A teacher’s open letter to Nate Easley

My cat just died, so I’m having a pretty lousy evening. I’ve been watching her die for the last three days. I didn’t have enough money to take her to the vet. You know what else is bugging me, Nate?

My cat just died, so I’m having a pretty lousy evening.  I’ve been  watching her die for the last three days.  I didn’t have enough money to  take her to the vet.

You know what else is bugging me, Nate?

  • We got a new student at my school this week – a thirteen-year-old girl  from Honduras who just spent four months  alone in a detention center in Texas.  I’ll be “to blame” for her CSAP scores in two weeks.
  • We got a new student at my school this week – an 8th grade boy who  lives next to Bryant-Webster and attended there since 3rd grade.  He just returned from living with his mom in New Mexico for the past 6 months, and you know what?  He was DENIED attending Bryant-Webster.  Isn’t that a PUBLIC school, Nate?  You know, like a PUBLIC library?  Like a Post Office?  Where EVERYONE can go?
  • My daughter woke up with a fever on Monday morning.  I brought her to work with me, because I knew it was unlikely to get a sub at 7:15 a.m. on a Monday.  That’s how dedicated I am.

You’re being recalled not because of being Nate, but because of all that you stand for.  You and your rich folks’ clubs who pop in to “help” education could have been doing something all along to help education. Pay TAXES.  Are you willing to stand up for taxes so that schools don’t have to scrimp and save to help children who are desperate for a safe
place and a good education?  Probably not.  And that’s why you’ll be recalled, if I have to walk around and get the last  signatures myself.

Because I have to be in the union in order to create a more just system…and to beg for a salary that might allow me to have enough money to bring my dying animal to the vet.

Sincerely,

A Teacher Who Canvassed to Get You Elected

Easley Recall Effort Nets Signature Surge

Recall campaign committee members this week reported that they’ve collected “nearly 1,000” of the 5,363 valid signatures they need to put the recall measure on the ballot, all within “two or three days” of hard work after getting approval last Wednesday from the city’s elections division.

by Roger K, Clendening (reprinted with permission)

The campaign to recall Denver Public Schools (DPS) board president Dr. Nate Easley made significant headway in just a few days after petitions were approved last week, recall committee members told DWN Wednesday.  As the petition drive heated up, State Senator Mike Johnson, D-Denver, came under scrutiny and was pointedly questioned for his allegiance to Easley after he expressed disappointment about the Easley recall effort in his Senate District 33 newsletter.  Recall campaign committee members this week reported that they’ve collected “nearly 1,000” of the 5,363 valid signatures they need to put the recall measure on the ballot, all within “two or three days” of hard work after getting approval last Wednesday from the city’s elections division.

Nate Easley

“We started, earnestly, last Saturday and by this past Monday, we had nearly 1,000 signatures on the petitions,” John McBride, a spokesman for the recall coalition and president of the Northeast Community Congress for Education (NCCE), told DWN in an interview Wednesday afternoon.  In addition to NCCE, the recall coalition includes the Black Education Advisory Council (BEAC), and Democrats for Excellent Neighborhood School Education (DeFENSE).  The groups, their members, and citizen-taxpayers from across the city are working collaboratively to collect the 5,363 valid signatures they need by the last week in April. If and when Denver elections officials determine enough valid signatures have been submitted, they will arrange to put the recall measure on the ballot, comprised of a yes or no on recalling Nate Easley, and on who shall replace him if the recall succeeds. As the recall effort was making headway, Sen. Johnston, who represents parts of Northeast and Far Northeast Denver, said he is backing Easley and hopes his constituents do the same. In taking that position, Johnston, considered by some an education “expert,” was sticking to his years-long agenda that includes “education reform” as espoused by corporate and foundation backers who financially support charters and privatization of public schools.  Johnson, in fact, was among those who called for closing and reconstituting Montbello High School a year before DPS followed Easley’s lead as board president last November, uniting with Theresa Pena, Bruce Hoyt and Mary Seawell – the four of whom comprise a majority seen as consistently favoring education reform via charter schools and privatization – in approving the largest “turnaround” of public schools in Denver’s history, all of them in Easley’s, and Johnston’s, district.

Over three years, DPS will spend $12.6-million (with some of the money expected to come from the Walton Family Foundation, a major financier of charter schools) to close some schools, replace some with charters, and “phase out” and “turnaround” others as part of its proposal to “strengthen schools” and “expand options” in Montbello and Green Valley Ranch.

