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Friday Churn: Heard, not seen, in Dougco

What’s churning:

Douglas County school board members today kick off a two-day retreat in Englewood that includes the first public airing of reports on “option certificates” or vouchers.

But any community members wanting to see for themselves what it’s all about may be disappointed. Michelle Tripp, who works for the district’s communications office, told Education News Colorado on Thursday that plans call for the public – and the media – to be in a room separate from board members.

An audio feed would be provided, Tripp said, along with a projection of whatever Powerpoint-type presentation might be shown. But that’s it.

When questioned about the arrangement, Tripp replied that board members were “working” as it’s a “work session.” She added that the meeting room at the ISC Corp. in Englewood is “small.”

Some other large districts, such as Denver and Jefferson County, have occasionally set up video feeds from board meetings to accommodate audience overflow. But this is the first we’ve heard of board members deciding at the outset to sequester themselves visually.

EdNews heard later in the afternoon that other media were complaining and there was talk of legal intervention. We’ll keep you posted.

There’s little doubt the ideas presented in the two-day retreat, most of which is devoted to school choice, will be controversial for some.

Today’s agenda includes the somewhat vaguely worded “choice programming presentation” – Tripp couldn’t specify what that meant – at 4:10 p.m., followed by a Q & A and discussion about the option certificates from 5:10 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. It’s not listed on the agenda but word is that Eric Hall, the Colorado Springs lawyer hired to research vouchers for the district, may make an appearance.

Tomorrow’s agenda includes 20-minute presentations from each of the seven school choice subcommittees, starting at 9:10 a.m. Speakers from the committees include:

  • Karin Piper, author of a charter schools handbook for parents, talking about home-schooling partnerships.
  • Pam Benigno of the Independence Institute talking about open enrollment reform.
  • Doug Benevento, a Dougco school board member, will tell his board colleagues about contract schools.
  • Gary Stueven, who runs a Dougco charter school, will talk about charter schools.
  • Heather O’Mara, who runs HOPE Online Learning Centers, now chartered out of Dougco, will talk about online learning.

You can see the full agendas here. The retreat is being held at the ISC Corporation, 8680 Concord Center Drive, Englewood.

Even if the public can get into the same room as the board, there isn’t time allotted for comments or questions. That’s scheduled for the board’s Tuesday meeting, which includes a community hearing at 7 p.m. That agenda isn’t public yet.

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