Douglas County RE-1

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Douglas County RE-1 Overview


Douglas County RE-1 District Info

Students County Graduation Rate # of Schools Operating Budget Source
63,749 Douglas 90.10%
+11.2% to CO average
87
(incl. 16 Charter Schools)
(incl. 5 Alternative Schools)
$543M
~ $8,519/student
~ $6.24M/school
+$3,219/student to CO average
Adopted Budget 2016/2017

Douglas County RE-1 Superintendent

Name When First Voted In Salary Contract Ends Contact
Erin Kane
(Registered Republican)
Sept. 2016 $240,000
Source
June 2018 303.387.0123


Douglas County RE-1 School Board

  • No compensation
  • Terms are 4 years
  • 2 term limit


  • Despite 2015 incumbent defeats, still extremely conservative, split 4-3, favoring education reformers.
  • Election percentages are calculated by total ballots cast for candidates divided by total ballots cast. Undervotes are not taken into account, as "Undervote" is not itself a candidate. 2011 saw a high number of Undervotes. That will be expanded upon after the table below.
District Name Party Next Election Contact 2017 Results
38.35% turnout (Douglas County)
2015 Results
41.02% turnout (Douglas County)
2013 Results
49.36% turnout (Douglas County)
2011 Results
50.61% turnout (Douglas County)
2009 Results
25.11% turnout (Douglas County)
A Wendy Vogel Unaffiliated 2019 303-387-0258
wendy.vogel@dcsdk12.org
X 17.69% (58.8%) 1,2
Craig V. Richardson 41.15%
1 $18,321
2 Defeated GOP Incumbent
X 7.42% (45.87%)
(Craig V. Richardson)
Susan D. Meek 38.20%
Kevin Reilly 16.18% 1
1 Source
X
B Anthony Graziano Unaffiliated 2021 303-387-0258
agraziano@dcsdk12.org
17.44% (58.72%) 1,2
Ryan Abresch 41.28%
1 (Incumbent did not run)
2 (Flipped from pro-reform to pro-public ed)
X 4.98% (52.49%) 1
(James Geddes)
Barbra Chase 47.51% 2
1 $40,617.50
2 $10,969.96
X 15.6% (57.8%)
(John Carson)
Sue Catterall 42.20%
C Anne Marie Lemieux Republican 2019 303-387-0258
annemarie.lemieux@dcsdk12.org
X 16.73% (58.36%) 1,2
Kevin Larsen 41.63% 3
1 Defeated GOP Incumbent
2 $21,281
X 13.18% (56.59%)
(Kevin Larsen)
Gail Francis 43.42% 1
1 Source
X
D Christina Ciancio-Schor Democrat 2021 303-387-0258
cciancioschor@dcsdk12.org
16.60% (58.30%) 1,2
Randy Mills 41.70%
1 (Incumbent did not run)
2 (Flipped from pro-reform to pro-public ed)
X 3.81% (51.9%) 1
(Judi Reynolds)
Julie A. Keim 48.10% 2
1 $40,646.50
2 $11,441.95
X 18.92% (59.43%)
(Dan Gerken)
Kevin Leung 40.53%
E Kevin Leung Republican 2021 303-387-0258
kleung@dcsdk12.org
16.12% (58.06%) 1,2
Grant Nelson 41.94%
1 (Incumbent did not run)
2 (Flipped from pro-reform to pro-public ed)
X
(Benevento resigned)
(Steven Peck appointed in Nov. 2016)
3.62% (51.81%) 1
(Doug Benevento)
Bill Hodges 48.19% 2
1 $44,884.85
2 $15,763.91
X 12.2% (56.1%)
(Doug Benevento)
Kristine Turner 43.90%
F David Ray Unaffiliated 2019 303-387-0258
david.ray@dcsdk12.org
X 18.39% (59.19%) 1
Rich Robbins 40.80% 2
1 $19,015
2 $2,190
X
(Williams resigned; Rich Robbins appointed)
2.29% (51.15%)
(Justin G. Williams)
Susan McMahon 48.85%
X
G Krista Holtzmann Unaffiliated 2021 303-387-0258
klholtzmann@dcsdk12.org
15.36% (57.68%) 1,2
Debora Scheffel 42.32%
1 (Incumbent did not run)
2 (Flipped from pro-reform to pro-public ed)
X 6.7% (53.35%) 1
(Meghann Silverthorn) Ronda Scholting 46.65% 2
1 $41,093.75
2 $20,551.96
X 13.8% (56.9%)
(Meghann Silverthorn)
Emily Hansen 43.10%


