The Dolores RE-4A school board meeting Thursday became heated as parents complained about the school’s decision to allow U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert to speak to students during their assembly in March.
During the portion of the meeting that allows citizens to address the board, five parents about Boebert’s visit. A sixth wasn’t permitted to speak because they didn’t sign up to speak before the meeting started.
The first speaker, who identified herself as Leah, started by saying she wished parents had been allowed to watch the assembly over Zoom since they weren’t permitted to attend in person.
“It would have been so easy to do,” she said. “It probably would have turned down the heat.”
She continued by saying she had sent three different emails to Superintendent Reece Blincoe and Principal Justin Schmidt, but received not reply.
Her comments soon turned to personal attacks as the told the board she didn’t “have any confidence in his (Blincoe’s) ability to lead the school district,” and she was upset that his contract had been renewed for another year.
The next speaker said the district was “dismissive” about parental concerns, which made the district look bad. He told the board that the Montezuma-Cortez school district had the “good sense” to turn Boebert away from talking to their students, and he wanted a public statement from the Dolores school district saying they made a mistake and should have handled the issue differently.
A woman named Mary and a man named Kyle also spoke. Mary said the parents were “left in the dark” by the “disorganized” administration, and all of it had been swept under the rug.
Mary complained about Boebert’s statement about her faith.
During the assembly, a student asked what helped shape the beliefs that influence her political ideologies. Boebert’s response, that “Jesus was the biggest influence in her life,” meant that “Christianity has been openly discussed on campus,” which Mary said was a very bad thing.
Kyle added he was angry that the school had “allowed a polarizing person like Boebert into our schools.”
“I don’t know how it happened,” he said, “but I’m here to make sure it never happens again.”
The last speaker, Molly Cooper, said a Freedom of Information Act request she had filed showed Boebert was the only politician the school had invited to speak, although the school district supposedly stated otherwise.
Cooper said Boebert’s presence victimized students “who are not white and who are LGBT” and put LGBT, nonbinary and trans students at risk.
“This is about holding you accountable for a very poor choice,” Cooper told the board. “I will not move forward … the school is absolutely wrong. There is clearly no leadership because the school did not stop this.”
Board President Meagan Crowley responded to criticism during her board report, saying she attended the assembly to be informed, and she had been very proud of how students behaved during Boebert’s presentation.
“Our students asked terrific questions and were very respectful and attentive,” Crowley said. “I was proud of them; the whole community should be proud of them.”
She emphasized that it gave them the opportunity to talk to the congresswoman about funding for rural schools.
“We’re very underrepresented, and we had a chance to drive that home,” Crowley said. “She was able to walk around our campus and see how desperately we needed funding.” She added that missing out on that opportunity would have been a mistake for the district.
Superintendent Reece Blincoe also addressed the parents in his superintendent’s report, saying, “I made my statement. … I’m not going to bow down from it. I won’t.”
He spoke of the “nasty” emails he received from parents regarding the matter before and since the event took place, and how he had been thoroughly cussed out in many of the emails.
He told the board that he sat down and had lengthy discussions on the matter with two of the parents who had spoken to the board, and he felt that they had had good conversations.
As he spoke about Boebert’s visit to the school, he said her presentation provided “civic students with a unique opportunity to hear from their elected representative” on issues affecting the county and the state of Colorado.
Boebert’s visit came about after her office reached out to the district, letting them know she would be in the area and would love to speak to students after she was unable to come and address students after the student body showed interest in October.
“She did make comments I didn’t agree with, but I think that’s how it is with every politician,” Blincoe said.
Other items discussed at the meeting included celebration reports from the Dolores Elementary archery team, which won a state championship earlier this season. One member placed first in the state as well.
The team, which is made up of Dolores fourth and fifth graders, was invited to Western Nationals in Salt Lake City after their state championship win, and they will take 20 archers to compete against 21 states April 28-29.
Their coach said the archery team builds confidence, teaches focus, emphasizes hard work and opens the door to scholarships in the future.
“It’s been really fun having archery in our school,” she said.
The board also discussed their new student graduate profile committee, saying they had a successful first meeting and had focused on what they wanted students to be equipped with when they walk across the graduation stage.
Blincoe also addressed flooding issues at the school with the snow melting and all the moisture.
“We’re working around the clock,” he said.
While they more than likely won’t be able to save the floors in the gym, they have been working to remove as much water as possible.
Many parents, staff, community members and even students have been pitching in to rectify the flooding situation and try to keep it from happening again.
“From tragedy can come beautiful things,” Blincoe said.
The school also passed its asbestos test with “flying colors” and is receiving a $10,000 donation from Dolores State Bank to help fund its new football scoreboard.
Lastly, the board gave an update on their search for a new board member to fill Lori Raney’s vacant seat and said they had unanimously chosen Michael Ryan to be the new director of the board.
In November, there will be four board seats up for election, including Ryan’s.
The next Dolores school board meeting is April 11 at 6 p.m.