(EL PASO COUNTY, Colo.) — As kids start returning to school after winter break, protests ramped up at Liberty Tree Academy.
On Friday afternoon, Jan. 6, several parents walked the snowy sidewalks holding signs and having people driving by sign petitions.
“This all started with a board that took over our school,” said Rachel Arguello, a parent of students at the school and the protest organizer.
She said that in October, a school board stepped in to replace the current one, and began making changes.
“We’re not okay with the fact that this board can do whatever they want and has caused a lot of damage to our school leading up to the denial of our charter renewal, which is huge,” Arguello added.
Parents in attendance said some teachers and staff had been publicly removed with zero warning.
“They could have easily done it after school or the next day when there wasn’t school in session,” Arguello said. “But, that was one of the reasons that so many parents are involved in this, because that was the start of what became an investigation that was totally a sham.”
She added they’re hoping, with enough signatures, the current board can step down.
“Not only have we been asking them to resign, but they have continued to damage our school again, resulting in us losing our charter,” Arguello said. “So we’re looking at this as an opportunity to get the elected board that we deserve.”
The charter’s school’s legal team responded to the concerns of wanting an elected school board, rather than the usual self-perpetuated system in place.
“The original founders hand-selected four of the current board members,” said Dustin Sparks, managing attorney for Liberty Tree Academy. “One of them was not hand-selected by the original founders, but were recruited by the people that were already on the board.”
Sparks added the board investigated the staff who were fired, and per Colorado law when it comes to charter schools, he said, “The employee who is the subject of the executive session has the option to have that meeting held in public. And they made that request.” Sparks added, “It was never the intention of the board to make this a public display or to make anyone look bad. But they needed to do their job as fiduciary of the school.”
There will be a board meeting on Saturday at 9 a.m.
The parents also held a meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Friday to spread more awareness to parents and plan their next steps.