Category: Education

District 51 teachers express anger and dismay at School Board’s rush towards closing schools

Shannon Bingham (Photo: westerndemographics.com)

Some District 51 teachers are saying they feel blindsided, abandoned and upset by the School Board’s odd headlong rush towards closing three traditional schools this fall. The District cites falling birth rates, the pandemic, online schools, families moving out of the area and other reasons for the decline in students as reasons to close the schools.

But that doesn’t fit the demographic narrative we’ve been told as recently as the end of last year.

Just last November the Daily Sentinel reported that the western slope has seen substantial population growth over the last decade and Mesa County is expected to keep growing over the next few decades due to in-migration, saying this brought “a sense of hope that District 51 will see an increase in students.”

State Sen. Janice Rich (R) introduces bill to require CPR training in High Schools

Sen. Rich, shown here in 2022 when she was a House Representative, has a track record of introducing beneficial, bipartisan legislation and getting it passed. Here she is seen at the signing on April 12, 2022 of HB22-1040, “Homeowners’ Reasonable Access to Common Areas,” which limited homeowner associations’ (HOAs) ability to restrict homeowners’ access to their own common open space and amenities. (Left to right: House Rep. Edie Hooton, Rep. Janice Rich, Gov. Polis, Sen. Tammy Story)

State Senator Janice Rich (R) is doing something we haven’t seen in years from our elected state Senator: Introducing thoughtful, beneficial, bipartisan legislation that can benefit everyone.

Sen. Rich recently introduced SB23-023, a bill that requires high schools that teach the state’s comprehensive health education program to instruct students in how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an automated external defibrillator (AED).

The bill has the potential to save many lives.

Group urgently seeks help to keep Orchard Mesa Pool open

Orchard Mesa Pool

Mesa County residents have formed a group to try to keep Orchard Mesa Community Center Pool open, and they are asking the rest of the community for help.

In mid-November, 2022, the City of Grand Junction announced the possible closure of the Orchard Mesa Pool in early 2023.

The group, Save the Pool, is encouraging people with families to come to the December 21st Grand Junction City Council meeting this Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall Auditorium, 250 N. 5th Street, Grand Junction to stand in solidarity to keep the pool open.

Anti-transgender, racist hate mail sent to 92 year old School District 51 retiree; Local Republican political leaders may be contributing to undercurrent of hatred in Mesa County

“Citizens District 51 Defund Vote” sent hate mail postmarked Oct. 11, 2022 to a 92 year old School District 51 retiree in Grand Junction

My 92 year old neighbor, who worked for School District 51 over forty years ago, received this hate mail yesterday, with the following computer-printed in screaming all-caps, racist, anti-transgender hate letter glued to the back of the picture with the child at the chalkboard:

My neighbor is pretty tough, but the line that said “OL’ BITCH” really saddened her.

In addition to showing that racism and homophobia in Grand Junction are alive and thriving, this rude correspondence raises several questions:

— How did the sender get the address of this person?

D-51 School Board members attend seminar in how to fight equity and inclusion policies

“Stand for the Constitution,” the right wing extremist Mesa County group that endorsed and defended Tina Peters, also endorsed and promoted Angela Lema, Andrea Haitz and Will Jones for School Board. All three candidates ran as a far right wing extremist slate. Now two of them are getting training in how to battle policies that aim to help all children feel welcome and accepted at D-51 schools.

The Colorado Times Recorder is reporting that D-51 School Board President Andrea Haitz and D-51 Board Member Angela Lema attended a seminar at a Grand Junction hotel on August 26 called “Save Our Schools,” put on by Heritage Action for America, an affiliate of the right wing Heritage Foundation. The seminar taught people how to fight equity and inclusion policies in schools and provided resources to help them.

What are equity and inclusion policies, anyway?

District 51 hiring Tammy Eret of Hoskin, Farina and Kampf as new in-house counsel

John Williams, District 51’s current in-house lawyer, went to G.J.H.S, served on the D-51 School Board from 2013-2020, then stepped down from the Board to serve as District 51’s in-house attorney, saving the District approximately $250,000/year, or about half the cost outside law firms were costing the District. Williams is leaving the position in 2022.

