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D-11's public engagement session turns into political wrangle

By: KRISTINA IODICE
October 24, 2012
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	 Photo by The Gazette file
Photo by The Gazette file 

A session where Colorado Springs School District 11 parents and other residents are encouraged to bring issues to the school board turned into a political discussion after board member Bob Null invited officials who oppose Amendment 64 to address the board.

That irritated his fellow board members, and led to a heated exchange when Null insisted that people had a right to present their concerns, and others countered that it was not the time for a political discussion. Board member Sandra Mann criticized Null for single-handedly inviting the speakers, who apparently thought he was speaking for the entire board.

Null said he invited them on his own, and never implied the invitation was from the entire board. He said he wanted them to share his experience and knowledge of marijuana use and abuse among students.

Amendment 64 would legalize and regulate marijuana.

Dan May, 4th Judicial District Attorney, and El Paso County Undersheriff Paula Presley spoke briefly on the matter.

May, who called himself a product of D-11, asked board members to tell the community what their stance is on Amendment 64. He said many other school districts and organizations that D-11 works with have come out against the amendment.

Presley said the proposed amendment is a violation of federal law, and that may lead to problems with any funds that are collected.

Theresa Null also spoke against the amendment and said marijuana businesses are all in the poorer areas of the city. She asked board members if they cared about students. She is Bob Null’s wife, but said she was speaking as a resident and parent of a D-11 graduate.

Board President Janet Tanner said it is up to the board to decide on a stand on the issue, and thus far they have decided not to address it.

The amendment has not been discussed at board meetings, although the question of whether or not the board should take a stand on the issue has been discussed four times, including at meetings, and they decided not to take action, Tanner said.

Regardless of how the matter is settled on Election Day, the board will continue its work making decisions that benefit students, she said.

“We’re going to make sure our students are safe,” she said.

On Wednesday, Null addressed the board at its regular meeting and apologized for his conduct and discourteous comments at Tuesday’s meeting. He added that the board owes apologies to May, Presely, Theresa Null and others in District 11.

“Our board must not deter individuals from speaking on subjects that may not be popular with the board’s thoughts, ideas and agendas,” he said.

Null said he intends to keep pushing for the board take a public position on Amendment 64, although he said it may be unlikely since a majority of board members must approve the addition to any meeting agenda.

In other comments at Tuesday’s engagement session, one parent praised the work of teachers and another asked the board to allow Wasson High School students to finish their high school years at the campus, regardless of budget or other decisions.

Board members said any mention of Wasson in discussions among district officials is just part of a long list of possible ways to make the district more efficient.

“It’s not just a budget thing, its about doing the right thing,” said Elaine Naleski, D-11 board secretary.

Contact Kristina Iodice: 636-0162 Twitter @GazetteKristina Facebook Kristina Iodice

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