Education, Featured, Thompson

State union leaders behind petition to Thompson school board

A possible slip-up in Roberts Rule of Order at a recent Thompson School District meeting has resulted in a petition that has its own set of problems, including anonymous signatures, political agendas, and out-of-district interference.

During an April 15 meeting, the TSD Board of Education voted 4-3 on an amendment to a motion directing board attorney Brad Miller and Superintendent Stan Scheer to draft a new memorandum of understanding reflecting the board’s thoughts on items to address in the district’s collective bargaining contract. Negotiations on the contract are currently underway between the district and Thompson Education Association (TEA).

CEA Headquarters building in Denver

The original motion, presented by board member Bryce Carlson, did not include certain items presented at the board’s April 1 meeting. The amendment, proposed by Carl Langner, sought to clarify the issue. However, there was a procedural debate over whether the amendment was ever seconded or even needed to be.

Debate ensued about whether the amendment was a friendly amendment – which would only require Carlson’s acceptance – or a traditional amendment, which would require the second. Board president Bob Kerrigan determined it was friendly, but there was disagreement among members of the board about this determination.

On Friday, April 17, an online petition appeared urging board members to “…reconsider the actions you took at your board meeting on April 15, 2015 to direct your legal counsel to draw up a new Memorandum of Understanding between the District and our educators without any input from the most important resource we have in education, our educators.” The petition language also reminded signers that the district has had a collective bargaining agreement for 37 years and called upon board members to “… respect the processes that have been designed and agreed upon for everyone to be respected, and their input valued.”

As required by the district’s current contract, any items raised by the proposed draft MOU would be brought to the bargaining table for full negotiation.

Complete Colorado has learned that the petition is being run by the Colorado Education Association (CEA), the state’s powerful teachers union. The petition itself does not disclose which organization is behind it. Many of the petition’s signatures are anonymous, and some are duplicates. It is unclear how many of the signatures originated within the district. Some of the comments on the petition are insulting or threatening, though the worst comments have since been removed. As of publication, the petition lists more than 1,300 signatures.

CEA president Kerrie Dallman did not respond to Complete Colorado’s request for comment.

Nancy Rumfelt, founder of Liberty Watch-Colorado, a nonprofit citizens group that according to its website “advocate(s) for the Principles of Liberty,” called the tech department at Salsa, the company paid to run the petition. They told Rumfelt the account used for the petition belongs to CEA, she said. Opening a URL on Salsa Lab’s website containing the account number used in the petition URL directs users to CEA’s main website.

More research done by the Independence Institute to break down the signatures on the petition shows that at least eight of the signatures are from high-level CEA officials in other districts (if these signatures are to be believed). These include:

  • Fran Docherty, Poudre R-1 School District and Two Rivers Uniserv Director
  • Nancy McCanless, Jefferson County and CEA Board of Directors
  • John Ford, president of the Jefferson County Education Association and CEA Board of Directors
  • Lori Goldstein, Adams County and CEA Board of Directors
  • Dolly Handel, Colorado Springs and CEA Board of Directors
  • Tom List, Poudre and CEA Board of Directors
  • Kevin LaDuke, Mesa County and CEA Board of Directors

Rumfelt then contacted one of Salsa’s sales representatives to find out what its service would cost, but was told they would not work with her because the company partners exclusively with organizations on the left side of the political spectrum.

“Our company policy is that we work exclusively with left leaning and progressive organizations,” said Brian Hoffman in an email obtained by Complete Colorado. “I certainly don’t want to waste your time, and after browsing through your website it doesn’t appear that Liberty Watch and Salsa are a good fit for each other.”

Complete Colorado staff signed the petition to see what information was validated to make the petition legitimate, but there were no restrictions on the site that prevented someone who does not live in the TSD from using that ZIP code to sign.

Furthermore, it allowed the signer to use any name (Complete Colorado used John F. Kennedy) or to request to be anonymous. As a result, there is no way of knowing how many signatures represent actual registered voters in the Thompson School District. If all signatures were presumed to be legitimate, the survey represents less than 10 percent of the number of voters in the last election and less than 5 percent of the district’s overall constituents, according to an informal Independence Institute analysis.

Rumfelt said everything about the petition contradicts the union’s position from transparency to the use of outside resources to influence district policy.

“The union and those who resist trying new ideas demand transparency and yet hide behind anonymous names or fail to disclose who the author of the petition is,” Rumfelt said. “They seem to be saying, ‘What difference does it make to know who wrote the petition if we agree with them?’”

In fact, on the Liberty Watch Facebook page, comments say exactly that.

“I would doubt these same people would be so understanding if Liberty Watch had Americans for Prosperity write and pay for a petition but did not disclose,” Rumfelt said. “Could Liberty Watch say, ‘What difference does it matter?’ I doubt it.”

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