Greetings from the Rephormiest Place in America

Pioneers for excellence and choice break ground on what will be the 13th charter school in Douglas County, Colorado, the rephormiest place in America.

Reader: nothing brings me more joy each day than the arrival of the EduShyster mailbag. Will it contain a shiny alert from one of the interchangeable #edreform PAC-lets, trumpeting vaguely and ominously about parents’ rights? Or perhaps there is to be news of a fresh new study boldly claiming the need for freshness and innovation in our schools—if we are to begin to try to meet the anticipated needs of tomorrow today…

Alas, the EduShyster mailbag contained something far more delightful: a postcard from an EduShyster premium reader who happens to find herself living, teaching and parenting in one of the rephormiest places in the US of A: Douglas County, Colorado. For those of you who have not been able to experience the excellence and innovation in the Centennial State’s eighth most populous county for yourselves, allow me to summarize for you. There was a lot of Standing for Children, followed by a surging grassroots movement demanding Excellent Teachers and Excellent Leaders, the creation of a bold new system that rewards Merit and Excellence in our Schools as well as a Blueprint for Choice. Now, like pioneers in a covered wagon, the children of Douglas County are hurtling towards World Class Outcomes, a new generation of creative, financially literate critical thinkers, globally aware problem solvers, and adaptable, ethical, resilient collaborators.

Reader, if you are feeling slightly dizzy and nauseous, you are not suffering from altitude sickness—I fear that is your aversion to excellence and innovation at work. Fortunately the Superintendent of the Douglas County Schools, Dr. Liz Fagan, is here to help you gain an understanding of and an appreciation of just how phantastic rephorm can be. Note to EduShyster premium readers: I’m recommending a Martini & Rossi Asti Spumanti to accompany the bubbly froth contained in the following correspondence.

As I have written about several times previously, American education was invented about 100 years ago — to fuel the needs of the Industrial Revolution.  Today, the talents and skills employers desire from our students are much different, and DCSD is working to change our student outcomes.  We are doing this to make sure they are prepared for whatever college or career pathway they choose – to compete on a global scale.  We are also rethinking assessment as well as the way we teach.  We know so much more today than we have ever known before about teaching, learning, and assessment — it only makes sense that we reinvent our system (change the expectations we have for ourselves) based on what we know is best for our students today. 

Only a few months ago one of my daughters required hernia surgery.  I was very impressed with the skill-set and approach employed by her veteran doctor.  I am sure that when he originally graduated from medical school, the approach for repairing hernias in children was fairly invasive.  My guess is that it included a large incision and scar across her abdomen.  However, being extraordinarily current in his craft, instead he made a tiny incision in her bellybutton and repaired the hernia in less than fifteen minutes.  It was really incredible, and I was very thankful. 

I often compare great teaching to great medicine – both marry our personalized knowledge of the patient/student to our professional expertise to provide the very best outcome possible.  Both have to constantly stay current because we are committed to providing our patients/students only the best.  Just as my daughter’s doctor had to learn a new procedure, our teachers are currently learning new strategies/approaches that will benefit our students, and as it turns out, this is consistent with the traditions of our school district – we continue to be pioneers.  This time, we are systemically transforming American education. 

Reader: I happen to be in COMPLETE agreement with Dr. Fagan on this one. Medicine and teaching are just alike, which is why our hospitals are now filled with Surgery for America recruits who are patching hernias and removing appendices after 5 weeks of training. Also, thanks to surging grassroots demand, we now have a new network of charter hospitals that are freed from burdensome regulations and are innovating like crazy while producing topnotch outcomes.

But I’m sure you have questions of your own, like ‘how can I see some of this rephorm action with my own eyes’? Good news again: a documentary film crew is currently following Dr. Fagan and the pioneers of Douglas County. Note: this is NOT the documentary about the county’s controversial voucher program, being filmed by former teacher Brian Malone who has been banned from attending Board of Education meetings.

Also, you may be wondering just how much a pioneer in excellence and innovation like Dr. Fagan gets paid. Allow me to say that while Dr. Fagan may be the highest-paid public-school executive in Colorado —even though she works in  district that has cut hundreds of  teaching positions,  frozen wages and now charges for bus service—SHE IS WORTH EVERY PENNY. That is why she is not covered by the district’s innovative new pay for performance plan depicted in this phantastic graphic at right.

Are you a pioneer for rephorm? Send comments or questions to


  1. Thanks for the coverage, Edushyster! I am a parent in Douglas County and I’m experiencing first-hand the “rephorm” steamroller of the Douglas County School District.

    We parents are facing an uphill battle against a repressive Board of Education that is hell-bent on forcing their political agenda upon the kids in the district. So, your coverage of what we up against is very appreciated!

    Oh, and along with Asti Spumanti, I recommend Coors Light too!

  2. There’s gold in them thar hills! I’m loading up my wagon and heading west so that my children too will be creative, financially literate critical thinkers, etc.!

  3. Thanks for the appropriately tongue-in-cheek post. It made me laugh, and cry a little too since I happen to teach in this phantastic and rephorming place and have read many of Liz’s bombastic and downright incomprehensible emails and blogs in the hopes of figuring out just what the heck is going on here. No such luck. Dr Fagen (who BTW went by the moniker Celania-Fagen while heading up Tucson’s schools… guess the dearth of brown folks in Douglas County make that unnecessary), never uses three words where 25 will do.

    While I appreciate the comparison to a doctor (God knows at this point in my teaching career I’ve got as much education in), the doctors I know don’t deal with 30-35 patients at a time. I do however try to stay “extraordinarily current” by taking classes to be up on the latest, and yes to become one of those “highly effective” folks who do everything extraordinary 100% of the time (yes, that’s the requirement to be highly effective). Beware, this rephorm could be coming to a school district near you!

    1. It already has and I am buying Kendall Jackson by the case here in la-tee-da Connecticut.

      We have an alarming report about our children and a rising obesity rate…nearly one third of the kids in kindergarten to third grade are chubby.

      Time to hold those lazy good for nothing gym teachers accountable…no more throwing out the balls and go play. We need a standardized test to measure nutritional information and exercise data…get on that CT SDE….how else are we going to help these plump children ready for their college and career years, where they will most likely just get chubbier?

      So much to do, so little time.

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