New filings in failed DPS recall

New finance reports for a recall campaign that isn’t going forward – for now –  show Denver Public Schools board president Nate Easley continued to amass funds to defend himself while those seeking to remove him are still reporting little more than pocket change.

Logo for Denver Public SchoolsTake Back Our Schools, the committee formed to seek the ouster of the first-term representative from Northeast Denver, filed a report Tuesday showing no monetary contributions and no expenditures, listing just $454 in “non-monetary contributions” in the reporting cycle ending April 14.

It’s the second consecutive reporting period in which Take Back Our Schools listed no monetary contributions and no expenditures.

Easley’s campaign to defend himself against a potential recall vote, Easley 4 Better Schools, collected $25,090 in the one-month reporting period ending April 14, spent $11,715 and was left with a balance on hand of $38,082.

Easley, elected as the school board’s District 4 representative in November 2009, won’t need to dip into that war chest just yet. The Denver Elections Division announced April 13 that recall advocates had fallen far short of the needed valid signatures to force a recall vote, missing the 5,363-signature threshold by 2,080.

However, John McBride, the registered agent for Take Back Our Schools, said Easley’s opponents will mount a second recall effort. McBride said he plans for it to coincide with the November general elections.

McBride said he does not plan to file a protest over the April 13 elections division finding that his group had gathered insufficient signatures to force a recall vote this summer. He expressed confidence, however, that Easley’s opponents will be more successful a second time around.

Opponents plan second recall effort

“We’re going to start the process again. We know what we’re doing,” McBride said. “This was our first time out. We were inexperienced. Highly inexperienced. We got 6,000 signatures with a grassroots effort. This time, we’ll have more time to get more information to the people.”

City elections officials last week said McBride’s group had turned in 5,899 signatures, but that only 3,283 were valid.

In a renewed recall effort, McBride said that once again, “We’re not going to take any money.” A moment later, he said, “That could change. But, right now, we’re not.”

He described the $454 in non-monetary contributions in his group’s report filed Tuesday as “printing, food, people donated different pieces of what we needed, stuff like that.”

McBride added, “We had $450. He had $35,000.”

Upon learning of McBride’s vow to continue with renewed recall effort, Easley uttered a sarcastic “Whoopee,” then became serious.

“I imagine the way the law’s written, this is not something that will ever be over,” said Easley. “They already have a record of not being able to make this happen, but if they want to keep it going, then I am happy to continue to talk to voters, sharing the message.

“We really have made some progress, and we’re continuing to make progress. Making progress with quality schools is something I can defend until I am no longer on the board. And I am confident they will not win.”

Easley has been criticized by his opponents for taking financial support from well outside his district. In his latest finance report, the single largest contribution is $4,000 from Joseph Bridy, a partner at Hamlin Capital Management in New York. Bridy has appeared before state education associations to present on the topic of infrastructures and facilities financing.

Kent Thiry, chairman and CEO of Denver-based DaVita Inc., pitched in $1,000 to Easley’s campaign. DaVita is one of the largest providers of kidney dialysis treatment in the United States.

Also among Easley’s contributors is Cynthia Abramson, who gave $250. She is a CEO at the Denver Scholarship Foundation and she hired Easley, who is the foundation’s deputy director.

The central complaint by recall advocates against Easley in their initial recall effort was that Easley’s job at the foundation represented a conflict of interest for his position as a DPS school board member. Easley insisted that it posed no conflict, and he has been joined in that opinion by DPS legal counsel.

Easley draws from national field

Easley made no apologies Wednesday for accepting donations from outside his district – or outside Colorado, for that matter.

“If you look at the contributions that I had when I originally campaigned in 2009, you’ll note that a lot of my contributors were not from Denver. A lot of it was from people I know nationally, who have faith in me as someone who is always going to fight for education equity,” Easley said

“I have a national network. I worked in D.C., for 11 years” at the Council for Opportunity in Education. He added, “If it wasn’t for laws that say you can’t accept donations from other countries, I’m quite confident that I would have had people from other countries contributing, because of my integrity and my commitment to educational equity.”

Easley said he has consulted with an attorney to determine whether he can use his remaining campaign funds to hire staff to assist in healing the rifts stemming from the failed recall effort, and that he has not received an answer on that yet. If the answer is no, he plans to donate the money to a charity.

Meanwhile, he expressed surprise that McBride’s group once again showed no monetary contributions or expenditures.

“I want to know how that’s possible,” he said.  “Because I have seen a full box of at least 500 to 1,000 (pro-recall) fliers, when I was at East (High School) for an event. I’m curious to know how that’s possible, with no money.”

McBride has said any expenditures by recall advocates have been small personal payments out of supporters’ pockets. A spokesman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office stated previously that if those do not exceed $200, they do not need to be reported.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State’s Office spokesman Andrew Cole said that office would have no concerns about an issue committee filing consecutive reports showing no activity.

“It doesn’t matter to us whether they’re raising or spending, as long as they’re accurately reporting. That’s what’s important. We’d rather someone file a report with no activity, than not file at all,” Cole said.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.