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Our View: Treat Dolores parents as school stakeholders

Distrust remains after Boebert’s assembly, lack of transparency

Implications of U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s visit on March 15 to Dolores Secondary School have lingered and intensified, causing hard feelings and brewing distrust with school administrators. Concerned parents demand more transparency.

Not only about the details of Boebert’s visit but a school request through her office to fund a new track and field, and renovate playgrounds, revealed in Colorado Open Records Act documents. The timing of Boebert’s visit and the federal funding application positioned her as more of a guest to please than a representative to take students’ thoughtful questions at a Q&A.

But first things first. Parents asked the school board to shine light on the details in the assembly planning and decision-making; the school’s determination to disallow parents from attending; and, most frustrating, the administration’s refusal to create a real-time Zoom transcript so parents could have observed without participating.

Setting up a Zoom call would have been easy – multiple parents asked for it multiple times. And is there really no school recording of Boebert’s visit? It was such a big deal. Snippets of sneaked students’ recordings have been leaked and shared, with one landing on a YouTube channel.

Find us on the side of transparency, clear communication, and respect. Treat parents as the stakeholders they are.

Like her or otherwise, Boebert is a polarizing politician. Some welcomed her visit, others were horrified. Administrators knew this and should have accommodated parents worried about her message and brand that don’t jibe with their values. Parents were right to be leery – Boebert waded from governance into political territory.

In Principal Justin Schmitt’s first email to parents, he wanted to “clarify the nature of her visit and address any concerns you may have.” The only concern he seemed to address, though, was whether Boebert would be carrying a firearm.

Note, Schmitt emailed parents on March 13, at 3:10 p.m. about the assembly on March 15, at 10:15 a.m. Not much notice considering the assembly was confirmed on March 2.

An email trail shows on October 21, 2022, DSS Social Studies teacher Edward Miller first asked Boebert’s team whether she could “make a quick stop” at the school “before the midterm elections.”

In an email to Schmitt on March 2, Boebert’s office elevates the “quick stop” to an “assembly” on March 15, where she would share “historic events from the opening of the 118th Session of Congress, answer student questions related to legislative duties, and likely add some personal stories.”

“Historic events” – a red flag – included Boebert up front and center in the 15 rounds it took to elect Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy. We know the story. Boebert and other conservatives demanded – and received – concessions and plum committee assignments in exchange for their support. Boebert scored a spot on the Oversight and Accountability Committee.

In an email on March 5, a teacher expressed her disapproval to the school board. Then rumors swirled like a dust devil in this town of 904 people.

Civic engagement was a pitch for Boebert’s Q&A. But students’ questions were curated with worthy ones rejected. An administrator declined questions, including clarifying Boebert’s position on the separation of church and state; how would she ensure LGBTQ+ people feel safe expressing themselves, as protected by the Constitution; how would she combat climate change and protect our environment?

These questions were legitimate. A learning opportunity lost.

Darwin Cooper, finishing his junior year, said, “It’s one thing to have a representative visit a school and explain civics in a nonpartisan fashion, but it’s another thing when she starts advertising and glorifying her congressional caucus and political views to an audience of impressionable students.”

And until school administrators prioritize parents’ right to know about the assembly’s fine points, it will continue to dog relationships.

Parent Leah Burkett filed formal complaints against Schmitt and Superintendent Reece Blincoe. In an audio file, Blincoe talked about parents’ emails and said: “I’m not hiding anything. I read every single one of them, then I delete them. They’re not worth keeping.”

Burkett interjected, “Or responding to.”

Blincoe said, “No.”

CORA documents revealed that weeks before Boebert’s visit, administrators asked for details from her office on applying for $1.5 million in Fiscal Year 2024 Community Project Funding for a new track and field, and renovated playgrounds. The total cost was projected to be $2.5 million. But no professional quote or bid was included.

This was news to Dolores.

On the application, the start date for the track and field is June 2023, with completion by August 2023. Apparently, at a community meeting for the district’s Master Plan on April 11, the superintendent discussed the BEST grant and the need for a voter bond initiative, but not this $1.5 million application. In fall 2024, construction is scheduled for a new field house, directly next to the new track and field. A new track and field built before the field house plan would put the track and field at risk of ruin. As is, the track would be in a floodplain.

Of course, Dolores would benefit from these upgrades. But who would the contractor be? There is no open – or expired – Request for Proposal on the district’s website. Appropriate steps must be taken.

According to the House Appropriations Committee website, though, Boebert did not submit the district’s request after all.

We hope DSD does the right thing, being transparent about everything. Parents are invested. They are the true stakeholders.

* Correction: Field house construction scheduled for fall 2024.