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How a local school board superintendent survey turned into a partisan politics playground

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- In recent weeks, the Academy District 20 school board sought the opinions of the Colorado Springs community on a new superintendent search through an online survey. However, multiple community groups and an elected official with the El Paso County Democratic Party used it as a way to solicit frivolous responses from outside of the community.

In a TikTok posted on January 30, El Paso County Democratic Party Vice Chair, Rob Rogers, told his nearly 19,000 followers to reply to the survey with three words/phrases: Church of All Nations, Moms of Liberty, and lightning. According to District 20, Rogers' video garnered thousands of responses to the survey.

Included in the replies to Rogers' Tiktok video are responses from various people saying, "done from Georgia," "From Michigan, done and good luck," and "submitted from California."

Rogers states that his video was in response to Church of All Nations and Moms of Liberty asking their members to respond to the survey in a specific manner that aligned with their ideals.

"So anyone want to help me counter a Christian nationalist church and Moms for liberty at the same time? My 2 favorite things," Rogers proclaimed in the video. "We can't have the survey filled up with anti-public education garbage by a bunch of people that don't even go here either. And since the church encourages people to forward along to others I figure, why not?"

Wednesday, Rogers said he was concerned that the school board could use responses from only one side of the aisle to make a decision.

"There was a risk that the board could have turned around and used those overwhelming responses as some kind of a mandate and some kind of an indication," Rogers said. "They could have at least claimed that it was an indication that the community wanted these types of things in overwhelming numbers."

13 Investigates asked Rogers about many of the responses originating from outside the Colorado Springs community, namely other states that have no bearing on a local school district's superintendent search.

"I knew that was a possibility. Of course, you know, my followers on TikTok are all around the United States, so there was a possibility of that happening," Rogers said. "But there was just as much of a possibility of that happening with the calls to action that were being sent out by the three other groups."

According to District 20, the call for action from Church of All Nations and Moms of Liberty lead to thousands of replies to the survey, some from people outside of D20 as well. However, their team was quickly able to weed out the responses from both sides of the political conundrum.

At the time of publication, Church of All Nations and Moms for Liberty have not responded to 13 Investigates requests for comment.

In a report published by Dr. Walt Cooper, he broke down how many responses were quickly ruled out of the survey.

"Approximately 4,300 online survey responses were considered. It is important to note the actual survey submissions totaled more than 12,000 responses, but nearly 8,000 responses were eliminated from consideration as either a result of redundant, solicited responses or incomplete submissions that contained no responses at all," Dr. Cooper wrote.

Allison Cortez, Director of Communications for District 20, tells 13 Investigates the survey was just one piece of many mechanisms used to hear from the community regarding the search for a new superintendent.

"The survey responses, while there were nearly 4,200 of them there, it's just one data point. We also did those focus groups and we had one on one interviews," Cortez said. "The great thing that happened between all of that research is we started to see very clear themes that overlapped between all of those mechanisms that we created data from."

Academy District 20 made it clear. The genuine responses received from community members were factored in and received, and the "canned responses" were never considered.

"It was very easy for them to scrub out that noise. We were able to tell that based on IP addresses when the surveys came in and frankly, just by the answers themselves," Cortez said.

Wednesday night at Liberty High School, the finalists for the superintendent position will be addressing the community in a candidate forum. They will all be providing their reasons why they want to hold the position. Below are the details for Wednesday's forum and an additional forum on Thursday evening at the BOE building.

Community Presentation at Liberty High School

8720 Scarborough Dr. (Auditorium)

Colorado Springs, CO 80920

6 - 8:30 p.m.

Community Presentation at Board of Education Meeting

1110 Chapel Hills Dr. (Board Meeting Room)

Colorado Springs, CO 80920

5 – 7:30 p.m.

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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