In Johnston’s newsletter dated January 2011 Vol. 1, Issue 2, in a section entitled “Moving Forward in the Far Northeast,” he told constituents: “Over the past year, dedicated community leaders in the far northeast took part in a long and collaborative conversation about the future of schools in Montbello and ultimately supported the decision that we needed dramatic change to give all kids a better chance at success. “No one knew this better than Nate Easley,” he wrote, adding that Easley, a Montbello High School alum who was a “teenage father who earned a PhD and rose to become” DPS board president.  Dr. Easley, Johnston wrote, is a “courageous and accessible leader who took seriously his responsibility to do what was best for kids.”

“That is why I was disappointed to hear this week that there is an effort to recall Nate,” Johnston continued, adding that “I will be standing strong to support Nate and hope that you do the same.” He then asserted that “there is too much work to be done on behalf of Denver’s kids to waste time trying to go backwards.”

But Johnston’s support of Easley angered many, according to interviews. In particular, though, it “saddened” Earleen Brown, an education and political activist who, as the former president of the Green Valley Ranch (GVR) Metropolitan District, is deemed a blossoming political powerhouse by many.

“I am saddened and disappointed to read that you are publicly supporting Nate Easley,” wrote Brown in an email she shared with DWN. By doing so, she wrote, “you are obviously and publicly supporting the conflicts of interest that exist as a result of (1) Nate Easley’s position as President of the Denver Public Schools Board of Directors and (2) Nate Easley’s position as Deputy Director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation – at the same time.” “Surely,” she went on, “you have not forgotten (from our meetings and electronic communications) the intense ethical, legal, and financial battles that residents of Green Valley Ranch endured because of similar conflicts of interest that existed when one T.J. Stone served as (1) board member and President of the GVR Metropolitan District Board of Directors as well as (2) board member and President of the Homeowners Association of Green Valley Ranch – at the same time.”

Pictured discussing the merits of the alternate proposals to DPS plans for turning around scools in Far Northeast Denver in October 2010, are GVR resident Earleen Brown (center) and retired educators Dr. Glenn Hanley and Mary T. Sam. In an email to Sen. Johnston, Brown wrote, “I am saddened and disappointed to read that you are publicly supporting Nate Easley.”

“I was President of the GVR Metropolitan District during the time when the community was devastated by the conflicts of interest imposed upon it by one T.J. Stone,” wrote Brown in providing Johnston with an example that should bring home the point of Easley’s conflict. “I and other community leaders met with you, Michael Hancock (City Council member for the northeast and now a mayoral candidate supportive of the DPS “transformation” in his district) and Angela Williams (now a State Representative covering the district) during those many months of community turmoil. “

“Angela has taken action,” Brown wrote. She has introduced a Bill which “prohibits individuals from serving concurrently on the board of directors for a metropolitan district and HOA within that district. The bill also requires HOA members to abstain from voting on issues where they or their family would benefit financially.”(Emphasis in Brown’s email)

Brown went on to remind Johnston that her property tax statement, the 2010 real estate tax due in 2011, reads: “60% of these taxes are determined by and collected for the Denver Public Schools.”  “I am opposed to the current DPS turnaround/closure plans,” she pointed out to Johnston. “I support public, neighborhood schools, and the right of every child to have an opportunity to receive a high quality education.”

She went on to challenge Johnston, wondering whether, in deciding and determining his support of Easley, if he can support Easley’s purported conflict of interest; violation of state open meetings law; violation of open records law; and Easley not being responsive and representative of constituents in his district.

Johnston had not responded to an email or a telephone message by DWN’s deadline.

Ms. Brown questions Sen. Johnston’s support of Easley’s conflict of interest

Ms. Earleen Brown is a well-respected member of the community.  We have reprinted her letter to state Senator Michael Johnston here with her permission.

January 31, 2011

Michael,

I am saddened and disappointed to read that you are publicly supporting Nate Easley; by doing so, you are obviously and publicly supporting the conflicts of interest that exists as a result of (1) Nate Easley’s position as President of the Denver Public Schools Board of Directors and (2) Nate Easley’s position as Deputy Director of the Denver Scholarship Foundation – at the same time.