Tammy Eret of Hoskin, Farina and Kampf has been hired as the new in-house counsel for School District 51, replacing John Williams, who has been the District’s in-house attorney since 2020. After Williams announced he was leaving the position, District 51 posted the job opening, interviewed candidates, and the School Board chose Tammy Eret as the new in-house counsel for the District. The hire will be presented at a special meeting to be held tonight, May 25th, 2022, in the Harry Butler Board Room.

D-51 School Board President Andrea Haitz belonged to anti-transgender Facebook group

Screenshot of members of the transphobic Facebook group, Reboot 2022, taken on Wednesday, May 11, 2022, after which time her name was removed.

A May 13, 2022 Daily Sentinel article discussed the outrage District 51 School Board President Andrea Haitz’s recent anti-transgender social media posts generated among people in the valley. 

In her own defense, Haitz told the Sentinel she didn’t mean the memes to be hurtful, and that she “has gay and lesbian friends.” Haitz said the “memes had been misunderstood” because “people don’t always understand satire,” and said that people “made up what they thought I meant by it.”

But people didn’t make up anything, and they most definitely did not misinterpret the intent of Haitz’s posts.

How do we know?

Woman makes Q-Anon style threat against Telluride School Board

Gabriella Moorman’s letter to the Telluride Board of Education and Superintendent

Taking a leaf from the QAnon playbook of turning school boards into battlegrounds for unhinged conservative politics, a woman named Gabriella Moorman threatened individual members of the Telluride School District board in San Miguel County as a way to rail against district policies that guided masking during the pandemic, sex education, Critical Race Theory (which is not taught in K-12 schools) and other  practices and policies the school board has taken in the past.

Moorman wrote to board members that “you could lose your house, your cars, your job, your retirement, etc., if you DO NOT PAY ATTENTION. You are inviolation of multiple State, Federal and International laws … and you could be facing time in FEDERAL PRISON for your actions if you do not cease and desist.”

Angry crowd faces down School Board at their meeting Monday, 2/7

Screenshot of the packed, angry but well-behaved crowd that faced down the new School Board President Andrea Haitz and the other new school board members Monday night, 2/7/22, as they made moves toward possibly firing district administrators. The screenshot is from a video taken at the beginning of the meeting, before the Board went into executive session to discuss the employment contracts of Superintendent Diana Sirko, Assistant Superintendent Brian Hill and the Director of Equity and Inclusion, Tracy Gallegos. An equal number of people were outside. A student in front is holding a sign that says “Don’t make me use my INSIDE VOICE!”

Haitz calls another D-51 School Board Special Meeting on short notice, this time to be held Wed., 2/9 @ 3:15 p.m. in the Butler Board Room

School Board President Andrea Haitz is clearly rattled in this 7 minute video of last night’s meeting (2/7/22, above), taken before the Board went into Executive Session. Her voice quivers, and she gets items for the meeting out of order.

District 51 School Board President Andrea Haitz has scheduled another Special Board Meeting on Wednesday, February 9 at 3:15 p.m. in the Harry Butler Board Room at R-5, same location as yesterday’s meeting. Like the one on Monday night, this one was also scheduled with very short notice. People have noticed the time of day when Haitz plans to hold the meeting will make it difficult for teachers to attend.

Looks like District 51’s conservative school board majority is getting ready to fire Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent and Director of Equity & Inclusion

Meeting agenda quietly put up on the School Board’s website on short notice announcing a special meeting the next day to discuss employment contracts of the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent and Director of Equity and Inclusion

The District 51 School Board’s new conservative majority — Andrea Haitz, Angela Lema and Willie Jones — appear to be getting ready to fire School District Superintendent, Diana Sirko, Assistant Superintendent Brian Hill and Tracy Gallegos, the District’s Director of Equity and Inclusion, who was hired into that position in July, 2021.

The three Board members gave short notice about a special meeting to be held on Monday, February 5 at 5:00 p.m. discuss these three employees’ contracts with attorneys they just hired in January to serve as their own representatives: David Price and Tammy Eret of Hoskin, Farina and Kampf.