A local paper claimed that 2013 candidates were endorsed by the Douglas County Teacher's Union, but the union says that wasn't the case as they made no official endorsements that cycle. Regardless, all lost their races to candidates who were endorsed by the Douglas County GOP; however by far lesser margins than in 2009.

In 2009, the Douglas County Teacher's Federation did endorse 4 candidates. All lost.


Undervotes

The 2011 election saw an incredibly high number of undervotes, despite a relatively high odd-year turnout. Undervotes mean that ballots were turned in, but not with that specific section voted on. Undervotes ranged between 21.53% to 22.75% that year for the 3 seats on DougCo.

To contrast, in 2009 Douglas County as a whole saw almost half the turnout of 2011 (25.11%). Yet undervotes were almost negligible for each individual DougCo seat, ranging from 1.76% to 2.3%.

Special Interest Groups

Local

Great Choice Douglas County

http://greatchoicedouglascounty.org/about-us/board-of-directors/

Leadership of the Rockies Connections


Local Blogs

  • Ed is Watching, a pro-education reform blog written from the prospective of a fictional 5 year-old, maintained by the staff of the libertarian Independence Institute’s Education Policy Center, a self described "action tank" (versus a "think tank"). The Institute is based in Denver. The name Ron Izard is singled out for recognition of the blog, who serves as Education Policy Analyst of that organization, specializing in "school choice policy, accountability, and education labor issues" with a focus on education reform. The Independence Institute supported the reform candidates who took over the majority in 2013, and since worked against teacher unions and teacher tenure, and shored up charter schools.


General

Leadership Program of the Rockies

  • Speakers have included Mike Coffman, Cory Gardner, Ann Coulter, Mike Huckabee, Bob Beauprez, Dinesh D’Souza, Hugh Hewitt, Laura Ingraham, and others.
  • Fees for their course program are $2,150. The full cost of the program is $6,500 per person. Partial scholarships are available.
  • Consistently speaks of "building an army for freedom".
  • Steven Peck, current seatholder of District E (not seeking election), was a 2015 alum. He was appointed to Douglas County School Board a year later.
  • Judi Reynolds, current seatholder of District D (not seeking election), was a 2015 alum.
  • Meghann Silverthorn, current seatholder in District G (termed out), was a 2010 alum.
  • Erin Kane, current DougCo Superintendent, is on the Advisory Board.
  • Charcie Russell is a 2005 alum, on the Board of Directors and the Advisory Board. In 2009, she assisted in the election of a school choice slate to DougCo School Board. Additionally she was part of the taskforce that created the Choice Scholarship Program, and co-founded local special interest group Great Choice Douglas County.

ALEC

ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization that crafts legislation across the country. The co-founder of ALEC also co-founded The Heritage Foundation and a PAC called Moral Majority alongside Jerry Falwell. All were created in the 1970s and are credited with creating the bloc of the Christian Right.

Alliance for School Choice & Alliance for Choice in Education

Between the 2009 and 2013 elections, Meghann Silverthorn received large donations from Houston billionaire and former University of Texas Regent Alex Cranberg. They all subsequently won. Cranberg has at some point served on the ASC board. Between the two elections, the donations totaled $30,000 from Cranberg alone.

Cranberg, along with Ed McVaney and Ralph Nagel, founded the Alliance for Choice in Schools. Together, in 2013, they donated at least $105,000 to all 4 reformer candidates (John Carson, Dan Greken, Doug Benevento and Meghann Silverthorn).

John Carson is now on the CU Board of Regents, representing Congressional District 6.


