Colorado

Greeley board to meet in schools for now

Brett Reese isn’t allowed to bring his gun to school.

Because he can’t, under Colorado law, Greeley school board members on Thursday approved a measure that will prevent their controversial colleague from bringing his gun to board meetings as well.

Brett Reese
Brett Reese

By a 5-2 vote, with Reese casting one of the dissenting votes, board members approved a plan to hold their meetings at various schools throughout the district for the rest of this year. Colorado law prohibits anyone, with some exceptions such as police and school district safety officers, from carrying a gun into a school.

Reese, owner of KELS 104.7 FM (Pirate Radio), said he has received death threats as recently as Wednesday after he broadcast statements critical of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. before Monday’s national holiday and he wants to carry a weapon into meetings for protection.

He also said he is mindful of the December incident at a Florida school board meeting in which an armed man terrorized board members.

“I see it over and over,” he said, criticizing his fellow board members as “preventing Brett Reese from defending himself.”

He also asserted his Second Amendment right to bear arms. “The arrogance of this board is manifest,” he said. “They are placing themselves above Colorado statutes and the Constitution.”

Afterward, Reese said that if he had been armed at that meeting in Panama City, Fla., he could have prevented the attack. The gunman fired several shots at board members, hitting none of them, before return fire from the district security chief stopped the assault. The gunman then committed suicide with a gunshot wound to the head.

Reese accused the board of “wasting time” on this issue. “If you think I might shoot a board member, then you have a trust issue,” he said. He said board members are telling him they are scared of him.

He termed the resolution, and two others presented by Superintendent Ranelle Lang, as unnecessary and indicative of “poor decision-making” by the board.

Quotable
“If you think I might shoot a board member, then you have a trust issue.”
– Brett Reese

Reese did agree in principle with holding meetings in schools because it would, he said, get the board out of the “ivory tower” in the district’s administration building, where meetings are normally held. But he also stated he did not favor the measure because the board did not consider the cost of providing protection for board members at the school sites.

Lang said an armed police officer will be attending board meetings at no cost to the district in “the short term.” Roger Fiedler, the district’s communications director, said an armed district safety officer has been attending board meetings since the Florida incident.

Fielder admitted Thursday’s meeting was moved from the administration building to an elementary school to prevent Reese or any other board member from bringing a gun to the meeting. There is no explicit prohibition in Colorado law against carrying a gun into a school district administration building, he said.

Lang said this measure also will allow the district time to investigate changes in Colorado law regarding bringing a gun or any other weapon into district administration buildings. She said the legal opinions on this issue are unclear. Efforts to ban guns on the University of Colorado campuses, for example, have been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Reese was joined by board member Robert Stack in voting against the move to the schools, but Stack said his priority was safety “now.” He favored revisions in policies that would bring all school facilities under an “umbrella” of protection, he said.

“Security to me is of the utmost importance,” Stack said. “This entire topic would have come up sooner or later, but the action of one individual has pushed it to the forefront.”

He said he hoped that any revisions, either in law or policy, would affect all faculty, students and staff members of the district. He worried that students taking field trips to district buildings not covered by the gun injunction could be at risk. He said the board needed to take a stand.

The option to move board meetings to schools was the third of three options presented by Lang at the special meeting to deal with the gun issue.

One option called for the installation of metal detectors at all locations in the district as well as people to staff them. Lang estimated that annual personnel costs for staffing the metal detectors would run as high as $200,000 annually. Buying the equipment would cost as much as $10,000, she said.

Another option would have revised Board Policy KFA to prohibit firearms in any district building, not just the schools. But Lang said adopting such a policy “might be in conflict with the wording of current state law” and further research is prudent.

Learn more
Read the EdNews’ profile of Brett Reese, “Brash new board member rocks Greeley.

Lang recommended the third option, moving the board’s meeting locations, because it would allow the “district community to refocus its attention on our primary education mission” and would buy the district time to consider other options. Board member Julie Kron asked for, and received, assurances from Lang that adopting her recommendation did not rule out further action by the board.

Despite announcing her support of Lang’s recommended option, board member Julia Richard said that further action “needed to be taken at the state level.” Kron said she supported the option because she “felt strongly that we should not be committing additional resources” to the issue.

Reese said he abides by the prohibition against guns in schools and will abide by it in the future. But because of 10 to 12 death threats he has received since his radio broadcasts about King, he also said he is armed when he is not on school property.

Reese’s gun permit, though, has been temporarily withdrawn by authorities because of a request for a restraining order brought by a rival radio station owner. The rival owner said Reese left him messages threatening a “shootout” because he was allegedly pilfering advertisers away from Reese.

Reese said Thursday’s meeting seemed to be “pre-scripted” and that other board members might be seeking “publicity” from the whole issue. When asked if he felt safe with an armed official at the meeting, he said he felt he “was not as safe as if I had a gun.”

The 40-year-old ex-carpenter, who was elected to the school board in 2009, also said he expects to court controversy in the future because he is a radio station owner with opinions to express.

The board’s action coincided with an editorial in Thursday’s Greeley Tribune, which called for moving meetings to district schools until Reese left the board.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.