well.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“By the way, what do you hear from your teachers on these matters?”

“My teachers? Nothing.”

Here’s what I’ve gleaned so far:

Regarding the email stating that the board needs less progressive liberals and more Godly conservatives: This email was read at a board meeting. The way I heard of it made it sound like a board member wrote this email and that it was even presented at a meeting. Well…no. It was written by a constituent of a board member. It was her personal opinion in a personal email and it was sent to a board member and several others. It was then read by someone else in the community at the board meeting. She brought it up to question the board members about it. OK that’s just reaching and stirring the pot. It is no different than the posts I read in some threads saying that we need more liberals on the board and less “Christian right-wing nuts.”

Regarding US History curriculum: That is still to be determined for two reasons. One, it is a lot to read and I’m a very busy parent. Two, I’ve just found out that I may possibly be reading the wrong thing. For crying out loud! I’m reading the curriculum that is proposed for the whole nation. Apparently that is the very curriculum that the board wants to change? Hell, I don’t even know that that is true.

Regarding the teacher’s pay: I honestly do not know much about this as I’m reading a freaking history curriculum but I know this same system has been tried in other counties and it sounds to be very unfair and quite frankly, demeaning. I am the child of educators. I can tell you that they spend a good deal of their own income on supplies and things for their students. I can tell you that they did not get into teaching to make money so when people make statements about the teachers being greedy I want to vomit. Preferably on that person. Holy hell. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs in the world. There is not a single teacher at my son’s elementary school that I would want to see lose their job. Every single one is TOP SHELF and beyond “effective.” Every single one of them. There are teachers (a small few) who do a crap job. That’s in every field. But for the most part, teachers are incredible people doing their best to educate our children well and for very little reward. Their reward is when that student returns to the school to hug their neck and say, “Thank you. You have no idea how you have influenced me for the better.”

Regarding secrecy and law breaking: Apparently, a few of the board members have hired themselves a lawyer and this is illegal? Can anyone explain that to me? I did receive an email recently that the next BOE meeting will be podcasted so if you are unable to make the meeting it is still available to be heard and seen. That’s wonderful!

I still have so much to figure out but I’m sorry to say I won’t just take your word for it. I welcome others thoughts and opinion on it so that I can consider those things but just because you are my friend and you said it, does not make it true for me. Just because the news has reported anything does not make it true for me either. To those of you who have called me names and taken defensive posture to my inquiries (and deleted my responses from the thread you posted on MY timeline. Classy…) your behaviors do nothing to endear me to your cause. It does not make me want to take action with you, add my voice or money to yours. But don’t worry, it also does not mean I won’t join your side. It just means that (after researching it for myself) I’ll do it DESPITE your juvenile behaviors. That’s to both teams I’m talking to.

There has been threats made to board members and lots of name calling. Despicable. I am proud of my friends who have spoken out against that and who are encouraging bipartisanship and unity on the Save Jeffco side. What is just as gross is that some on the pro board side are claiming that only the opposing team is behaving that way. What a load of crap. That sort of behavior is simply human nature. Where there are humans, these things will happen. There are human peoples on both sides of this matter and so there is ugly behavior on both sides. To say your side does not participate in that is bull shit. Simple as that. To say that you don’t name call and then go on my Facebook timeline and call me a coward…

As Mark Twain said, “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as much as you please.”

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About buddyandbug

Man and I moved from Texas to Colorado with Buddy and Bug. This blog is a chronicle of our adventures as we deal with homesickness and adjust to Mountain Living. “If you are a dreamer,come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!” ~ Shel Silverstein
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2 Responses to Baa Baa Black Sheep

  1. Wendy McCord says:

    I think it’s great that you are asking questions. That’s what I did last winter when I heard the Board had hired themselves counsel separate from the District (which, while not illegal, is highly unusual and according to the Board’s own policies, intended to be used for specific occurrences). I watched the video of the hiring of that attorney. I knew nothing about the school board, but as I watched, I knew something smelled fishy. So I started talking to people – conservative people, liberal people, moderate people. What they all had in common was that they had been participating in school board governance issues for years. Many worked on the 3A/3B campaign. I got finally sucked in watching Cindy Stevenson’s early resignation. The way the Board majority treated her was with contempt and complete disrespect. I don’t care what side of politics you’re on, or whether you agree with Cindy’s decisions or not, but she knew her stuff. And to treat her the way I watched the Board majority do was embarrassing. That’s when I started to come to school board meetings. And if you can believe it, the meetings are even worse than people say.

