More important than learning 

A long time ago, back when I was idealistic and earnest and fresh out of J-school, I worked for a daily newspaper in the central Rockies and routinely covered the Eagle County School Board.

This was a group of people who oversaw the education of the children of Vail millionaires, as well as those of undocumented workers eking out livings by cleaning trophy homes whose owners came around only a couple weeks a year.

The president of the school board was a man by the name of Al Abrams, who often got so worked up about someone's idea to improve education that he'd get all red in the face and pound on the dais for a while before, invariably, wrapping up his bellicose commentary with the following statement:

"Well hells, I's jest an old farmer, but that there's how I feels."

I quoted Mr. Abrams verbatim and often, and, along with other reporters, marveled over how this man came to become the president of the school board.

Last week, I was reminded of Mr. Abrams upon receiving a copy of an e-mail sent by District 11 school board member Willie Breazell to a district employee about his plans to introduce a proposal that he thought was just marvelous.

In the 1 1/2-sentence message, sent to Assistant Board Secretary Julie Stevens, Breazell wrote:

Julies [sic],

This is just a heads up ...

I am going to try to get three head nods to support this resolution if I do, [sic] we will go a head [sic] with this ... other wise [sic] it will die.

Let me repeat what Mr. Breazell wrote. This time I will correct his grammar and spelling:


This is just a heads up ...

I am going to try to get three head nods to support this resolution. If I do, we will go ahead with this ... otherwise it will die.

That wasn't so hard. Just basic elementary school stuff. Anyway, what followed Mr. Breazell's error-riddled intro was eye-popping, even for a school board member whose expensive campaign last year was funded by voucher advocates who say they want to reform education because public schools, and especially those evil teachers unions, are failing our kids.

Mr. Breazell's plan was to get his colleagues to sign off in support of a "marriage resolution" that would send the message that "the definition, defense, maintenance and nourishment of stable, heterosexual, two-parent families is a central goal of public education in District 11, and ought to be so throughout Colorado."

It is unclear exactly who penned the resolution, or how Breazell, the board secretary whose brother-in-law is state Sen. Ed Jones, came to be its chief sponsor. But among the whereases and wherefores -- which can be read online -- was this little gem:

"Efforts to improve public education based on increased funding, experiments with new teaching methods and curricula, smaller class sizes, improved facilities, and new technology, good though they may be, can never bring about the restoration of our public schools without a restoration of the traditional family."

Can this be so? Making sure a child has two parents who are having the right kind of sex with each other is more important to public education than making sure students are in safe and decent school facilities and in smaller classes?

Last Wednesday, Mr. Breazell introduced his all-important resolution and actually got "head nods" of approval from his pals, board treasurer Eric Christen and vice president Craig Cox, meaning it would actually be brought forward for formal consideration.

But others were appalled; even Sandy Shakes, who won after running on the same pro-voucher slate as Mr. Breazell, apparently couldn't stomach statements like "the single greatest benefit a community can offer its public education system is a moral, social, and legal framework which defends and nourishes the formation of stable heterosexual two-parent families ..."

Ultimately, Mr. Breazell withdrew his proposal, and, in a subsequent interview with the Rocky Mountain News, suggested he had no idea it would be so controversial. In the News piece, Breazell -- who identified himself as a former student-teacher -- added fuel to the fire, putting forward the notion that children being raised by single parents don't have any jackets to wear and don't eat breakfast in the morning.

Someone give Mr. Breazell a voucher and send him back to school. He's got a lot of learning to do.

If my statements about this elected school board member offend anyone, so be it.

After all, I's jest an old editor, but that there's how I feels.

-- degette@csindy.com


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