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Teacher strikes destructive to student achievement

Concerned about the astonishing low student proficiency in Re-2, parents expect teachers to be refining their educational effectiveness and keeping students focused on essential content. Yet on March 1, twenty-five Re-2 teachers instead plotted to inflict Re-2 with a day of educational chaos by walking-out — thus depriving their students an entire precious day of instruction. The lesson provided students that day was how a frenzied minority of workers can organize a spiteful act of civil disobedience to sabotage an administration and a Board they have unilaterally declared to be unfair. Rather than celebrating the fact that Re-2’s declining enrollment crisis has been resolved by the attraction of Merit Academy, these malcontents instead protested against the minor inconveniences that must occur in accommodating the hundreds of students flooding back to Re-2’s half-empty buildings. Such unprofessional union tactics are poisonous to Re-2’s culture and learning environment.

Preceding the teachers’ March 1 insurrection, the three teachers’ unions of our region (WPEA, PPEA and CSEA) met secretly in an Re-2 facility not to discuss how to improve student achievement nor how to best manage the substantially increasing enrollment in Re-2. No, these union activists gathered to do what all government labor unions do: singularly promote the careers (and ideological) interests of their members (teachers) above the interests of their customers and employers (parents, students and taxpayers). The union operatives attending the meeting identified charter school competition and curricular transparency as the greatest threats to the interests of the Union. As competition threatens union monopoly of the education industry, unions methodically conspire to deny parents the freedom to choose alternative educational options like Merit.

Union officials despise educational choice and the fact that Merit has returned hundreds of local students back into the half empty facilities of Re-2 and is scheduled to bring hundreds more next year. Union leadership abhors charter school ability to offer teachers higher compensation based on field of expertise, individual talent and unique abilities (like securing grants) rather than rigidly adhering to union preferred standardized pay schedules based uniformly on years of employment and college credit hours. Charters also offer broader diversity in academic content often not available in smaller school districts. Merit for example offers Latin, a comparative anatomy course (in which students prepare and assemble the full skeletons of large mammals) and a multi-year aviation program that prepares students to become pilots — perhaps even astronauts. Re-2 has been enriched by charter innovations — much to the consternation of union command.

Union brass also doesn’t like pesky parents and elected board members evaluating the appropriateness of instructional content. Recently adopted curricular guidelines like American Birthright interfere with Union opportunity to inflame the student body with delusional (and hate-filled) charges of social injustice.

The silent majority of students, parents and teachers (who recently received an 8.5% pay increase) welcome school choice and support this astute Board — thus provoking the noxious union hysteria, the failed recalls, the infantile board meeting outbursts, and the walk-outs.

Joe Morin, Woodland Park

Opposing racist text is not “book banning”

I have observed over the last few weeks as folks in the peanut gallery have chimed in on the supposed “book banning” that was instigated by a complaint I filed with the district. My journey down this path started with Colorado Open Records Act requests, which I filed to find out if any of the politically charged 1619 Project or CRT material was being taught in WPSD.

I confirmed that indeed, it was. On one email, an administrator asked teachers if they were teaching this material at the behest of the previous board. One teacher responded “I have used a little bit from the 1619 Project for Civil Disobedience.” I also found an email where administrators reported back to the board that this material was not being used, after learning the opposite from instructors.

So much for transparency. This motivated me to seek out the course material, where I found that the only book read cover to cover in this junior/senior level English class was Ta-Nahesi Coates’ “Between the World and Me.” I purchased the book and found that it was a 152 page diatribe in which whites are defined as perpetual racists, and blacks are defined as perpetual victims. Nahesi defines the “American dream” as a farce and he even endorses the political violence pursued practiced by the Black Panthers as an acceptable alternative to the non-violent protests pursued by Martin Luther King and other notable civics leaders.

No contrasting book was read in the class to provide “both sides” to WPSD students. The fact that Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin are studied in the same area of the class, and the “1619” email was sent from the instructor show the intended purpose of this material. It was meant to perpetuate the message of the political left: The color of our skin defines our character and depending on it we are doomed to either live a life of penance seeking for the sins of previous generations, or we are doomed to be forever victims, the farcical American Dream alluding us because of the systemic racism that defines it. Ta Nahesi states: “the power of domination and exclusion is central to the belief in being white, and without it, “white people” would cease to exist for a want of reasons.”

I reject the notion that this book was covered to “share different views with students.” When taught in isolation, under the banner of the 1619 Project, the opposite is occurring. Further, who really believes that this drivel is appropriate for 16- and 17-year olds? Is a book that doesn’t even focus on civil disobedience but rather race-based hatred age-appropriate material for a High School class?

Students are being instructed under the banner of Critical Race Theory much like the Nazis instructed classrooms of German children to view people through the lens of race or Soviet children were taught to view people through the lens of class. I’m grateful that this board voted to adopt social studies standards that prevent this toxic ideology from metastasizing in our schools.

