Colorado School Board Member Kicked Out Of Douglas County Parent House Party

Douglas County Parents (DCP), a new school interest group in Douglas County against the Board, created drama last Monday when the organization kicked School Board Director John Carson out of an informational meeting.  On Friday, Media Trackers reported that other anti-Board proponents caused a stir at a Q&A session with School Board Director Meghann Silverthorn at the Public Library.

The invitation to the the Monday (July 15) house party/information meeting was spread via email. The meeting is described in the invitation as involving “a couple different speakers from different aspects of the district to inform you and let you ask questions”. The invitation makes no mention of limited audience or School Board Members not being allowed.

The invitation also said: “Please feel free to spread the word and bring along spouses, friends, family members, whoever!  The more people that get informed the better!”   Nothing in the language suggested that the crowd would be antagonistic against a Board Member showing up to help answer questions.

Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 10.23.22 AMWhen the invitation spread to School Board Director John Carson, he volunteered to attend the meeting and help out. Carson is term limited this fall, and will not be running for re-election. Therefore, his motives to attend were not political, and Carson volunteered his personal time to continue Board Transparency and hear what Douglas County Parents had to say.

As Media Trackers previously reported, the Douglas County School District received an A- ranking in transparency by the Sunshine Review in April, ranking it at the top of school districts in Colorado.

When Carson arrived at the event they greeted him and allowed him to come inside to the meeting. Upon entering the meeting, an unnamed women confronted Carson and dramatically kicked him out in front of the entire audience of parents.  Though the group advertised  “different speakers from different aspects of the district”, they did not want a term limited School Board Director in attendance.

On Tuesday July 16, the day after the house party, the Board of Education held their public meeting.  During the public comment time, the same women who kicked out Carson stood up, identified herself as Denise Gonzales, and publicly reprimanded Carson for crashing the party.  The linked video shows how wild the accusations grew, as Gonzales accused Carson of intimidation tactics and attempts to silence concerned parents.

Gonzales went on to claim that the invitation clearly stated that Board of Education Members were excluded. Meanwhile in the audience, Cherie Garcia Lewis (moderator of the liberal SPEAK Facebook Page) live tweeted from her six month unused twitter account a screenshot of an invitation to the House Party.

The invitation Lewis tweeted was different then the prior mentioned email invitation.  At the bottom of this invitation it states:  “Please note, this is a private informational party and is not open to members of Douglas County Education Alliance, Douglas County Champions for Education, or the DCSD School Board Members”.

The release of the new invitation from a dormant twitter account suggests prior planning to the remarks at the Board Meeting.  The board explained they had received an email invitation, at which point Gonzales said she would be inclined to believe the Board if they released the invitation and the names of the people who invited them.

Lewis and Gonzales’ efforts at the Board Meeting continue the trend of attacks that have come against the innovative board, including the spread of rumors and doubts about the board.  Media Trackers has put many of these false claims to rest, such as the claim that Teachers are fleeing the district and that classroom performance has declined despite public data to the contrary.

Carson spoke to this trend in his remarks, saying “I reflect upon the sadness of the decline of our civil discourse…I have made it clear that I am willing to meet with any groups in this community that want to talk about the School Board and the School District”.

Some sources believe that DCP intentionally created the controversy.  They argue that the group set up a board member to come to their party, so they could accuse them of crashing it at the Board Meeting the next day and further paint the Board in negative light.

Conversely, at the Board Meeting Denise admitted it might be a misunderstanding since she stated she was inclined to believe the Board if it released the other invitation. However, DCP does not mention the possibility of a mis-understanding on their website.  A front page letter publicly attacks Carson for sinking to a “new low” and accuses him of intentionally crashing the party.