SWS Polifi

Marge Klein

  • Registering agent for all 4 Elevate candidates. (Abresch, Mills, Scheffel, Nelson)
  • Graduate of Leadership Program of the Rockies (class of 2000) (Source) and member of the Advisory Board.
  • President of SWS Polifi, which is focused on compliance of rules and regulations for political campaigns. (Source)
  • Klein registered their campaigns using her SWS Polifi email address.
  • Registered agent for Clarice PAC, whose stated purpose is "to raise funds for Republicans to get elected to local and state offices and to build a bench of Republican candidates." (TRACER)
  • Registered agent for Sias Political Committee, whose stated purpose is "to raise funds for Republicans to get elected to local and state offices." (TRACER)
  • Registered Agent of the Arapahoe County Republican Party, whose stated purpose is "to support Republican candidates." (TRACER)
  • Registered agent, with SWS Polifi account, for Bob Beauprez's unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2014. (TRACER)
  • Registered agent for an issues committee called Colorado Citizens for Fair Elections, whose stated purpose is "CCFE will support any ballot issue or referendum that advocates for a 29 day deadline for voter registrations that are not accompanied by a Colorado DOR ID card or drivers license. (TRACER) (NOTE: Marge Klein put herself as both Registered Agent and Designated Filing Agent, despite for the latter using Tammy Scott's SWS Polifi email address.)
  • Klein has active connections to Douglas, Arapahoe, El Paso, and Weld counties. (TRACER)


Tammy Scott

  • Tammy Scott, who has a SWS Polifi email address, also serves as Designated Filing Agent for most of the above.

Notable Controversies

Grace Davis

Grace Davis during spring 2016 was a sophomore at Ponderosa High School in Douglas County School District. Davis was among those who organized a walk-out of students at her school, in a demonstration to bring attention to the school's high turnover rate for teachers and the means of evaluating teachers. The protest took place on March 9th, 2016, where more than 100 students attended.

5 days prior to the demonstration, DCSB Chair Meghann Silverthorn and Vice Chair Judi Reynolds had a closed-door meeting with Grace Davis lasting for 90 minutes. Davis recorded the conversation (in Colorado one-party recordings are allowed by law, which Davis was aware of due to a budding interest in criminal profiling). Neither of Davis' parents were asked for permission for such a meeting, nor given advanced notice. Davis was not accompanied to the meeting by any other party. She was 15 years-old at the time (she had turned 16 by the time media attention increased).

Silverthorn and Reynolds spoke of the possibility of someone getting hurt and how she and her parents could be held responsible. After the conversation, Davis was left feeling scared and intimidated.

Days after the protest (March 15th, 2016), at the DCSD board meeting, board member Jim Geddes implied Davis was a puppet used by teachers to push an agenda. "I don’t think that was an appropriate way to express your-all’s agenda, through your students, to use your students that way.”

There were calls for the resignations of Silverthorn and Reynolds. The ensuing investigation by a third party cleared them of violations. However, some citizens believed that due to Gordon "Skip" Netzorg's previous connections to Alliance for Choice Scholarship program (board secretary) that also counts among it's founders Alex Cranberg, by far the largest individual contributor to Silverthorn (and has also donated sizable contributions to Reynolds), that Netzorg's judgment was questionable. Local group Douglas County Parents took no official part in protests.

Complete Colorado, the media arm of the Independence Institute, wrote an article portraying those who believed Davis was treated unjustly in a negative, even childish light. Meanwhile, Colorado Independent wrote their own article from the day before about the backlash on the released report amid speculation that Netzorg's previous connections clouded his judgment, in their comments section, Ross Izard (Education Policy Analyst at Independence Institute) was there giving the same talking points the Complete Colorado article would make the very next day.

Lawsuits

See Lawsuits in Douglas County School District

Douglas County RE-1 School Board 2017 Election

Districts B, D, E, and G are up for vote, with Meghann Silverthorn in District G termed out.

