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Recall fervor spreads through D 49

Grassroots efforts are under way to recall two Falcon School District 49 board members and replace the remaining three members in the regularly scheduled school board election next fall. The effort is led by a group of parents organized under the name D 49 Community. They are working hard to capitalize on the public outcry surrounding news that D 49 considered firing Mike and Sandy Collins, principals of Sand Creek and Vista Ridge high schools, respectively.More than 100 people attended a D 49 Community meeting March 21 in a vacant storefront on the Powers Boulevard corridor. Tom Harold, D 49 Community activist, urged parents not to lose the momentum gained in recent weeks. He said past efforts to oust the board or affect change have fizzled out. “That’s what the board is counting on,” he said. “That we’re going to die out, we’re going to go away at spring break.”D 49 parent Ann Fletcher spoke at the recall meeting and said the current D 49 board works behind closed doors. “There are too many executive sessions, more than any other district. A board that never answers any questions or never tells you what direction they are going in to, we can only assume they must be hiding something,” Fletcher said. “Those who are working in an open and honest manner have nothing to hide.”Fletcher said the board has lost focus and detracts from the educational needs of D 49 students by pushing political agendas such as changing the name of “Winter Break” to “Christmas Break.” She is concerned that recent changes to board policy are efforts to consolidate power and disregard committees originally instituted to provide community input.Tracey Stuehm said D 49 Community voted at the March 21 meeting and decided to recall board members Kent Clawson and Dave Martin. Stuehm is working closely with D 49 Community to solidify the recall movement and identify three community members to form an official recall committee.”We want to time (the recall) correctly with the November election so there is no special election and no extra cost to the district,” Stuehm said.Terms for the seats held by the other three board members – Anna Bartha, Dave Stark and Mark Shook – are up for re-election this year. Another branch of D 49 Community will focus its efforts on finding strong candidates to run for the open positions, Stuehm said.”We are looking very closely for candidates with the right qualifications,” which include honesty, integrity and community involvement, she said.She echoed the complaints of many community members and said the board does not listen to the community, makes poor decisions selecting district leaders and lacks transparency.”I think these boards forget that they are made of five people,” Stuehm said. “The meetings must be public and decisions made in public.”Kelly Jo Salling-Davies attended both the D 49 Community recall meeting and the D 49 board meeting the night 300 people rallied in support of the Sand Creek and Vista Ridge principals.”I was so happy with the outcome of the board meeting,” Salling-Davies said, referring to the board’s statement that Mike and Sandy Collins would continue at their schools.But Salling-Davies also said there are many questions left unanswered. Parents were told the Collinses were not being renewed because the district was moving in a new direction. “What is the new direction?” Salling-Davies asked. She also is concerned that the political makeup of the board points the district on a path to becoming a fundamentalist right-wing school district. “I’m worried that by the time my daughter gets to high school they’ll be teaching creationism and abstinence only,” Salling-Davies said.D 49 board members and administration have not been forthcoming on information regarding any new direction the district is taking or why the Collins’ contracts were not going to be renewed. Board President Anna Bartha did not respond to requests for information concerning the matter. Acting Superintendent Eric Paugh said he could not comment specifically on a new direction or the plan of action for the Collinses. “All I can say is that we are continually striving to improve student achievement as it remains our primary focus,” Paugh said.He added that the district is committed to eliminating district-wide gaps in curriculum as highlighted by the results of a recent curriculum audit. “This audit was an extremely valuable process because it grades us against a perfect ideal and that allows us to strive for the absolute best in all areas.”

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