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Peaceful protest planned for Dougco meeting

Those opposed to Douglas County’s recent reform initiatives are planning a peaceful protest outside district headquarters during tonight’s school board meeting.

The meeting, originally scheduled for Tuesday but postponed to allow attendance at a staff member’s memorial, begins at 5 p.m. The protest is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock.

A flier for the event describes it as a coming together of community stakeholders “to make known our concerns regarding the direction this current Board of Education is taking.”

Among the demands listed by protestors is resuming negotiations between the district and its teachers union so that a collective bargaining agreement is reached. The agreement expired July 1 after the two sides were unable to come to terms.

An agenda posted Tuesday indicates board members will discuss potential ballot measures affecting the district’s relationship with the teachers union, the Douglas County Federation of Teachers. According to the agenda, public comment begins at 7 p.m. and the ballot measures discussion is set for 8:10 p.m.

Board members at their Aug. 21 meeting said they were considering three questions to put before voters on Nov. 6:

  • Should the district be prohibited from using public funding for the compensation of union leaders?
  • Should the district be prohibited from collecting union dues from employee paychecks on the union’s behalf?
  • Should the district be prohibited from engaging in collective bargaining with the union?

Board members have until Friday to decide which of the questions, if any, will go on the ballot.

At least one group is opposing the proposed measures. Taxpayers for Public Education, a group which helped halt the district’s voucher program, has started a petition drive to stop the ballot proposals, declaring them “improper, legally void and a massive waste of taxpayer money and public school funds.”

Meanwhile, a Denver attorney has weighed in on the ballot measures issue, declaring the board has “absolutely no authority – none – to place such questions before district voters.”

Mark Grueskin, who identifies the Douglas County teachers union as his client, sent a letter Tuesday to the district’s legal counsel, Rob Ross.

“Further, should you elect to place one or more such policy questions on the ballot, my client and other plaintiffs will sue over the extent of the board’s authority – a lawsuit that, if successful, will undercut district efforts in this field and potentially others by very clearly delineating the boundaries of your authority,” the letter states.

Grueskin is known for his work on behalf of teachers’ unions, particularly the Colorado Education Association. He also weighed in on education reform drama in Denver when board members voted on a contentious improvement plan for Lake Middle School.

Douglas County school district spokesman Randy Barber said the district had no comment on Grueskin’s letter.

→ The next step in Dougco’s voucher dispute has been scheduled. Oral arguments are slated to begin at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 15 before the Colorado Court of Appeals in downtown Denver.

The court’s notice of oral argument states each side gets 15 minutes, unless they’ve sought and obtained permission for more time, and the two sides are prohibited from reading from their legal filings at length.

Dougco school board members unanimously approved a district-run voucher program on March 15, 2011 but a Denver district judge halted it a few months later, in August 2011.

The district and the state, both defendants in the lawsuit stopping the program, then filed appeals. Catch up on the case with the EdNews Dougco voucher archives.

→ A committee of the Metropolitan State University trustees is scheduled to get a briefing today on the effect of Metro’s new “High School/GED Non-resident Tuition Rate,” which sets tuition for undocumented students between the non-resident cost and the rate for resident students.

The full board has a briefing on the issue scheduled during its meeting Thursday. The issue is listed as an information-only item on both agendas. The special rate, approved by the trustees earlier this year, went into effect for students enrolling at Metro this fall. See this EdNews story for background.

The full board also has an executive session scheduled Thursday. State law allows closed meetings to discuss legal matters. There have been threats to sue Metro over the new rate, but there have been no reports of suits filed.

→ Aurora Citizens for Excellent Schools plans a campaign kickoff today to spur support for the school district’s proposed $15 million operating tax increase.

The group is the citizens’ committee campaigning on behalf of the Aurora Public Schools’ ballot measure, which is billed as recovering “a portion of $70 million in state funding cuts” the district has endured.

A news conference is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. at the tennis courts on Nome St & 11th Ave., just north of Aurora Central High School. Committee members are expected to discuss how the ballot measure would address pressing academic needs faced by the district.

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