Difficult times for BVSD under Dean Damon

You can expect every time the Boulder Valley Education Association negotiates with the Boulder Valley School District sparks of some sort are going to fly. The teachers’ sick-out protest this year, however, should never have been a part of it. Nevertheless, worse yet would be to look back with rose-colored glasses at BVSD’s history and past negotiations.

The Camera’s May 19 story, “269 teachers protest contract offer by staying home,” netted a comment by “Revet4015,” a self-described BVSD teacher. The “teacher” painted a sentimental picture of the BVSD under the late Dean Damon as superintendent. A post by “editer” astutely described reality.

“Revet4015” seems like one of those teachers “editer” described as having read the “Aquarian Conspiracy” and had “scales fall from their eyes.” I knew a few myself but also some who resisted Damon’s move to dumb down middle level curriculum by forcing middle school essentials on the entire district.

Since I had children in the district’s “model middle school,” I already knew Paula Abdul dancing and yo-yoing classes were taking the place of the strong foreign language classes I took in junior high.

As “editer” pointed out, it was a difficult time under Damon. If you were against any or all that Damon was shoving down our throats, you were “pitted against” both teachers and parents on the other side.

And though Damon could talk smoothly, negotiations between the teachers union and the school district were never a piece of cake.

For your ease in reading “editer’s” entire statement to which I refer and to which I am in total agreement, I include it here:

Posted by editer on May 19, 2009 at 1:50 p.m.
Revet4015: You assert that during the Dean Damon years, “there was no acrimony, no media hoopla.” Does “Rev” stand for revisionist history?

Dean Damon was very popular with teachers (at least the ones who read The Aquarian Conspiracy and had “scales fall from their eyes”) However, during the Dean Damon years, the district was in chaos. ACRIMONY and MEDIA HOOPLA were rampant. The administrators and the school board were arrogant, deceptive, and hostile to parents. Teachers were pitted against teachers. Middle schools were shoved in under the pretense of “overcrowding in the elementary schools,” which later caused some elementary schools to be closed for low enrollment.

Test scores were abysmal. Dean Damon said the tests didn’t measure our new curriculua, yet he would not admit that the curriculua were being changed. SAT scores fell 17 points in ONE year, when it had taken 40 years for them to fall that far nationally.

Parents were concerned at what their children were not learning, prompting a flourishing business in tutors, who were shocked that so many students could not spell, write a coherent sentence, or do basic arithmetic.

School board meetings were packed to overflowing with confused parents demanding to know what was going on, because Dean Damon had instructed all principals to “Nurture Ambiguity.” He instructed them to keep the parents in the dark about what the “change agents” were doing, to neither confirm nor deny that a total restructuring was taking place. The district aligned itself with progressive reformers who preached the philosophy: “Nothing will be taught which is not essential to the most basic of occupations.” Honors classes were eliminated, while the district assured parents that “Less is More.”

Under Dean Damon’s restructuring, many gifted teachers took early retirement or left the district, private school enrollment skyrocketed, and parents united to create charter schools. Ed center administrators and school board members called those parents elitist and selfish for trying to develop an academic alternative for their kids.

Parents succeeded in electing a “back to basics” school board, which outraged the rank and file teachers and many citizens. The Boulder Mayor led a march through town chanting, “Take back our schools!” The union brought in Norman Lear’s People for the American Way to work the phones for the next election.

Battles were waged over Whole Language, Calwood weekend retreats for 6th graders, New Age curricula, deconstruction of the traditional canon of literature, elimination of textbooks…

Ah, yes, Revet. Those were the days!

Links to see: Farewell, Dean Damon

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