Whenever anyone would ask me about the outcome of Douglas County School Board race, I would say that I was “cautiously optimistic”. I was a campaign volunteer for one of the challengers, and I was confident of our chances. I devoted my life to the campaign. I spent countless hours behind a computer, late nights entering data, Friday evenings on the living room floor assembling walk packets, and the weekends running canvasses. I supported my candidate at meet and greets and at forums. I made phone calls and donated money.
I wasn’t the only one. I saw countless moms, dads, grandparents and teachers dedicate their lives to taking back the board. A grassroots movement that was started after the 2011 elections sprang to life in 2013. Sure, there were people that were involved and concerned in 2009 and 2011. Taxpayers for Public Education had put the voucher program on hold, and Susie McMahon and Susan Meek ran great campaigns. But after the 2011 election and the discovery of the inconsistencies in the fund balance, the community became even more concerned about the state of the district. The Strong Schools Coalition was formed. There were bloggers investigating and asking questions. People hosted house parties and talked to anyone who would listen about the problems plaguing the district. They eventually formed a parent group (Douglas County Parents) who organized volunteers to pass out fliers at events, write letters to their neighbors, send emails, and make phone calls. They painted their car windows, organized rallies and paid for signs out of their own pockets. They knocked on doors and talked to strangers; and they did it with more passion and energy than anyone I had met volunteering on five presidential campaigns. They were creative and unafraid. I was so honored to be a witness to a true grassroots movement.
The candidates were fearless. They took on their opponents by trying to make them answer for the state of the district. They were everywhere; house parties, forums, and knocking on doors. Each candidate was knowledgeable and passionate about returning our schools to greatness. Although they were four individuals, their shared values of respect for public education and teachers bound them together in the eyes of their supporters.
My fellow campaign volunteers were equally bold and passionate. We all bonded and worked together famously from the start. There was little complaining and a “get it done” attitude amongst everyone. We each had individual strengths that made our group strong and we had fun together. Together, we organized one of the largest outreach efforts in Douglas County.
Teachers were involved. Too scared to sign up on an online form, they often just showed up at our canvasses. Many canvassed whole neighborhoods. Some showed up without fail every weekend. Retired teachers canvassed during the week and talked about their experiences with the district. They were tireless and committed to the cause of a better school district.
There was even a movie made about our struggle called The Reformers. The film maker, Brian Malone, interviewed teachers, community members and education experts documenting how we became such a divided community.
So to say that I was blindsided by the election results is an understatement. They defied conventional wisdom of campaigns—that the campaign with more energy and passion generally wins. Candidates who have personal conversations with more voters typically win.
In a democracy, we accept the results of democratic elections. So understand my grief does not come from disappointment in the results, but from failure. Failure to reach enough people; failure to turn out enough like-minded voters; and most off all, failing the students and teachers of DCSD. All the time, energy, and passion seemed fruitless on election night. The results shook me to the bone, but seeing people posting on Facebook just hours after the loss about how they will never give up made me smile and gave me hope. This is a fight worth fighting and the late nights, the lost sleep, and the Saturdays away from family were worth it.
To the teachers of Douglas County, all I can say is sorry. In my life, I have never seen a more inspiring group of people. Your ability to put it all aside and go on like nothing has happened is beyond the call of duty. This election has left me a little jaded, but you have all restored my faith in humanity. My kids are so fortunate to have spent their elementary school years in such a loving and supportive environment. I wish I could have done more. I wish you were looking ahead to a new board. If you choose to stay, I will continue to support you. If you choose to move on, I will accept and defend your decision.
I hope DCSD doesn’t slip further under this board. I hope the Board of Education begins to reach out to the almost half of their “customers” who are dissatisfied. I hope the Board of Education can begin to treat those who oppose them with respect. I hope that parents and community members continue to question and hold the board accountable. I hope that more parents get involved, because as my candidate said, “it is our responsibility to protect public education for our community and our children".