EDITORIAL: Cherry Creek school board candidate revelations show Gibbons to be not just a bad choice, but a dangerous one

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Generally, in local elections, there are only reasons for everyone to choose the candidate that best represents them, without worry that an opponent instead represents a real threat.

The race for the Cherry Creek Schools board isn’t one of those occasions.

Instead, unsure Cherry Creek Schools District electors need to vote against District D candidate Jennifer Gibbons, who has, at best, been disingenuous about who she is and her intentions if elected.

Two weeks ago, in a Sentinel Colorado endorsement in the District D race for Cherry Creek schools board, we suggested voters choose incumbent Kelly Bates. We recommended then, and now, Bates for her steady and common-sense support of a school district that strives for excellence and equity for all students and families. 

The Sentinel questioned Gibbons’ positions on touting her role in leading a local charter school and her lack of temerity to push back against pseudoscience and conspiracy theorists creating a controversy over critical race theory, when there is none.

This week, a story by Sentinel reporter Carina Julig made clear Gibbons has erroneously related her association with an extremist group that presents a very real and grave danger to public education, the Cherry Creek schools district, and minority students and their families in particular.

At issue now is a candidate survey completed by Gibbons for the Colorado extremist group FEC United. FEC stands for “faith, education and commerce.”

During an Oct. 7 school-district sponsored candidate forum, Gibbons was asked her assessment of being endorsed by FEC for a school board post. She asked the moderator who FEC was, saying she’d never heard of it. She then dismissed the question as trivial, saying that, whoever they are, she hoped they vote for her.

Gibbons said, “I’m a person who speaks accurately, and I can tell you I don’t know what that is, and I didn’t know that they endorsed me,” she continued.

When confronted by The Sentinel this week with campaign policy information she supplied to the FEC and accusations tying her to the group, Gibbons backtracked.

“When I got the FEC survey in September, I looked them up and saw that my son’s soccer coach (from about 10 years ago) was affiliated with the group. I reached out to him to find out more, and he never responded. I took the survey and did not revisit it.”

The coach is Joe Oltman, who founded the group. He’s a vocal conspiracy theorist promoting the debunked, false notion that widespread voter fraud stole the presidential election from Donald Trump. He also insists that mask mandates, to curb the pandemic, are government overreach. Oltman is currently being sued for defamation by an employee of Dominion, a Colorado voting machine company.

Oltman and his FEC group also promote a militia branch called “American Defense Force.” Numerous militia members appeared outside a June school board meeting where more than 100 people turned out to protest against teaching critical race theory in local schools, another debunked conspiracy theory. 

In a tepid rebuke this week, Gibbons said she does not support groups that use the threat of physical force in pursuing an agenda, however, “I do not disagree with the FEC coming together and doing good in their community (which is what I thought when I visited their website).”

There’s little ambiguity in the group’s website nor the answers she provided the FEC.

“We have witnessed our health system weaponized against us, censorship of opposing views, and our own government barring citizens from life-saving medications,” the website states about the group’s purpose. 

The website, and Gibbons’ response to its survey, are filled with endless alarming racist and militant dog whistles and overt cues, similar to those parroted among other conspiracy groups. Gibbons coyness suggests concealment, not naiveté.

“We need to change the way in which controversial subjects are presented,” Gibbons told FEC United.  “According to CCSDs own policies, if both sides are not presented, it is considered indoctrination. For example, no one would disagree that Black Lives Matter (sic), but many people think the BLM movement has not been good for our community, thus making it a controversial subject. Unfortunately, both sides of this are not being taught in classrooms, and parents are not happy.”

This hearkens back to the tactics of Holocaust deniers and teaching “both sides” of the Holocaust.

In looking closely at a range of social studies curricula in Cherry Creek and elsewhere, topics such as racism are explored fully, academically and respectfully. We have not seen any concerted effort to promote anything other than learning on this and other “controversial” topics.

Gibbons’ tactic, however, has long been tied to efforts among nationalistic and supremacist groups as dogwhistle efforts to integrate their own agendas inside public schools. It includes recent and local efforts to force posting the biblical Ten Commandments inside classrooms, discriminate against transgender students and promote a political philosophy disguised as curricula.

Most worrisome, was Gibbons’ idea to have the school district judge parents as failed. “…if the child does not have access to a responsible adult, a mentor should be assigned,” Gibbons wrote. “I know many people in the community who would love to participate in a mentorship program.”

Schools must do everything they can to help all families, especially those who struggle for whatever reason. The notion, however, of a school determining whether a parent is a “responsible adult,” and should be supplanted with a mentor, presumably approved by FEC United or similar groups, is chilling. 

Unfortunately for voters, one of three candidates for this race is even more disconcerting than Gibbons. Candidate Shumé Navarro is unequivocally unqualified for the job, having linked herself to a wealth of conspiracy theories and gruesome bigoted expressions filmed on her own Youtube channel she calls, “Don’t Tread on Mae.”

Only candidate Kelly Bates provides a sound and sensible position on how Cherry Creek schools can equitably, safely and soundly support and represent all Cherry Creek students and their families. 

 

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Lauren Milam
Lauren Milam
1 month ago

The incumbent candidate for District D is Kelly Bates, not Katy Bates.

Jen
Jen
1 month ago
Reply to  THE SENTINEL

Ha you guys endorse her and can’t even get her name right!

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
1 month ago

Your full-throated endorsement of the racist, misandrist Bates is enough to confirm my support of Ms. Gibbons for the seat.

