The Denver Post‘s Kevin Simpson may need to hear from his own Inigo Montoya. No, not because he has any extra fingers or is in need of revenge. Early in The Princess Bride, after his Sicilian partner in crime has lisped out another “Inconceivable!”, the iconic swordsman offhandedly rebukes him with a famous line:
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
In the August 26 edition of the Post, Simpson offered up a flattering profile of new Colorado Education Association (CEA) president Kerrie Dallman. In the piece he notes her “collaborative work in Jeffco,” her “reputation for collaboration,” and “a leadership style that seeks to identify areas of collaboration.”
Three days after the feature was published, Dallman dispatched a letter to union members, calling on them in the name of “solidarity” to join a protest of the Douglas County school board before their September 4 meeting. The conflict between the CEA president’s “put kids front and center” rhetoric and the priorities promoted in that letter are clear enough.
It turns out the Dougco board meeting had to be moved back a day to accommodate a district tragedy. Instead of going south from Denver, Dallman turned north and headed to the Adams 12 school board meeting–along with nearly 400 fellow union sympathizers from at least seven different school districts.
The CEA was there to make the case that the District 12 board had broken the collective bargaining contract by adopting a budget (in June) that included increasing teacher pension contributions to match those made by other employee groups. The other option the board eschewed? Lay off instructors, required to be done by seniority. More teachers would have to be let go because the lower-paid ones would be let go first.
Walking into an atmosphere of sign-waving, T-shirts in black or emblazoned with Soviet imagery, and intense rhythmic clapping to express protest, two residents dared to respectfully offer a competing point of view in public testimony. As Adams 12 mom Sara Colburn spoke over murmurs and boos (“You need to realize that you are not the only people hurting right now,” she said), the vast majority of union protesters got up and walked out:
At about 2:45 into the video, you can see a black-shirted woman facing the departing crowd and holding a sign (which can’t be read because of the profile view), as if to direct their actions. That woman? You guessed it: CEA president Kerrie Dallman.
Most of the union protesters didn’t bother to stay around and hear the response. But Colburn, her husband, and the other resident who spoke on behalf of taxpayers? For their own safety, security officers had to escort the three of them to their vehicles. Colburn said: “The security officer told me he thought it probably would be a good idea if he took us to our cars. He said all those people that had cleared out were outside the front doors waiting for us.”
Collaboration? I don’t think that word means what the reporter thinks it means. Or maybe he realized, as many more now do, that there’s more to the reputation than meets the eye.