    But like you, I wanted to understand the facts before I started believing all the Koch conspiracies, etc. So, I continued to talk to people about the Board & it’s activities. I have learned a lot in the process, and most importantly made some great new friends. Unfortunately, the research I did showed that the Board majority are out for their own political agenda and seem to care very little for the children of Jeffco. They say one thing, but then turn around and do things that are antithetical to their stated goals. I have watched them violate state law as well as dozens of their own policies. I’ve sat idly by because the only ones who can do anything about board member violations are the board members themselves – and with the new ones making up the majority, they seem to be able to rationalize whatever they do.

    As a recovering attorney, and generally speaking a rule-follower (though, like you I don’t do things just to go along with the sheep and I HATE OPRAH), I have a somewhat skewed perspective. I have focused a lot on the processes they are using, because they are going about things all wrong. If they want to dismantle public education in Jeffco, they have a majority of the Board of Education. They can totally do it. It would be a sad state of affairs, but they have the power. But rather than following the rules, policies & laws, they are steamrolling their political agenda through, breaching policies, violating laws & pissing people off in the process. If they were rule-followers, people would still be up in arms, for sure. But they would be arguing the merits of opposing viewpoints rather than adding into the conflict the manner in which these people are behaving.

    For example, if Julie Williams was TRULY concerned about the history curriculum (which she admitted that she hasn’t read), then shouldn’t she have asked the District how the district reviews curriculum? Shouldn’t she have found out what the processes are that are currently in place, and then pressed to ensure that they were best practices? Perhaps made some suggestions of ways to improve it (or, better yet, ask the district experts what their suggestions were for improvement). Instead, she takes her cue from failed Texas legislation (and accepted Texas board of ed regulations) and the Republican National Committee, and decides to propose a new committee, made up of only WNW (Witt, Newkirk & Williams) appointees (because when all votes are 3-2, the majority always wins), who will be tasked with the review you described above. No qualifications; no requirements; nothing. Just focus on AP US History (that is a target by conservatives across the country) and health education (the latter was brand new with this proposal – not mentioned before as far as I know).

    And all this came right on the heels of the BOE majority passing, 3-2, a new compensation scheme that completely ignores a teacher’s education, experience, etc. Rather, it focuses on a performance review rating that (a) was brand new this last year, (b) teachers were told that it was a hold harmless year for the new performance system and (c) an independent fact-finder found that the review system wasn’t reliable as a basis for raises/salary because it was too variable across schools and had significant flaws with respect to that purpose. The new comp system was thrown together by Ken Witt essentially on the back of a napkin. No teacher input. No district input. No input from 2/5 of the BOE. It is disgraceful, if you ask me. What a way to treat these amazing professionals who give everything to our children day in & day out.

    I could go on ad infinitem regarding unethical, illegal and immoral actions by the new school board majority – and I’d be happy to chat with you anytime about it. The best bet is to attend the next Board meeting – on Thursday. I’m heading down – you can ride with me if you want. But it is likely going to be a long, long night.

    • buddyandbug says:

      Thank you for sharing what you’ve gathered. There are “fishy” things going on though, I think some of the things on the Save Jeffco camp is reaching. I had wanted to say in my blog, but forgot, that I think this board’s biggest problem is that they are not qualified for this job. They aren’t even educators. Correct me if I’m wrong. I’m also alarmed by the 6 digit salaries, while our teacher’s salaries are being manipulated. I think they’ve realized the HUGE mistake they’ve made in ignoring the community. I like that they are going to be streaming the meetings. At this point I think most people have chosen their sides. Minds can’t be changed and so it’s just one big shouting match. Who can make the most noise.

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