Molly Lamar
Molly Lamar
1 month ago

Agreed

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

If I were a CCSD voter, I’d steer clear of this woman.

Publius
Publius
1 month ago

The weaponization of our schools for political indoctrination by both the left and the right has been ongoing for decades. The left has endeavoured to indoctrinate into their orthodoxy of political correctness, the right often to religous indoctination eschewing observation and history. Both views have struggled for supremacy leaving many of us in the middle at a loss. Every year there seems to be an escalation in the practice such that a calm and reasoned perspective on eduction is hard to obtain amidst the hyperbole. Myself, I tend to agree with the conclusions of this editorial. While that is the case I believe it could have been written in a manner encouraging a coming together rather than a pushing apart of the already too wide chasm between warring factions. Denigration is a poor persuasion technique, in my experience. Hearts and minds are not cahnged or persuaded through beratement, but through invitation to consider again a matter, openly rather than from a cdefensive posture. Others mileage may vary.

D Jensen
D Jensen
1 month ago

This article is confusing, and why is there not a specific author? There has been so much unbelievable and sensational negativity toward Ms. Gibbons that it makes me wonder who is the one with the agenda?

Are you saying the Holocaust is controversial and compares to the BLM movement? There are 6 million people who would disagree.

There are not two sides to the Holocaust, but there are two sides to the BLM movement. This is why, like Ms Gibbons says, it is controversial.

This article is very skewed – which explains why there is no specific author, and you have made it clear who I should vote for. Jen Gibbons has my support.

Journalism Major
Journalism Major
1 month ago
Reply to  D Jensen

This is not a news article. It’s an editorial, which is an opinion piece that represents the position of the editorial board as a whole. That is why there is no one “author” – a newspaper may choose to run opinion pieces by individuals (employed by the paper or guest authors) but an editorial does not usually have a single name associated with it. Take a look at a print newspaper editorial section and it is easier to see than online.

Molly Lamar
Molly Lamar
1 month ago

I think you mean the editorial board is really Mr. Dave Perry. When slamming a mother, preschool and Sunday school teacher it made him feel better to hide behind the alias “Sentinel Editorial Board.” How convenient. Your Op Ed seems punitive and vindictive. What’s your motive?!

Your piece fails to mention the unprofessional and unethical behavior of Ms. Bates. There was no mention of the strange amounts of money that quickly funded her campaign account in the last few weeks. Instead you chose to focus on things you know to be untrue with the hopes of influencing voters to vote against Jen Gibbons.

You’re right. This is an opinion piece and it’s not based on facts. It’s based on your bias. How convenient for your paper to sell an ad to Jen Gibbons and Bill Leach. If you thought Jen was so awful why would you choose to promote her in your paper?! Perhaps you were offered more money from someone with an agenda after you sold them the ad. Or maybe you thought you’d just take advantage of a couple of parents trying to spread the word about their campaign. Regardless…selling your soul isn’t news. It’s pathetic. Shame on you. How despicable and sad.

Jen Gibbons
1 month ago

For an accurate depiction of who I am, please visit my website.

jengibbons4ccsd.com

Melissa Scully
Melissa Scully
1 month ago

You should be ashamed of your vilification of Jen Gibbons. She is a mom, doctor, longtime parent volunteer who is running for a volunteer school board position. You have grossly mischaracterized her. You are damaging her personally- her business relies on her reputation and you are spreading rumors and lies. Your desire for the truth to be different does not make it so. She has publicly asserted numerous times that she has no affiliation to FEC. She has rejected their endorsement. She is not a political candidate and has no experience running for office and this is supposed to be a non partisan election; unlike her opposition she does not have access to professional campaign managers and endless amounts of money from Unions, PACs and wealthy donors. She is a parent volunteer that wants to serve her community. She filled out every survey sent to her, including your paper. You have taken information out of context and out of date and it is unscrupulous. You owe her a retraction and a public apology. Where is your coverage of the PAC money in this race? Where is your coverage of Ms Bates personal donations of almost $40,000 and how impossible that is for the average candidate? Where is your coverage of Ms Bates offensive comments on that she has not apologized for? Why are you so vested in getting Bates/Allan elected? Your coverage is biased and bad journalism. 

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
1 month ago

The casual use of the term “militia”, though common, perpetuates an attempted normalization of thuggery. I am aware that is not your intent.

The “militia” is actually composed of the National Guard and the few state-chartered militias that are legitimate. (My father was a member of the oldest state-chartered militia in the country, The Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, chartered in 1638.) That is the militia of the Constitution.

Today’s mobs of AR-15 toting, beer-bellied yahoos is simply a bunch armed gangs. It is past time we stopped insulting the actual state militias and called these groups what they really are: armed street gangs, no different from any band of Crips or Bloods.

Al Jones
Al Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Ryan

Kind of stupid what you’re saying there. Maybe you should leave your moms basement and attend a rally.

Stand4Kids
Stand4Kids
1 month ago

Thank you. Kelly Bates statements demonstrate she is a racist and should be nowhere near a position of leadership or authority. The Sentinel should not endorse her and should not receive our support.

Al Jones
Al Jones
1 month ago

Why is it that the media always supports the most racist, most un-american candidates and expects us to vote for them. this editorial is supporting racist trash that have to place anywhere near our children.

Darrenn Call
Darrenn Call
1 month ago

I love coming to the Sentinel to read about exactly who I should not vote for as this periodical does not come even close to representing the conservative mindset of Aurora and Centennial. Vote for Jen Gibbons!