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Video: The Reformers takes on controversial Douglas County School Board

brian.malone.kid.205x205.jpg
Photos, videos below.
Colorado documentary-maker Brian Malone has taken on some big topics over the years, including the media in Breaking News and environmental dangers via Intelligent Life -- not to mention the late, great Blinky the Clown. But his latest project -- The Reformers, launching tonight in Parker -- is among his most passionate and personal. The subject? The Douglas County School Board, which had him arrested earlier this year for taking video of a meeting. Get details and see clips from The Reformers below.

When it came to The Reformers, Malone -- that's him as a youngster in the photo above -- didn't have to look far for inspiration.

"I am a longtime Castle Rock resident," he notes. "I grew up here and went to Douglas County schools from the time I was in first grade -- 43 years ago, going on 44. And when I got married and had kids, I moved back because it was a great school district." He points out that when his children attended preschool, they did so in what was Malone's old first-grade classroom at Cantril Elementary.

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A screen capture from "The Reformers."
Over time, however, Malone says, "I kept hearing from teachers and different people I'd known for years, telling me, 'You need to look into doing a film about the school board. What's going on is crazy.'"

Malone hadn't planned to jump right into another project, having just finished a big one -- a documentary entitled Patriocracy. But he was curious enough that "I started covering school board meetings. I'd show up with my camera just to observe what was going on and deduce whether there was a story there or not."

Soon, the story came to him. Last summer, he was escorted out of a meeting and formally charged with disrupting a lawful assembly. To fight the allegation, he turned to the ACLU, and this past April, the criminal count against him was dropped. In a statement, ACLU of Colorado legal director Mark Silverstein said, "This decision reinforces that access to public meetings for the media and general public is a fundamental right that should never be criminalized."

For Malone's part, he continued to look into the activities of the board, whose members maintain that they are simply trying to give Douglas County parents more choices for educating their children -- an approach they believe will improve poor test scores and lackluster school performance. Ultimately, though, he came to see things very differently.

Continue for more about The Reformers, including a trailer from the film.



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22 comments
puckrzy
puckrzy

Just starting to look for information about what is going on in the school district. Would love to see the movie, wish it was available on the internet? A few basic questions: 1.) Is the demographic information to support these statements that statements that the "best qualified" teachers are leaving (and how is that measured?) 2.) Is there demographics to show that the district is hiring under qualified or "green" teachers? 3.) Does the drop in national rank of our school district reflect a decline in quality of the teachers / curriculum or an improvement of other districts both within the state and nation wide?. 4.) I was told when trying to enroll my child in a local charter school that their wait list was over 3000, is this an exercise of choice or a dissatisfaction with the current public schools?. 5.) It appears from what I have read so far this movement is against Republican board members (or republican supported board members), the school choice initiative (voucher program?) and the changes in collective bargaining that occurred recently. Appears to be following party lines, republicans supporting voucher, school choice and anti union vs. those supporting the teachers union. Am I off base? And outright nasty things I have heard against both side is disheartening to say the least.

feelingthelove
feelingthelove

I have 3 kids in DCSC- one at Rock Canyon HS and two at American Academy Charter.  All the objective measurements at my students schools show scores are UP year over year!  I love that as a parent, with 3 different learning needs, including one with Dyslexia, that I can choose from MANY great options at DCSC.  While I understand that the teachers want to maintain control, through their union, of job security & pay, as a parent I am most concerned that my kids are getting the best possible education.  This movie is really just another tool to try to roll back school choice and holding teacher accountable for their job performance.  Teachers have a hard and important job- we need to retain and pay well the good ones.  Very few of the rest of us could expect to get raises or even keep our jobs if we don't perform at high levels... why should poor or marginal teachers?

donald.dweebo
donald.dweebo

In Douglas county, my son has choices like Flagstone Elementary, American Academy, and the upcoming World Compass Academy. Some focus on math and science, some on foreign language. Some require uniforms and some don't. I like having charter schools as choices.

Never trust anyone who talks about how we should accept their point of view because "we all belong" to (the government/community/etc).

DCSDHockeyMom
DCSDHockeyMom

As an involved and active parent in the Douglas County School District, who has paid close attention to the changes that have occurred over the past 4 years, and who has actually seen the film, I can say that this documentary is an accurate, and entertaining, depiction of current events in our district.   The filmmaker clearly has his own point of view, but the facts are accurate and information from experts is compelling.  As one of those lifelong Republicans that Mr. Malone mentions as pushing back against these ill-advised "reforms", I highly recommend this film for anyone interesting in finding out what the turmoil in our district is all about.