Candidates

Ward Name Party Endorsements/Info Contact Questionnaires
B William "Ryan" Abresch Republican "Elevate Slate"
Member of DCSD Charter Parent Coalition
Applied to Academy Charter School Board of Governors in April 2017
Denver Post Endorsement
Email
Website
Chalkbeat (not mobile-friendly)
B Anthony Graziano Unaffiliated "CommUNITY"
Douglas County Parents
Email
Website
Chalkbeat (not mobile-friendly)

Taxpayers for Public Education

 
D Randy Mills Republican "Elevate Slate"
Denver Post Endorsement
Email
Website
Chalkbeat (not mobile-friendly)
D Chris Schor Democrat "CommUNITY"
Douglas County Parents
Email
Website
Chalkbeat (not mobile-friendly)
Taxpayers for Public Education
 
E Grant Nelson Republican "Elevate Slate"
Denver Post Endorsement
Email
Website
Chalkbeat (not mobile-friendly)
E Kevin Leung Republican "CommUNITY"
Douglas County Parents
Email
Website
Chalkbeat (not mobile-friendly)
Taxpayers for Public Education
 
G Debora Scheffel Republican "Elevate Slate"
Former State Board of Education member of District 6
Denver Post Endorsement
Email
Website
Chalkbeat (not mobile-friendly)
G Krista Holtzmann Unaffiliated "CommUNITY"
Douglas County Parents
Email
Website
Chalkbeat (not mobile-friendly)
Taxpayers for Public Education


  • The Colorado ACLU is targeting ACLU members in Douglas County "talking about how harmful school vouchers are to our civil liberties". Per an email to members (10/9/17, by Field Director Alejandra Garza), there was no mention of specific candidates. Only of the position on vouchers.


2017 Election Issues

Seat Candidate School Choice (General) Vouchers, Tax Credits,
Education Savings Accounts
Charter Schools Accountability Transparency
B William "Ryan" Abresch
B Anthony Graziano
 
D Randy Mills
D Chris Schor
 
E Grant Nelson
E Kevin Leung
 
G Debora Scheffel
G Krista Holtzmann


Douglas County Parents vs. Elevate Douglas County and Douglas County GOP

Douglas County Parents

Description from their website:

"We are parents & community members of all professions and political affiliations who are concerned about the policies that the Douglas County (Colorado) reform-minded Board of Education and district administration have forced upon the families of our community."


These are their candidates of choice in 2017:


Elevate Douglas County

Elevate Douglas County is a pro-education reform local group focused on the political concept of School Choice and fiscal responsibility, with making a broad mention of being "competitive". Their Q&As with the Castle Rock News-Press have 3 of the 4 Elevate candidates citing the reason why they are running is because of the current negativity, acrimony, and nastiness.

However, the current division on DougCo School Board is 4-3. 4 Reformers, and 3 who ousted Reformers in 2015. The Elevate Slate are running for the 4 Reformer seats that are currently up. Should they all be elected, the 4-3 division would remain.

The efforts of Elevate Douglas County are paid equally between the committees to elect of all four endorsed candidates.

These are their candidates of choice (known as the "Elevate Slate"):

They appear to not have any individual campaign pages, plus all four candidates have Elevate email addresses for their campaigns.

Joy Overbeck, a right-wing Colorado-based journalist and author, had written an editorial in the local Castle Rock News-Press in support of the Elevate Slate, which made brief mention of support for charter schools. Overbeck had also written several articles published in the conservative Washington Times, including an article strongly advocating for conceal-carry of guns in schools, making mention of the libertarian Denver-based Independence Institute. She is also a member of the pro-reform Facebook group Renew Douglas County and a is a Trump apologist.

Ross Izard (Independence Institute) wrote an article as an Opinion Contributor titled "How a Colorado school board race has national implications for education and religious liberty" for popular online publication The Hill, about the 2017 DougCo race.


Election 2017 Controversies

8/19/17 - Douglas County GOP Annual Picnic


8/24/17 - Back to School Night

  • There was complaint that Douglas County Parents were handing out literature for their candidates of choice, despite Elevate doing much the same with theirs (though said they only did it because "the other side was doing it").
  • Elevate's account of the evening implied that Douglas County Parents were uncivil, by calling to "restore civility" and further stating that their own slate will do so.
  • Elevate claims that Douglas County Parents threatened a principal.
  • Complete Colorado wrote an article making Elevate look good and DCP look bad. Complete Colorado is owned and operated by the Independence Institute.
  • The original Elevate Facebook post became a "sponsored" post, meaning they paid to have it show up in the timelines of a targeted audience, effectively becoming an advertisement.