The Board members produced the agenda on Saturday evening, 2/5/22, and then quietly slipped it onto the School Board’s meeting website (pdf) on Sunday evening, 2/6/21.

Mesa County Concerned Citizen meme demonstrates local cluelessness about respiratory transmission of disease

Meme in an email blast sent out by the far right group Mesa County Concerned Citizen on 11/15/21, showing that likely many local people lack any understanding of how respiratory disease transmission works — vital information that’s central to getting a pandemic under control

The above meme was sent out in an email blast last November 15, 2021 by the far right extremist group Mesa County Concerned Citizen.

The meme makes it clear that many Mesa County residents likely lack an understanding about how the transmission of respiratory diseases works — information that is massively important to our ability to bring the virus under control. This could be one reason why the coronavirus has been able to spread so efficiently in Mesa County, and why it is likely to persist here.

Some CMU staff upset by University President John Marshall wearing what appeared to be a doctoral robe

CMU President John Marshall at the December, 2021 graduation ceremony

Some Colorado Mesa University (CMU) instructors who have doctorate degrees were upset to see CMU President John Marshall at the December graduation ceremony wearing what looked like the type of graduation robe worn only by doctoral students upon their graduation.

It was an easy mistake to make.

Emails between D-51 Board Member Andrea Haitz and Brad Miller of Miller Farmer Law encourage Haitz to avoid RFP process

John Williams, District 51’s current in-house lawyer, graduated from G.J.H.S, served on the D-51 School Board from 2013-2020, then stepped down from the Board to serve as District 51’s in-house attorney, saving the District around $250,000/year, or about half what outside law firms were charging the District.

AnneLandmanBlog has obtained the internal emails exchanged between newly-elected School District 51 board member Andrea Haitz and attorney Brad Miller of the Miller Farmer law firm of Colorado Springs.

Almost soon as she was sworn in, Haitz started pushing to hire the Miller Farmer law firm to handle all of District 51’s legal work, which would mean firing the District’s current in-house attorney, John Williams, who currently handles most of the District’s legal work. Using Williams has provided tremendous savings to the District over using an outside law firm.

New conservative school board members violate CO Open Meetings Law, make decisions in secret

Newly-elected D-51 School Board member Andrea Haitz promised transparency, but is violating open meetings laws and attempting to enact policy without public comment. At about 4:43 into the meeting video, after a suggestion that the Board could get more information about potential law firms to hire, Haitz says “There’s a certain point where you can get too much information.”

It took no time at all for the newly sworn-in District 51 School Board members to violate Colorado’s Open Meetings Law (pdf), violate their campaign promises of transparency, and indicate their willingness to spend excessive taxpayer funds for no clear reason, and they did it all in one breathtaking move they sprang on everyone a full four hours into their first board meeting December 14.

Election conspiracy theorist Sherronna Bishop compares G.J. blogger to a top U.S public health physician

In what apparently was meant as a slur toward trangender people, Garfield County election conspiracy theorist Sherronna Bishop, who calls herself “America’s Mom,” in this Instagam post today compared Grand Junction blogger Anne Landman to Admiral Rachel Levine, M.D., newly-appointed as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health and among the most accomplished public health physicians in the country.

In what was meant to be a slur aimed at transgender people, Garfield County election conspiracy theorist Sherronna Bishop, who bills herself as “Americas Mom,” today in an Instagram post compared AnneLandmanBlog author Anne Landman to Admiral Rachel Levine, M.D., the highly accomplished public health physician who was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the nation’s new Assistant Secretary of Health in the U.S. Department of Human Services.

New voter guide from the Best Slope Leadership Project explains the issues and candidates in the Nov. 2, 2021 election

The home page of the Best Slope Leadership Project’s 2021 Voter Guide

A new local organization called Best Slope Leadership Project has a plain language voter guide to help Mesa County citizens decide how to vote in the upcoming November 2, 2021 election. The guide explains the state-wide ballot measures, local propositions and District 51 School Board races, and gives easy-to-understand rationales for recommended votes.

On its website, BestSlopeLeadership.org, the Project describes the local group “Stand for the Constitution,” which is backing a bloc of three candidates for school board. this way: