EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was changed from an earlier version that said Tyler Sandberg has “long” been associated with a GOP political community that at one time opposed amnesty, zero tolerance, for illegal immigrants. It now reflects that he became associated with the group when he joined Mike Coffman’s re-election campaign.
An odd and unexpected kerfuffle at Aurora Public Schools isn’t unlike that dream you have where the neighbor that hates your guts buys you a brand-new car and fills the tank.
You instinctively know something is amiss.
That same feeling woke me right up a couple of weeks ago while perusing a letter to the editor from a local Republican wag. It came not long after the Aurora Public Schools board approved a resolution May 16 directing the superintendent to find ways to make APS sort of a sanctuary school district for illegal immigrants.
Of course I and other bleeding-heart types were fast to gush all over the notion. It pushes back against worries that the Trump Administration will start rounding up illegal immigrants into railroad box cars and warehouse them at internment camps until they can be shipped to Nogales, or something like that.
In reality, it wisely gets the school district ready to deal with students if their parents are picked up by ICE squads while the kids are in class. It also directs the schools to refuse to give information about citizenship status to the feds if they come poking around.
The school board voted unanimously in May to back the immigration resolution, and the Aurora Sentinel prominently backed the move.
So Republican strategist Tyler Sandberg’s letter to the editor came as no surprise. I figured he would be calling out our bluster as just so much liberal tripe.
Sandberg was, instead, calling out APS board director Cathy Wildman for ruining a perfectly good school board meeting with her racist rant.
Sandberg was formerly the hired political gun for Congressman Mike Coffman when he ran against former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. He was then associated with a part of the GOP that was once dead set on zero tolerance for illegal immigration and ready to ship out anyone’s mother if they don’t have U.S. credentials. That’s changed some to accommodate Aurora’s very diverse demographics, but these are not political activists hiding Guatemalan nationals in their basements.
And Wildman? She’s a retired school teacher-cum-school-board-member.
Sandberg’s charge was that at the May 16 school board meeting Wildman criticized the resolution because it prompted the school district to protect “rule breakers.”
It was a good point, albeit an obvious one. There would be no need for the resolution if there weren’t thousands of “rule breakers” in school or living with rule-breaking family members at home.
But she went on to say that her nieces in Arizona were driving south in that state and were turned back by warnings that the border towns were unsafe because of tensions over immigration. At least that’s what I think she meant to say, although it makes no sense why she would say such a thing during that meeting.
So imagine my surprise to have someone who has previously talked about the danger of political correctness and the need to enforce the laws we have suddenly lecturing a retired APS teacher on racial sensitivity and the need to protect illegal immigrants from such abuses.
Blink, blink, blink.
I listened even more closely to a recording of Wildman’s odd comments. I was perplexed as to why she would say such things. Wildman’s remarks didn’t make my liberal swoon-o-meter surge, but they did make me squinty. They were pretty dumb things to say. Was Wildman being a racist pig? No way. But Sandberg was certainly entitled to and able to justify his opinion.
The letter ran.
And then new critics showed up at the June 6 school board meeting. One former and two current APS students showed up at the meeting to call Wildman out. Some admitted there was a link between growing right-wing forces and prompts to have students publicly criticize Wildman.
After being called out by students, Wildman doubled down by saying she was being politically attacked for innocuous remarks taken out of context. She never apologized.
The remarks weren’t harmless, they were dubious. She could have taken them back and apologized. Instead, she was dismissive.
School board president Amber Drevon sent out a new missive late last week, saying Wildman was speaking only for herself.
That prompted Wildman to email Aurora Sentinel reporter Ramsey Scott to complain about his most recent story about Wildman getting her information about immigration tensions from the Center for Immigration Studies, a spurious right-wing anti-immigration group. She wanted our readers to know that she came across that on Wikipedia.com doing research on immigration problems. She’s now under fire from a group of right-wing folks, many of whom support the Center for Immigration Studies, called out by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
So now we have former teachers using Wiki to research critical school district policies?
I’d say Wildman gets a “D” for that stunt and a “D-minus” for oratory skills. But this tussle hardly shows her to be a bigot.
I agree that, for whatever reason, she’s the target of a politically motivated strike, a portent of what’s to come as the next election cycle heats up this fall. But Wildman suffers from self-inflicted wounds.
The lesson here? Raise the bar when you’re doing your homework, and when speaking in public, choose your words as if everybody is listening.
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