Thank you, Brian Malone, for investing so much of your own time and money into this project.  The standing ovation you received at it's first public screening last Tuesday night was well-deserved.  

decatur
decatur

Wow, a lot of hate here.

I have lived here for several years now, and instead of being proud of our schools, I am embarrassed. Let's look at what is happening to determine if the board is moving us in the right direction: Our test scores are lower. Our class sizes are larger. Our most highly qualified teachers are leaving. We dropped from being the 3rd highest ranked district in the state to the 11th highest. Top universities no longer consider DCSD grads for their schools.

Tell me again how the union is responsible for that? Let's look at the facts, and the facts all paint the same picture: We are worse off since this board came into power, and it is time for a CHANGE!

bruce-at-AVS
bruce-at-AVS

While arresting someone for filming a school board meeting is surely evidence of a broken system, I urge you not to equate private schooling with for-profit corporations or right-wing propaganda. I've taught at Sudbury schools for 16 years--largely at Alpine Valley School in Wheat Ridge (http://alpinevalleyschool.com)--and I can assure you that we are pursuing genuine school reform. We empower young people to tap into their intense, innate curiosity and carve out their own paths to happy, successful lives, at a price nearly all families can afford. As a society, we desperately need more options, more choices for families, so please don't throw out the reform baby with the big-business bath water.

momincolorado
momincolorado

To anyone who even thinks they know what's going on in DCSD without stepping foot in a classroom, you're sadly ill informed. I've worked in DCSD for years (as a volunteer and an employee). Most schools have lost up to 50% of their staff due to turnover, with the replacements being undereducated or just green. For the first time in years, not one DCSD high school has been named of best of anything. TCAP scores in the district, for math and reading anyway, are at an all time low. Graduation requirements are lower than anywhere else in the state. SPED and IEP students are not getting the services or time they are afforded by law. In some schools there are more than 32 kids per class, and that's just at the elementary level (don't even get me started on high school). Oh, and all parents must PAY for busing, while the average high school student has over $250 in fees per year (not including sports, extracurricular, AP or CU Succeed classes). Not to mention the fact that the BOE and Sup are attemping to implement a teacher pay-for-performance program that has no chance of actually evaluating a teacher's ability to teach, only their ability to teach to the TEST, and to treat kids like widgets, not INDIVIDUALS.
Instead of spouting your hate, volunteer in a DCSD school. Learn about all the issues. See for yourselves why we need to vote in a new BOE (and Sup) come November. Do what's right for our children and their future.

sbrunningman2
sbrunningman2

Went to the link for Town of Parker, and there is no mention of Reformers- The Movie. The only offering is for Bingo, A Winning New Musical.

Is Westword engaging in some political theater? Creating a false hype about a Lib cause. You know, something along the lines of A Whole Lot of People for Morse; out of state, snarkey a$$hole-ish, hipster crap obviously not invented by anyone in the Springs or Pueblo.

Has anyone from the Obama zombies ever actually been down there? And another thing, do you know how badly Dougco is kicking Everyone, most especially DPS's, A$$?

My Grandfather was the Latin American representative for the AFL back in the day, before they sold out to the mobster riddled CIO. Feels strange to be saying it, but; Death to ALL Public Service Unions.

Whenever you hear their complaints, they never seem to have either the time or the worry for kids, just their own situation.

David Alley
David Alley

Has DPS been hijacked by Liberals? Which District has the better performance record? The people of Douglas County voted for this board and if they want to effect change they'll get it done. And as for Documentary Film makers, they have a terrible record of bending the truth to fit their preconceived notions.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

I can tell from simply reading this that the real "activist" is Malone.  Union bashing indeed!  Perhaps what the "controversial" school board is trying to bash is the failure of the union controlled public school system.   It would appear that Malone is trying to follow Michael Moore into sleazeball journalism for profit.  

Here is a thought Malone, why don't we start caring about educating our kids, instead of profiteering and politicizing.  As long as unions protect failed, incompetent and indifferent teachers, our children will continue to get a second rate (at best) education.  

DCSDHockeyMom
DCSDHockeyMom

@feelingthelove , I'm very happy for your kids, that their individual schools are performing well, and that you're happy with them.   We've always had great schools, and still do.   Test scores for the district as a whole, however, are down since the reformers took over, despite the misleading and false information that the district pushed out in it's August 15 Newsline.   Details on the fiasco, cited to source documents, can be found at StrongSchoolsCoalition.org.   

