D-11 board member Eric Christen is well-known for his bombastic flame-throwing at fellow board members, administrators and even teachers during televised meetings.
Thanks in large part to Christen, board meetings often have degenerated into a theater of the absurd.
Toby Norton, a self-described "parent advocate" who supports Christen and who, according to Sandy Shakes works for Steve Schuck, has been known to stand up and yell from the audience, accusing those who don't agree with her of being "bullies."
Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy founder and Christen supporter Linda Carroll sometimes sits in the front row, literally making faces at board members she doesn't like.
Christen's antics -- including calling Shakes a "buffoon" -- have resulted in numerous forced time-outs.
And Shakes knows how to push all his buttons.
Just last week, Christen's board pal Willie Breazell was trying to back him up, claiming that the system (District 11) is "broke."
Breazell repeated it a few times: "We're broke," he said. "D-11 is broke."
Shakes finally jumped in, correcting Breazell's grammar: "I don't know if I would have used that term; I might have said 'broken,'" she said.
Christen, enraged, leaned forward, to the microphone.
"Your pettiness knows no bounds," he boomed at Shakes. "You owe Director Breazell an apology. You are petty and shameless. You are not even a serious person."
Yet, in a June 10, 2004 e-mail, Christen bemoaned similarly impulsive behavior.
"Applause, shouting from the audience, people randomly walking up to microphones to speak, etc. is just unacceptable and from now on will be met with a 'point of order' from myself. Our meetings have become embarrassing ... and it must end."
While most of Christen's ire is directed at Shakes, whom he has described as a "drama queen" and "gossip queen," he also lashes out at plenty of others -- including his constituents and the media.
On May 27, 2004, Christen sent this e-mail, titled "Board incident," describing a run-in that he allegedly had with fellow D-11 board member Mary Wierman:
"I wanted to make everyone aware of a disturbing incident last night that occurred shortly after the board meeting adjourned. I was sitting at my seat putting items away and preparing to leave when Director Wierman walked directly up to me and started verbally assaulting me ... Her tone, decibel level, and mannerisms were out of line, out of control and over the top. There were board members that witnessed this and witnessed me trying to end the conversation when it became apparent that director Wierman didn't want a conversation, just a confrontation. While poor manners, unprofessional behavior, grandstanding, and a failure to follow any protocol at all are things some of us are sadly becoming used to at our board meetings, it needs to stop now ..."
On April 13, 2004, D-11 resident Lynn Johnston wrote a letter to the school board: "I am wholeheartedly opposed to vouchers! They will undermine public education and create a caste system in the schools," she wrote. "And as a parent, I advocate responsible discussion of homosexuality in sex education classes."
Christen wrote her back:
"I have news for you, there's already a caste system in education and I intend to help end it. Poor people deserve hope too and I am not pretentious enough to think I know what's best for other people's kids.
"Interestingly enough, you seem to think parents will pull their kids out of our schools in droves once given the chance. I think most will stay while a few, those being most poorly served, will go to where their kids will actually learn.
"Who is really the 'anti-public education' proponent here?"
A parent identified only as "Theresa" wrote to the district on Nov. 9, 2004, complaining that as a result of the district's efforts to keep a Gay-Straight Alliance club out of Palmer High School, the number of accepted clubs at other high schools had been severely reduced. Her child, a Coronado student, was being negatively impacted by the decision.
"As they say, facts to a liberal are like kryptonite to Superman."
D-11 personnel are required to report to the board whenever they are contacted by members of the media. On Election Day 2004, communications specialist Judy McIntire reported that the Gazette and the Independent had called to inquire about an incident involving Christen that had taken place at North Middle School. Christen had planted campaign signs in the schoolyard, in violation of district policy, and threatened a janitor with termination. (Later, a formal reprimand of Christen cited, among other things, his behavior that day.)
"As usual, the Gazette and the Independent right [sic] on top of these crucial student achievement issues. They should run for our school board, they'd fit right in."
On Jan. 28, 2004, Christen responded to a request from Independent reporter Terje Langeland for an interview to discuss changes in D-11 and the proposed Life Skills Center.
"Please inform Mr. Langeland that I only respond to legitimate and responsible media. Tell him he is just wasting his time even calling me."
On Oct. 19, 2004, Judy McIntire alerted the board that a TV reporter from Channels 5/30 had contacted the district about bus stops. Also, Sabrina from Slice was working on stories about bus safety and air conditioning in classrooms, and Shari Chaney from the Gazette talked to the district about tutoring. Christen shot back:
"They have the right people assigned to cover D-11, they never deal with anything education related either."
On April 6, 2005, board members were notified of an upcoming resolution to recognize Cinco de Mayo and its importance as a symbol of unity and patriotism for citizens of Mexican descent.
"I am confused why we are celebrating another country's holiday, please explain. There may be a good reason for it but I don't see it as of now. This is a rather insignificant holiday in Mexico, by the way, as the French followed up with a victory over the Mexican Army shortly thereafter."
Then-superintendent Norm Ridder responded by pointing out that the resolution had actually been requested by Breazell -- and that the holiday is respected in Colorado's Hispanic community.
On Jan. 15, 2004, Susan Cove, who works in the communications department, alerted board members that seven students had broken out in a strange bubble rash at Jenkins Middle School. Christen responded with a snappy, single-word query.
-- Cara DeGette
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