DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — Some national publications are calling it the most important school board election in the country.
And Friday, hundreds of people braved the chilly rain to bring attention to the Douglas County School Board and their policies.
The district educates about 65,000 students in more than 70 schools. It is the third-largest school district in Colorado
“Vote for a change! Vote for a change!” yelled a group of about 300 people outside Douglas County School District headquarters in Castle Rock.
They held handmade signs and encouraged drivers to honk in support of their cause.
Each of them said they want change.
“It’s time to stop. We cannot go on this way. It’s hurting our schools. It’s hurting our district. It’s time to vote these members out,” said mother of three and protest organizer, Jody Lynman.
That change they said begins with voting out four of the seven school board members in November.
“I am a mom. And when you make a mom mad you’re going to hear us roar. When you mess with our kids, you mess with us,” said mother of three and protest organizer, Brenda Greengold.
Three moms organized the rally to protest the school board’s reforms they say hurts teachers and ultimately, the quality of their kids’ education.
“Our great teachers are leaving and our students aren’t performing. And so our board has implemented all this,” said mother of three and protest organizer, Dina Chatwin.
The vocal crowd of critics said the nation’s first suburban school voucher program is unconstitutional, and that the teacher evaluation system is unfair. They said teachers are now voiceless without collective bargaining rights.
“I believe the Douglas County School District is an excellent district. I believe in the leadership we have, and I believe in the reforms they have put into place,” said mother of two, Franceen Thompson.
She is one of just two, in a sea of naysayers, who came out to support the changes.
“We’ve got the highest performing school district in the state. Our students do the best in the state and our teachers are the best in the state,” said Douglas County School Board President John Carson.
He said their support is wide—and he disputes claims critics make about dropping test scores and teacher morale. He says a recent survey supports the district.
“Teacher morale was very high–higher than it has ever been. We are very confident these innovations have support from teachers, principals and parents and is good for students,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for Douglas County. We are doing some terrific things. Performance is rising, graduation rates are going up, test scores are going up.”
Protestors said teachers are leaving the district because they are unhappy with the changes. But the district disputes that. It says for 400 teacher openings this year, more than 26,000 people applied. The district says it is a destination district for teachers.