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Voices: Open letter to Douglas County

In his open letter to Douglas County municipalities, Dougco teacher Kevin DiPasquale longs for things as they were under former Superintendent Rick O’Connell.

I moved to Douglas County 13 years ago when the county and schools were growing between number one and two in the nation in population growth and construction.
I am writing to you in light of the recent endorsement from Castle Rock’s Economic Development Council’s of Douglas County Schools proposed pay-for-performance plan and my opposition to it.

What drew me to Douglas County first and foremost were the schools and second was the lifestyle offered.

However, what drew me to Douglas County as a citizen does not exist as it once did. I have been employed by Douglas County Schools since 2000 and have seen firsthand the change of our longest standing superintendent, Rick O’Connell, to our current Board of Education and superintendent, Liz Fagen. Unfortunately, the collaboration that existed when I began working in my life’s chosen career, public education, is no longer intact.

Our pay-for-performance program that once existed with tried and true professional development, level three research (the highest level of research to be piloted, adjusted and implemented), does not exist for employees of Douglas County Schools. The longest standing performance pay plan in the nation has been disbanded. While most teachers, myself included, support a pay-for- performance plan, the current proposal is not supported by most teachers. When teachers and other support staff communicated the need for collaboration with the new pay-for-performance program, they were rebuked.

If you were to ask for the names of experienced educators involved in the creation of the newest plan, the list would be nearly nonexistent. A pay-for-performance plan that works in the private sector is not going to be successful in the field of education.

With the turmoil that surrounds Douglas County Schools, I am asking that an in-depth look at the issues be investigated before any support for the school district be considered. Douglas County schools used to be touted as an innovative school district not afraid of change nor doing what is best for students and staff. Unfortunately, this is not the current landscape of our local school district.

Students do not receive the same level of education as once was the norm in the district. I am a taxpayer with students in the school system and I am appalled at the lack of support for all students and staff. As but one person in a county of thousands without my own communication center to share what I want others to know and believe, it is my duty as a public citizen to share with you my disappointment in the actions of our local school district, which is disparaging to its own, while touting programs that do not exist. As an employee, I feel betrayed knowing the collaboration that once existed is no longer wanted nor valued.

Please consider the facts and speak with constituents on all sides of the school issues before endorsing or partnering with Douglas County Schools at this time. Too many missteps have been made, including exorbitant “bonuses” recently given to the upper cabinet members as teachers have been cut. In addition choice for students has dwindled, all while the public is being told more choices exist.

The least that should happen is a full investigation. With confidence, I send this communication in hopes of enabling Lone Tree to delve deeper into the goings on of Douglas County Schools for the sake of our students, teachers, citizens and future of our schools.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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