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Bringing in the big dog 

Bringing in the big dog You've got to hand it to 'em. Local developer Steve Schuck's water boys have been very busy -- and so very creative -- in this year's push to elect pro-voucher candidates to local school boards. The idea to label them "Republicans" in what are supposed to be nonpartisan races certainly was a first. So what if sticking elephants on brochures is a violation of at least the spirit of the law?

And, just to make sure all those Republican voters turn out in droves to vote for the officially designated "Republican" candidates, the Grand Old Party has been assembling its "101 Hour Victory Team" -- hundreds of "volunteers" who will be mobilized during the three days before, and on, Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 1.

In a detailed e-mail sign-up sheet sent out last week, former Republican Party Chairman Chuck Broerman offered party loyalists all kinds of options. Work part or full days; single or multiple days; do honk-and-waves; poll-watch; drive people to the polls; do phone-bank advocacy calls. You name it! You can get paid a $50 stipend for working a full shift! And you even can contribute said stipend to the El Paso County Republican Party! So the local party, which good authority says is in shaky financial shape, can get a little juice, too.

The whole "101 Hour Victory Team" for Schuck's chosen school board candidates is operating out of -- you guessed it -- Republican Party headquarters at 710 S. Tejon St.

The grand finale, though, will arrive on American Airlines Flight 1119 at Gate 8 of the Colorado Springs Airport this Sunday, Oct. 30, at 4:33 p.m.

Rod Paige, who until this year was George W. Bush's secretary of education, will disembark, head to the five-star Broadmoor hotel and freshen up in his $600-per-night lakeside patio suite, then launch a whirlwind tour of Colorado Springs -- just in time to secure the election.

Never underestimate a rich man with connections and an obsessive desire. Yes, the visit is sponsored by Schuck, whose efforts to install vouchers in Colorado Springs have reached an epoch. According to the itinerary, Schuck will personally escort Paige around town during his two-day stay.

At 9 a.m. sharp on Monday, Schuck will "deliver" Paige to the Gazette to meet with editorial page editor Sean Paige (relation unknown) and education reporter Brian Newsome.

District 11 spokeswoman Elaine Naleski says Paige plans to visit Adams Elementary School to bestow some sort of award to the principal there. (Now there's a perfect setting for a TV photo op.)

Paige then is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at a $25-per-head Economic Development Corporation luncheon at the posh Cheyenne Mountain Resort. He'll appear at a town hall event at the El Pomar Foundation (with more photo ops for the chosen local school board candidates). Then he'll take to the airwaves on Joseph Michelli's KVOR radio program, before flying outta here late Monday afternoon.

So just who is Rod Paige? The EDC's official bio says he is a champion of education reform, spearheader of the president's No Child Left Behind Act, leader in setting new standards of achievement.

He's also the former superintendent of schools in Houston, the grand master of the "Texas Miracle" -- which turned out to be a fraud. While he was superintendent, Paige claimed dropout rates among the schools he oversaw had, astoundingly, dropped to virtually zero.

Turns out -- and this has been widely disseminated -- the books had been cooked in Houston. Principals afraid to lose their jobs had turned in bogus numbers. In reality, Houston's public school system under Paige's leadership actually had a 52 percent graduation rate -- one of the lowest among the 50 largest public school districts in the United States.

Our bet is that Paige, who now works in the private sector, won't be talking about that part of his education record at the EDC luncheon and various other photo-op stops on Monday. After all, who wants to grip and grin with a guy like that?

And here's betting that when readers of the Gazette pick up their newspapers the next morning, Election Day, Paige will be featured flatteringly on the front page, proudly offering up endorsements for Schuck's anointed candidates in D-11, in Harrison District 2 and, probably, others.

It's brilliant. It's pure chutzpah. It's cynical as hell.

-- degette@csindy.com

  • Bringing in the big dog You've got to hand it to 'em.

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