Group wants school board accountabilty

Committee leaders emphasize collaboration over dissension

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A committee designed to hold the Douglas County School Board accountable to the community held its first formal meeting Nov. 21 at the Castle Rock library.

About 20 people, including at least two who strongly support the current board, listened as interim group leaders described the Community Accountability Committee’s goals.

“We are not saying as a committee that everything the school board does is wrong, because that’s not true,” said Gary Colley, who is chairing the group. “We’re trying to get together to have our elected officials work with us on areas that are so contentious. We think there needs to be a united voice the district ultimately will listen to.”

Colley, a retired teacher and faithful board meeting attendee, repeatedly has asked the board to more effectively engage the community. Frustrated by a lack of response, he began forming the committee a few months ago.

Though the committee’s first meeting was open to all, members of the committee’s interim leadership team — and most of those who attended the meeting — supported the challenger candidates. Most share concern about the impact of the board’s education reform policies on teachers, students and the community.

“The good news is we’ve got a lot of smart people with a lot of passion about how to make our schools better,” said Adam Brink, whose wife is a teacher.

Former school-board candidate Julie Keim is among the committee’s leaders, along with former board member Emily Hansen and county residents Adam Brink, Jack Johnson and Connie Ingram. Those members are designated as interim leaders, Colley said, with the idea that committee members eventually will choose their own.

Brink emphasized that the interim leaders don’t share the same opinions about district-related issues.

“From my observation at a distance, it feels as if there’s something very broken in terms of leadership and execution at the school level,” Johnson said. “My experience is the best intentions can be undermined through poor execution.”

The CAC so far includes nine subcommittees focusing on topics that range from school finances and ethics to curriculum and evaluations.

The group’s purpose is not to challenge the board’s authority, Colley said, but to offer a community voice ¬— particularly on contentious issues.

“One of the things I like is our school district is focused on being the best,” Colley said, adding he believes it also could provide a model example of community collaboration. “We really need to stop butting heads. We have to help the board of education do their job. When it gets contentious, that’s hard.

“As we move forward, if we’re doing things that are well-intentioned and thought-provoking, the school board should respond.”

By the same token, Colley said the committee sprang from discontent and wants its voice heard.

“We did not go to the work to put together a CAC to not stand up for what we believe in,” he said.

“This committee should not be dictating to (the school board), but a seven-member board should not be dictating things to the community that the community has a strong concern (about).

“At the national and state level, there doesn’t seem to be an accountability system in place. Why would we allow that on a local level? There are certain components of our society have to be held accountable.”

The CAC’s next meeting likely will occur in January, Colley said, but hasn’t yet been scheduled.