Jameson Dion, Woodland Park

Response to the Richard Harris guest column

Mr. Harris tried to illicit fear in his comments regarding the “Disinformation Governance Board”. However, he did not bother to give all of the facts. The Department of Homeland Security launched the board as a continuation of an effort launched by former President Trump. DHS Secretary Alejandra Mayorkas stated: “ the board is an internal working group that will gather best practices to address the disinformation threat from foreign state adversaries and cartels and “communicate those best practices to the operators.” He added that the board does not have operational authority and it will not monitor American citizens.” On May 2, 2022, the DHS released a statement which said that the board would monitor disinformation spread by “foreign states such as Russia, China, and Iran” and “transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling organizations”, and disinformation spread during natural disasters (listing as an example misinformation spread about the safety of drinking water during Hurricane Sandy). The DHS added that “The Department is deeply committed to doing all of its work in a way that protects Americans’ freedom of speech, civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy.”

On August 24, 2022, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas disbanded the board. However, Mr Harris doesn’t tell you that, leaving you to think that the Board is alive and well, censoring the citizens of the United States. The Department of Homeland Security is not censoring our citizens. As Mr. Harris says in his article, “darkness can never defeat truth in a fair and open fight.” So Mr. Harris, please tell the truth!

Belinda Collins, Woodland Park

Disinformation board not a threat to Christianity

While I can’t say what all Christians believe, I do have a handle on what some Christians believe, and these Christians would not agree with many of the positions taken by Mr. Harris in his recent Guest Column.

I note that Mr. Harris is executive director of Woodland Park’s “Truth and Liberty Coalition.” I know something about truth. My academic training prepared me to pursue truth. It requires careful preparation and comprehensive study of previous work in a subject area, considering, then developing a working hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, and drawing conclusions. This is hard work and doesn’t yield complete truth; it moves us a step closer to truth.

What I found in Mr. Harris’ column was not a carefully researched effort, but a one-sided diatribe against what he called erosion of free speech increasingly hostile to the Church and core Christianity by Joe Biden and the Democratic Party. As just one example, he writes of the Disinformation Governance Board as a continuing threat to Christianity. In fact, the DGB was an internal advisory board for the Department of Homeland Security formed to advise DHS departments about disinformation “including disinformation spread by foreign states such as Russia, China, and Iran, or other adversaries such as transnational criminal organizations and human smuggling organizations.” It had no authority to address issues related to an individual’s freedom of speech and certainly never posed a threat to one’s faith.

Three weeks after its botched roll out and heavy criticism the DGB was disbanded on August 24, 2022. But Mr. Harris leaves his readers with the impression it is ongoing and coming after their Christian values. Mr. Harris’s concern with free speech ignores the banning of books and gag orders being placed on what educators can address in their classrooms. I could go on, but I will wrap up by saying that truth is crucial to a credible Christian witness. In closing, I believe that when I am at my Christian best, I experience and spread love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But what I find in Mr. Harris’ column is fearmongering that promotes strife, anger, quarreling, and dissention, all things Paul wrote about as “works of the flesh” (see Galatians 5:19-23). These lead to neither truth nor liberty but rather to a dystopian-like community.

Sam Gould, Divide

Thoughts on Fear

In 1692 Rebecca Nurse was hung for witchcraft, convicted by a Puritan community eager to believe they were righteous in their indictment. Ten years later, her sentenced was annulled as the courts determined her case was wrongly judged and that she indeed was not a witch. Rebecca Nurse was my grandmother many generations ago.

The annulment of her conviction did not help Rebecca. The only positive result is for future generations to remember that history and the injustice it invoked by righteous indignation. History as depicted teaches us if we listen. Limiting history to only a certain set of facts or a point of view lacks a willingness to broadly understand multiple and sometimes confusing historical events.

I have reflected on Rebecca’s history, while watching the school board ban books. I was curious about two of the books. I read The Snowy Day to my children when they were young and had to look up the book because I had forgotten the book’s main character was black. The book was about snow. The second book, Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates is different. It is about the history of a black child growing up on the streets of Baltimore, learning ways to survive the violent streets. And then, rejecting those values for a different set of norms. The book is a letter written to his son about the need to understand how his own history is different from his son’s. But he contends that America may view both he and his son from the same perspective regardless of the fact his son is raised in a middle-class environment. He only wishes for a better outlook for his son’s future.

Why would we not want to know that history? What could it teach us about another segment of our American society? What could it teach us about civil liberty? Are we afraid to learn something different from what we know? Do we not live in a multi-cultural society? I choose a curious empathetic mind to be a stronger value. One that challenges children to become healthy adults not living in fear of learning.

Darlene Schmurr-Stewart, Woodland Park

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LETTERS POLICY: Letters are published on a space-available basis. Letters of 250 words or fewer are suggested. Guest columns will be published, space allowing, with a suggested word limit of 500 words. Please email your submissions to Courier Editor Michelle Karas at The Courier reserves the right to edit or reject submissions, which should have the author’s name, address and phone number, for verification purposes. The 30-day rule applies in times of high-letter volume. It means that no one person will have more than one letter published in a month’s time.

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