Campaign Finance

All reports totaled together.

Seat Name Party Total Contributions Total Expenditures Total Cash On Hand Total PACs/IECs
(See more details below)
Notable Individuals
B William "Ryan" Abresch
TRACER Filing
$29,758.98 $22,060.74 $7,698.24 $21,809.45 Alex Cranberg (Alliance for School Choice) - $5,000
Roy Kline (Real Estate; Lone Tree Planning Commissioner) - $1,000 (1)
Ross Izard (Education Policy Analyst at the Independence Institute, a conservative thinktank) - $50
B Anthony Graziano
(TRACER)
$20,152.16 $16,397.29 $3,754.87 Mostly teachers, current and retired; mostly donations $100 and under
Douglas County Parents - $4,785.45
Clare S. Leonard (Former DCSD BoE member) - $2,055
Herschel Ramsey (Major Democratic Donor) - $1,000
Julie Kein (Accountant, GTP Services - construction software) - $500
Meg Masten (Employee, Basketball Travelers - arranges basketball tournaments) - $500
Craig Jonas (CEO, Global University Sports Properties, Inc.) - $200
Sarah Mesmer (VP, Douglas County Federation) - $100
Zeke Lynch (Employee, CH2M Hill - Global engineering company) - $100
Anne Marie Lemieux (current DougCo school board member) - $50
Wendy Vogel (current DougCo school board member) - $50
Ilana Spiegel (former Dem. primary candidate for State BoE; education activist) - $25
 
D Randy Mills $36,753.98 $21,936.27 $14,817.71 $21,809.45 Alex Cranberg (Alliance for School Choice) - $5,000
Shawn McLaughlin (CEO, Concord Energy; member of Colorado Concern; pro-reform) - $5,000
John Medved (owner, Medved Car Dealerships) - $1,000
D Chris Schor $19,688.36 $16,756.73 $2,945.16 Douglas County Parents - $3,333.28
Chris Schor (self) - $2,981.25 (1)
 
E Grant Nelson $44,457.98 $22,070.54 $22,387.44 $21,809.45 Alex Cranberg (Alliance for School Choice) - $5,000
Christopher Wright (Liberty Oilfield Services - Mining/Energy) - $3,000 (1)
Richard King Brown (???) - $3,000 (1)
Richard Schmitz - (SKS Ventures LLC, a company that owns interests in ABS Schools Services "a provider of financing and outsourced business services to charter schools"; on Board of Trustees for Arrupe Jesuit High School, a private religious school) - $1,000
E Kevin Leung $18,174.01 $17,052.18 $1,899.78 Douglas County Parents - $2,355.57
 
G Debora Scheffel $35,760.09 $22,049.19 $13,710.90 $21,809.45 Alex Cranberg (Alliance for School Choice) - $5,000
Amy Byczkowski (Certified Public Accountant; wrote an opinion piece on Colorado Senate Republicans; supported Cruz and Carson in the 2016 primaries, cited many of her employment notes with "Self-Built Own Business W God's Help") - $2,575.00
JB Wisotski (Is a CPA according to his LinkedIn; Tea Party affiliated) - [ $15.45]
G Krista Holtzmann
(TRACER)
(Holtzmann is an attorney; husband is dentist)
$22,692.97 $19,564.56 $3,128.41 Mostly teachers and dentists, current and retired; mostly donations $100 and under
Krista Holtzman (self) - $2,785.31
Beverly Horiuchi (Help us fill in who this is) - $1,000
Jake Meuli (Sales, ClickSoftware) - $1,000
Roger Nishimura (retired dentist) - $1,000
Darrell Schuler (Dentist) - $1,000
Herschel Ramsey (Major Democratic Donor) - $1,000
Shane Christensen (Dentist) - $500
Angela D'Alessandro (Help us fill in who this is) - $500
Le'Ann Key (DCSD teacher; 2013 Golden Apple award winner) - $500
Kathy Ott (Attorney , Merchant & Gould) - $500
Gail Schoettler (Former Colorado Lt. Gov.; Former Colorado Treasurer; gubernatorial candidate; DCSD board member) - $500
Cassy Wiggins (Orthodontist) - $500
Julie Kein (Accountant, GTP Services - construction software) - $300
Barry Keough (Dental Surgeon) - $250
Kevin Reilly (Neuropsychologist and 2011 DCSD candidate) - $250
Steven Zansberg (Attorney; on the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition) - $250
Kevin Owen, MD (Surgeon) - $200
Sarah Mesmer (VP, Douglas County Federation) - $100
Susan Meek (Dir. of Comm., Great Education Colorado) - $100
Zeke Lynch (Employee, CH2M Hill - Global engineering company) - $100
Anne Marie Lemieux (current DougCo school board member) - $50
Wendy Vogel (current DougCo school board member) - $50
Ilana Spiegel (former Dem. primary candidate for State BoE; education activist) - $25
Clare Leonard (former DCSD board member) donated $1,000, but it was returned in full.

