CASTLE ROCK – Still stinging from a decisive defeat in November’s nationally watched elections for the Douglas County school board, pro-union campaigners have now turned to a crowdsourcing site popular with left-wing activism, coordinated wardrobe choices, and even drinking games in their ongoing effort to oust supporters of the school district’s cutting-edge reforms.
Despite losing on five of six legal claims that were part of a larger lawsuit against the school district that observers have been described as frivolous, union interests sought last week to put the best possible spin on that setback – filing a petition on the website change.org targeting Douglas County’s reform minded superintendent, Liz Fagen.
The petition, entitled “Superintendent Fagen should resign her position,” had attracted the support of just over 100 people as of press time.
While change.org users can start a petition on almost any issue, the bulk of the site’s petitions are filed in support of left-leaning causes, covering a variety of topics ranging from “economic justice” and gun control to animal rights and amnesty for illegal immigrants.
The site’s popularity has grown in recent years, and has been utilized or signed by a “Who’s Who” of liberal luminaries, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and even President Barack Obama – who signed an anti-banking fee petition on the site in 2011.
But union supporters haven’t limited their online effort to petitions on change.org.
During last week’s school board meeting, opponents of the superintendent and the board took to Twitter to “live Tweet” during the proceedings, at one point suggesting a drinking game for fellow union supporters.
“If they say ‘stakeholders,’ do you win some kind of super trifecta?” added Michelle Baldwin, who uses the handle @michellek107.
And union backers weren’t just present online. Some were also in attendance for the meeting, including failed school board candidates Julie Keim and Barbara Chase – who were both endorsed by the teachers’ union but ultimately defeated by reform-minded candidates in November.
Chase and Keim – who drew attention during the campaign for threatening a blogger attempting to cover one of her events – stood shoulder to shoulder with the newly elected union president Courtney Smith during the meeting, where union backers wore black colored clothing to display solidarity against what they say is a “dying district.”
But supporters of the board shrug off the argument that the district is “dying,” noting that data released by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) last week showed the on-time graduation in Douglas County up by 1.4 percent — bringing the percentage of those in the district who graduate on time to 88.8 percent. That number represents a significant increase from the 81.9 percent who graduated on time in 2009, and puts Douglas County nearly 12 percentage points above the state average of 76.9 percent.
Those numbers come on the heels of a string of district accolades, including six Douglas County’s schools making the list of Newsweek’s top 40 Colorado high schools, an independent assessment that ranked Douglas County as the highest performing of the state’s most populous school districts, and a state survey that showed teachers in Douglas County expressing a higher degree of faith in their school leadership than their counterparts in other parts of the state.
Despite the district’s impressive track record, and the union’s convincing defeat at the polls in November, critics of Fagen appear committed to rolling back the reforms – and removing their architects.
“Thanks to all the [sic] went to the [Board of Education] mtg!” McCombs Tweeted Tuesday night. “I hope they heard us…”