Several recommendations concerning Boulder Valley’s school board elections have been published so far. One endorsement, enunciated by the Boulder Valley Education Association, raises questions.
The association represents all certified employees of the school district, including the teachers and most of the administrators. They endorsed Kitty Sargent, Dean Vlachos and Tina Marquardt as future school board members. Marquardt has no competitor, while Sargent is challenged by Alexandra Eddy in District F and Vlachos competes with Donna Miers and Raj Rawat in District E.
David Stewart, teacher and volunteer for BVEA in the campaign, explained that all candidates were assessed by a questionnaire and a personal interview with an independent teacher. The association wanted the process to be as unbiased as possible and used the Colorado Education Association’s guidelines to contrast the candidates. “They were all asked the same questions,” stated Stewart.
BVEA finally supported the candidates that fit in best to the other board members, proved to be collegial, collaborative and do “not get bogged up at smaller issues,” said Stewart. “We most want a functioning school board,” amplified Stewart, “We just want to get a Board of Education that listens to each other.”
“The school board has basically three jobs,” explained Vlachos, school board candidate in District E, “they set the policy for the school district, they define what the budget will be for the year and then they are responsible for one employee that they have the ability to hire and fire and that is the superintendent. That is their one person that they are responsible for.”
Hiring a new superintendent is one of the more prominent tasks for the new school board – and apparently the most delicate one. Both Rawat, also candidate for District E, and Vlachos admitted that there had been lots of anger and frustration about a lack of transparency in the school board regarding former superintendents.
“For two terms now, the Boulder Valley school district superintendents have left without enough transparency about why,” Rawat described. Especially the dismissal of former superintendent Bruce Messinger last spring threw the (school) district into turmoil.
“There are some legalities, but to answer your questions, I have no idea, I don’t know the exact specifics,” commented Vlachos his knowledge about the dismissal. Neither do the other candidates.
“During the campaign, I asked ‘What happened, what happened, what happened’,” said Alexandra Eddy, candidate for District F. She did not get an answer, why the board hid details about Bruce Messinger’s trial. But she trusts the board’s decision.
Vlachos supposed, it must be some personal related matter. But in his opinion, it is up to the people who are involved what they want to reveal and what not.
Unlike Rawat, who said: “The school board and the school system are paid for by taxpayers’ money. We are talking about our children – there should be no secrets. And if there is reason for something to be kept behind closed doors, then there should be a time that is established, that, at this time, it will be made public, so that everybody does know.”
He further added, that the decision itself is not questionable: “The board didn’t do anything wrong. They must have been on a bind where they cannot disclose it.”
But Rawat questions BVEA’s current endorsement and the association’s motives for their decision.
Rawat received an email, where the association affirmed their public choices for Marquardt, Sargent and Vlachos, but further explained that “if their opponents are elected, we fear an unwelcome shift in our school board away from constructive and collaborative governance and toward more of the opaque and questionable practices of last spring.”
“First, I couldn’t believe, I thought this was a hoax. That somebody wrote a note in their name, to make them look bad,” said Rawat about the, as he called it, “fearmongering style” of the recommendation.
He highly respects teachers as well as the association and could not believe they assume “things like, there will not be transparency, if somebody who was not selected by the teacher’s union gets in, that people are running for the board, because it is their pet project.” Rawat replied to BVEA and asked for clarification.
Stewart said the email, which was sent out to all BVEA members, was only meant for internal communication and therefore “a bit more frank.”
Rawat also forwarded the email and his reply to several persons, among them the six other candidates.
“Yes, I had seen it before,” said Vlachos, environmental engineer and spouse of a teacher, about the E-Mail from the association.
Sargent, a former teacher, said she was probably chosen because she has the experience and her participation in the school board will benefit teachers and parents.
Sargent’s challenger Eddy, herself educated in the BVSD and the youngest candidate in the race, regretted that she didn’t get BVEA’s support.
The association has over 1,400 members and, as Stewart stated, a loud voice in the community.
But, as Stewart further explained, the association will not take any actions in response to Rawat’s request for clarification. Rawat suggested to reconsider their endorsement, said Stewart. As far as he is informed, the association had never reconsidered their decisions before and will not do it this time.