Surely you have not forgotten (from our meetings and electronic communications) the intense ethical, legal, and financial battles that residents of Green Valley Ranch endured because of similar conflicts of interest that existed when one T.J. Stone served as (1) board member and President of the GVR Metropolitan District Board of Directors as well as (2) board member and President of the Homeowners Association of Green Valley Ranch – at the same time.

I was President of the GVR Metropolitan District during the time when the community was devastated by the conflicts of interest imposed upon it by one T.J. Stone. I and other community leaders met with you, Michael Hancock, and Angela Williams during those many months of community turmoil. Angela has taken action – she has introduced a Bill which “prohibits individuals from serving concurrently on the board of directors for a metropolitan district and HOA within that district. The bill also requires HOA members to abstain from voting on issues where they or their family would benefit financially”.

A notation on my property tax statement (2010 real estate tax due in 2011) reads: “60% OF THESE TAXES ARE DETERMINED BY AND COLLECTED FOR THE DENVER PUBLIC SCHOOLS.”

I am apposed to the current DPS turnaround/closure plans. I support public, neighborhood schools. I support the right of every child to have an opportunity to receive a high quality education.

In determining your support of the DPS turnaround/closure plans, I hope you examined the full impact that the plan would have on our public neighborhood schools and community here in Far Northeast.

In determining your support of the DPS turnaround/closure plans, certainly you examined, discovered, can explain and provide details:

(1) How approximately 1600 seats currently at Montbello High School can be reduced to approximately 300 seats in 2012 without the loss of approximately 1300 seats. Where will those 1300 seats go?

(2) How and where all seats affected by the DPS plan will be filled within the DPS boundaries, without loss of students, and without “busing” students outside their neighborhoods.

(3) Current # of DPS student enrollments per school and per grade.

(4) Current # of students living within DPS boundaries, but attending schools outside of DPS boundaries.

(5) List/contrast per school and per grade, the current student enrollment and any changes (per school, per grade, positive and negative) that will take place as as a result of the DPS plan.

(6) List/contrast the dollar value of current student enrollment/seats in each DPS school and per grade, versus any financial changes/influences (positive or negative) that will be realized by imposing the DPS turnaround/closure plans.

(7) If and how my taxes will be impacted by the evidential loss of public education seats/students in the Far Northeast.

In determining your support of Nate Easley, certainly you can explain why you support:
(1) Easley’s conflict of interest,
(2) Easley’s violation of state open meetings law,
(3) Easley’s violation of open records law
(4) Easley not being responsive and representative of constituents in his district.

Thank you.

Earleen Brown

_____________________

A little background context:

For more than 30 years, the schools in the greater Montbello area have languished in neglect by the DPS central administration, woefully under-resourced and shoved to the side. At Montbello High School alone, they have had 8 principals in the last 10 years. Now, after the neglect that has caused weak academic performance, the district finally responds by pushing through a complete hostile takeover of the area’s schools. The DPS administration’s solution for neglect has been to close schools, phase out and displace school populations and completely ignore the wishes of the community.

The changes now ratified by the DPS school board for the greater Montbello area are:

  • Ford Elementary: Replace with Denver Center for International Studies ECE-5 program
  • Green Valley Elementary: Hire new principal and staff
  • McGlone Elementary: Hire new staff under newly hired principal
  • Oakland Elementary: Replace with SOAR charter elementary school
  • Rachel B. Noel Middle: Phase out the current program for seventh- and eighth-graders while starting a new 6-12 arts program with 100 students per grade that will grow one grade a year. Also, co-locate a KIPP middle school within the building.
  • Montbello High School: Phase out the current program while starting a 9-12 collegiate prep academy for 150 to 200 students per grade that will grow one grade per year. Also, co-locate a new Denver Center for International Studies 6-12 school within the building. Also open a high-tech early college.

Keep in mind that these changes are being foisted upon the community after a sham community process.  They will result in many of the area’s children having to apply to attend school in buildings they could freely attend unencumbered before.  If they are not accepted, they will have to go somewhere else to school, perhaps even across town.

Also keep in mind that a significant number of these children are English-language learners, and according to the court order that DPS must satisfy, there must be language support services for each of these students.  However, none of the new proposed programs actually provides these services as mandated, and the charter schools are not required to provide them.

Keep coming back here to learn more about the situation, and how Nate Easley’s conflict of interest causes him to vote against the needs of his community 100% of the time.

It’s time to take back our schools.