About 200 outraged parents, teachers and community members rallied in front of the Douglas County School District’s administration building in Castle Rock on Sept. 27.
Cold, damp weather did not dim their enthusiasm or ire, which was directed at the school board and district leadership. Some drivers passing by on Wilcox Street honked and waved, some stared and others ignored the waving, chanting, cheering crowd.
“I’m disgusted, I’m furious and I’m appalled,” said Janica Winn, holding a sign reading, “4 Kids, not 4 Profit.” Winn’s daughter graduated from the district and her son is a high school student.
“I don’t feel my son is getting the same education my daughter did,” she said, citing larger class sizes, decreased graduation requirements and diminished electives among her concerns.
“(The district) won’t even give us the money we need for capital improvements,” she said. “Instead, they spend $50,000 to bring in Bill Bennett.”
Bennett, the former U.S. Secretary of Education, spoke in Lone Tree Sept. 25 during an event financed by the school district’s nonprofit educational foundation.
The rally, sparked by an accumulation of concerns, also was called to urge Douglas County residents to cast their votes for change on the board Nov. 5. With the exception of a handful of people, those gathered for the rally supported candidates Barbra Chase, Bill Hodges, Julie Keim and Ronda Scholting. All four attended the rally.
They are running against the Republican slate of candidates: incumbents Doug Benevento and Meghann Silverthorn, along with Judi Reynolds and Jim Geddes.
Chad Mathis, who supports the current board, stood on the opposite side of the street from most of the protesters, holding a sign to indicate he’s OK with recent policy changes and the board’s push for an ever-increasing array of education options.
“The more options we have, the more likely we are to find that one that meets our child’s needs,” said Mathis, a father of two young children.
Charcie Russell, a member of Great Choice Douglas County, holds a similar view.
“We like the choice in education that this administration and school board are providing,” she said.
Rebecca Waye and her 3-year-old son Tyson, bundled in a down coat, stood on the corner of Wilcox and Sixth Street, both waving signs.
“We think it’s time for a change in the school board,” Waye said. “I think they’re not being up front about decisions that are being made with our tax dollars, and they are not respectful of the parents.”
Wendy Vogel, a parent who’s helped lead the charge against the current board, was smiling in spite of the cold. She’s optimistic the election will bring about the change in leadership most people at the rally believe is needed.
“I feel good about it,” she said. “I think people are a lot more informed now than they were even two months ago.”