Special Interests

Americans for Prosperity (Koch)


Colorado Republican Party

Candidates supported:

  • Ryan Abresch
  • Randy Mills
  • Grant Nelson
  • Debora Scheffel

The Colorado Republican State Central Committee has an Independent Expenditure Committee.

  • 10/11/17 filing, they spent a total of $20,035.87 for mailers between all 4 Elevate Slate candidates.
  • 10/11/17 filing, they returned one purchase but made a purchase with another vendor for the same amount, so no net change.
  • 10/11/17 filing, they returned one purchase but made a purchase with another vendor for the same amount, so no net change.
  • 10/13/17 filing, they spent a total of $4,900 for flyers between all 4 Elevate Slate candidates.
  • 10/13/17 filing, they returned one purchase but made a purchase with another vendor for the same amount, so no net change.
  • 10/13/17 filing, they spent a total of $17,035.87 for mailers between all 4 Elevate Slate candidates.
  • 10/16/17 filing, they spent a total of $24,935.87 for mailers and flyers between all 4 Elevate Slate candidates.
  • 10/30/17 filing, they spent a total of $13,500 for mailers between all 4 Elevate Slate candidates.
  • 11/01/17 filing, they spent a total of $31,741.11 for mailers between all 4 Elevate Slate candidates.


Religious Involvement


My Faith Votes / Colorado Family Action / Focus on the Family


My Family Votes local pamphlet 1.jpgMy Family Votes local pamphlet 2.jpgMy Family Votes local pamphlet 3.jpg


My Faith Votes DCSB voter's guide. A printed pamphlet was obtained by a Douglas County resident through their local church. It was distributed by Colorado Family Action Foundation (Email). They previously had a registered Issue Committee, but it was terminated nearly 11 years ago. They amassed over $872k within the 5 months they were registered. They spent every cent. Focus on the Family was Colorado Family Action's sole contributor according to every single TRACER filing that reports contributions.

Their stated mission is: 'We will rise up as a relevant and non-partisan movement of the church in America that will motivate believers to act on their faith by casting an informed vote based on a biblical worldview." They use a three-pronged approach of "aggressive social media promotion", "national church initiative", and national broadcast media".

Former Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee serves as honorary Chairman of My Faith Votes.

Colorado Family Action is part of the Family Policy Alliance Network. The Family Policy Alliance counts as its ally an organization called Alliance Defending Freedom, which is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its advocacy towards criminalizing homosexuality and state-sanctioned sterilization of LGBT people.

Colorado Family Action ran afoul of the IRS in their 2012 filings for not reporting their expenditures as they worked against the re-election of President Barack Obama.

CFA has previously been directly involved in lawsuits involving DougCo School District in terms of vouchers going to private religious schools (which CFA supports).


Catholic Churches

Diocese of CO Springs.jpg
(Letter from Most Reverend Michael J. Sheridan, Bishop of Colorado Springs. Dated 9/26/17)