RE-2 District Parents Can Prevent Kids From Taking Controversial Subjects

The Woodland Park RE-2 School District's Board of Education met on February 9. Photo By Trevor Phipps

New Board Scores First Major Victory in Enacting Policy Changes

Trevor Phipps

A slew of television interviews conducted by Woodland Park RE-2 District Superintendent Dr. Mathew Neal, outlining new policies on controversial subject matters, have commanded considerable attention and comment at local meetings.

 One of his media appearances was seen at a national level on the Fox News network’s Fox & Friends morning news show.

The superintendent recently announced a new change in policy regarding controversial subject matter being taught in schools. Starting next school year, parents within the district will be informed of a potential controversial subject matter and they will be given the option to “opt out” if they don’t want their kids learning the curriculum.

According to Dr. Neal, the move came about after the new school board was elected last November. “I think it was really a challenge of our school board,” the superintendent said. “The school board came in in November and they wanted to make sure the parents had that transparency in the classroom and the understanding of what is being taught. And also, the parents have the responsibility to voice when they think there is a controversial subject that they would like to opt their child out of.”

Local parents will now have the option to opt their child out of subjects that contain certain controversial topics. Subjects taught that contain sexual content, graphic violence, drug use, or profanity are all open for the parents to choose to opt out. Materials that may be polarizing along racial, ethnic, or religious lines are also included in the district’s new opt out policy.

During the interview, the host of the national show Brian Kilmeade, praised Dr. Neal for giving parents a control that many other school districts in the country don’t offer. The host concluded by  saying, “Maybe we should all move to Colorado.”

Since the interview was aired, the district has received praise from some community leaders. During last week’s meeting of the Teller County Republican Party, the school board’s vice chairman David Illingworth II, spoke highly of the superintendent’s new policy.

During the school board meeting last week, Illingworth and the other board members congratulated Dr. Neal on conducting a good interview. The board members were proud of the fact that the Fox News host told people to move to the school district on national news.

School Board Praise/Conflict of Interest Issues

During the last week’s school board meeting, several members of the public praised the school board for what they have already accomplished. Many community members said that they think the new policies initiated by the board will help the school district regain its enrollment numbers.

The school district’s Director of Social and Emotional Learning, Tina Cassens gave a presentation on student behavior. Photo By Trevor Phipps.

Many of the residents who spoke lauded the school board  for pursuing their campaign promises and embracing their conservative values.

In other school board news, Vice Chairman Illingworth announced that his wife, Katie Illingworth, was no longer a member of the Merit Academy school board. This was a subject of contention at a previous  meeting, with allegations of a conflict of interest.

He told the crowd that his wife stepped down from the board, but not because of there being a conflict of interest. “I’ll be clear, it was not because of any change in opinion by legal counsel of this board or the Merit Academy attorney,” Illingworth explained. “The decision was not made as a change of heart about what the law required for there to be a conflict of interest. I think it was more of a personal decision from my understanding to bring a little peace, not just to the community or school boards, but maybe within our own house.”

During the meeting there was an item on the consent calendar for the board to allow Dr. Neal to serve as a consultant with the Colorado Board of Education. “I have been asked by the state’s board of education to review schools that are in duress in the state of Colorado,” Dr. Neal told the meeting’s audience. “What that means is that I will be out of the district for three or four days during the entire year. It is a background I have had with the state of Colorado before and I consider it a position of honor to be appointed by the state’s board of education to provide that kind of service to them.”

School Board Director Gary Brovetto gives a presentation on changing the board’s vision and mission. Photo By Trevor Phipps

Board Director Gary Brovetto also gave a lengthy presentation on changes he wants to make to the board’s mission and vision. The topic will be brought back to the board during a work session that takes place on Feb. 24.