Eleven candidates are running for five vacant seats on the Eagle County Schools Education Board in the Nov. 2 election, and postal ballots were sent out on Oct. 8.
I vote for the Vote Smart x5 community coalition candidates: Kelly Alter, Lelia Conlin, Juan Peña, Michelle Stecher and Dan Reynolds, and I respectfully urge others to do the same. Go to EagleCountySchoolBoard.com for more information.
This is a critical race, in some ways about the critical race (we’ll talk about that later), and it happens in an election that is usually ignored. As one observer recently said: “Before, you had to train the school board candidates in Gypsum by kicking and shouting.
This is because these seats are unpaid, inglorious volunteer positions that offer the possibility of very sharp criticism from overheated parents, administrators and teachers.
You’re also tasked with bringing together education funding in a chronically underfunded county in a state that is the poster child for not funding its public schools (thank you TABOR, Gallagher and the Public School Finance Act).
So why is this school board election any different? Why is there so much interest in seats that are generally difficult to fill?
Because, as part of a right-wing national strategy, partisan politics, religion, racism and attacks on government, science and public health have been injected into once non-partisan and non-partisan school board races nationally… and now locally.
A local group, whose names I will not publish and whose vile ideas I will not repeat, backs a list of candidates whose names I will not publish – people whom I have seen with my own eyes defy the demands of the mask during school events during a pandemic.
They are made up of what I would consider evangelical Christians, homeschooled, and supporters of our US MP (for part of the county), who embarrassed our condition as a supporter of QAnon, white supremacists, insurgents on Capitol Hill and ignorant of public health and epidemiology.
These are the same people who made up part of an unruly crowd that brought current school board members to hell with less than a week to go last school year, lamenting their loss of personal freedoms because rules on masks were maintained.
Believe me, as the father of a son who graduated from the class of 21, very few of his classmates complained about masks or vaccines. They would have done anything to learn in person, slow the pandemic, and keep their classmates safe, and that is exactly what the school district has accomplished brilliantly this year despite staffing issues and opposition from a unbalanced minority of parents.
Now this imbalanced minority is showing up for the school board, and several good sources tell me there is a cadre within Vail Church who wants to challenge science and challenge COVID-19 masks and vaccines. The sad results of this approach were made public by the family of Meghan Mearns, an unvaccinated and much too young Vail Health worker and a Vail church participant who died last summer of COVID-19.
Our current school board has followed the recommendations of county, state, and federal scientists and doctors to establish policies on masks and vaccines. Do we really want school board members to try to influence public health policies for our children based on their religious beliefs?
Opposition candidates used code in their campaign, emphasizing reading, writing and numeracy, which seems very pragmatic on the surface. But science and the arts are not included in their code, and their obsession with the basics ignores the reality of our diverse student body, 60% of which is ESL children from Mexico and other countries.
As parents of two Battle Mountain High School graduates, with a third son currently in school, my wife and I celebrate this diversity and believe it makes us stronger as a global resort community and destination. We reject the implicit anti-immigrant racism of the Three Rs crowd.
These religious fanatics also have use the code “sexual exploitation” outlining our school system, which of course none of us would want if this actually happened. What this really means is that they oppose the inclusion of the LGBTQ community, as they made clear in their opposition to the pride flags in Avon.
My family supports this community and strongly rejects this kind of fundamentalist, fanatic and dangerous thinking in our schools, or anywhere else in our society.
We also reject the blatant politicization of school board races by the National and Colorado Republican Party. Although there are candidates from several parties on the Vote Smart Slate x5, it doesn’t matter, as these are non-partisan volunteer seats.
In right-wing enclaves like El Paso County (think Focus on the Family Colorado Springs), school board candidates see themselves election-denial, pro-Trump litmus test, while GOP leader and the only elected Republican statewide, CU Regent Heidi Ganahl, is clearly an advocate for the radicalization of school board candidates and the politicization of school boards, even at the level of higher education. She opposed CU’s vaccination mandate and did the laundering US history is also a priority.
All of this would be just sad if it weren’t so scary, because just below the surface in the Republican Party’s new approach is the threat of violence against government officials, teachers, healthcare workers, police and others. others – all in favor of authoritarianism and opposition to democracy.
The same national trend is also found in Avon’s two recall elections, where, if I could vote, I would vote no and reject the anti-government fringe in my neighboring town that simply wants to remove two hard-working public servants for no real reason. and is too loose, lazy, or both to come up with replacement candidates.
Moderating forces in the two dominant political parties at the local, state and national levels must step up to reject rhetoric, turn down the heat and restore sanity to an increasingly insane political process. .
Otherwise something like what happened at my parents’ old house in Grand County with the rampage of the Granby bulldozer will occur here, the the forces that shaped these events will grow stronger and what happened on January 6 in Washington will happen again (for worse) in 2022, 2024 or beyond.
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance journalist who lives at EagleVail and directs RealVail.com, where this column originally appeared. His work has been published in over 50 newspapers and magazines in Colorado and around the world.