Also, have you seen the movie?   It covers MANY issues going on in DCSD, not just vouchers and the implementation of the new evaluation tool against the advice of an independent analyst that it was flawed.   We've always had many choices in DCSD, including open enrollment, magnet and charter schools... no one wants to "roll back" school choice.     Similarly, teachers have ALWAYS been held accountable.   We've had pay for performance in DCSD for over a decade! 

This movie explores so much more than you've said.   It's very well done and accurately portrays, among other things, the hostile work environment our teachers are in, the secretive way the board conducts business, and hostile way it treats parents and other community members with different opinions, and the devastating changes to the high school schedules that have cut some students to part-time and, as seen in the film, deprived students of their choice of college, due to the decrease in academic rigor in their senior years.   Well worth seeing, no matter what one's opinion is on the one or two issues that get the most press.

feelingthelove
feelingthelove

@bruce-at-AVS   

Thank you for your polite comment!  If everyone would be respectful in their tone as you have been, perhaps we would all learn to find the best road for education in Colorado!  I presume we take time to post because we care about education.  I also agree that that the blog post was REALLY off with the big business comment.  This just showed that the reporter really has no idea about why parents make and need options, including PUBLIC traditional neighborhood schools, PUBLIC charter schools, and private schools too.  

feelingthelove
feelingthelove

@momincolorado 

I volunteer at our school several times a week.  I have an IEP student, as well as two who are not IEP/SPED.  While I agree with your comment on fees, which are hard on many, I disagree with everything else you say- "most schools have lost up to 50% of their staff"  Really?   Which ones??? I guess "up to" can mean what ever you want.. 5%, 10%- glad that my students in DCSD are learning about how statistics can be manipulated to suit ones agenda.  Lets all be honest and not over state or over simplify.  Budget cuts happened due to the economy, yes it affected class size.- everywhere.  Yes, we can go overboard on testing, but is one standardized test a year so bad?  I find my kids scores valuable in one measure of their academic growth, and yes I need to know what other typical kids in the same grade are scoring to help with that evaluation.    Let's focus on the goal, and best use the resources we have in each of our school districts to make our academic growth goals a reality.  Time for the grown-up to stop arguing and pointing fingers.  We expect more than that from our students!  

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@momincolorado    mom, we will presume,  when you say "Instead of spouting your hate ...", you are speaking directly to Brian Malone.  

ICallShenanigans
ICallShenanigans

@fishingblues do you even see the irony in your accusations of "profitizing and politicizing"? If you were more than just a DCSD-paid troll (which is likely), you would realize that exactly what so-called "education reform" is all about. Now back to Fox News with you.

momincolorado
momincolorado

@fishingblues @momincolorado 
Wrong again. I have yet to see Mr. Malone's movie (which I plan to remedy in Castle Rock on September 11). However, I can assure you that I the hate to which I refer is yours, and the others who commented  - those who refuse to see the forest for the trees. Like I mentioned previously, please consider visiting a DCSD school, speak to some DCSD employees, speak to some parents. Learn about the true issues before you spout off your nonsensical, 'it's the union, it's the liberals, it's Michael Moore, it's incompetent teachers".  I will welcome your opinion with open arms as soon as you've stood where I've stood, seen what I've seen, and sat in anguish and powerlessness while watching a once wonderful school district sink into the quick.

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@ICallShenanigans @fishingblues   What a freaking moron!   (I love how loony liberals are scared to death of Fox News.  I bet you think MSNBC and Comedy Central offer hard news.)

You obviously have no clue what irony means.  The unions have ruined the public education system.  That is indisputable.  If you are just another union lackey, union stooge, union thug or union apologist, your opinion is worthless.     

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

@momincolorado @fishingblues    Mom, you are exactly what is wrong with our public schools.  Blind,close-minded,union zealots.  You don't care about the children.  DO NOT even pretend that you do.  Your pathetic, union controlled, government school system is a joke and a failure.  If it doesn't change, it will just get worse.

coloradolycan
coloradolycan

@fishingblues @ICallShenanigans 

Unions SUCK I had a teacher when I was in Middle school tell me I was a waste of tax payers money...she should have lost her job. But they couldn't fire the trash because she had been a teacher for sooooo long and oh poor poor teacher.....who mind you shouldnt have been teaching at all what kind of SCUM calls a child a waste??? UNION scum 

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