Parker Dems discuss schools at Vines Wine Bar

The Colorado Statesman

I met Robert Tait and his wife Jessie Alba Tait, committee members of the Parker Democrats, at their monthly meeting conveniently held at Vines Wine Bar on Mainstreet in Parker. Seemingly young for such organizers, they held their own and kept order as if they had been holding meetings for decades. Of course, plying people with wine never hurts.

Robert and Jessie Alba Tait, committee members of the Parker Democrats, host their monthly meeting at Vines Wine Bar.
Photo by Kimberly Dean/The Colorado Statesman

We were to expect about a dozen people, and the tables were arranged in a “C” shape in a back room of the bar so everyone could face each other. I sat toward the middle so I wouldn’t miss anything. While the Taits welcomed other members and caught up on current events, I ordered a glass of Riesling from Willamette Valley Vineyards of Oregon Wine Country. At Vines, it is served in a small carafe so you could refill your own glass. A convenient way to pace yourself, I might add.

The Willamette Riesling is generally described on their website as a “semi-sweet, medium-bodied wine…crisp…good acidity,” exactly what my palette responds to. Though I am not sure whether it was a 2008 or 2009, both years are meant to be drunk through 2011.

To my right sat Cindy Sweatt, neighborhood team leader for Organizing for America, which was President Barack Obama’s election campaign organization and continues to support his efforts. Sweatt told me about upcoming events designed to educate people on the facts about the new healthcare plan called “How will the Affordable Care Act affect you?” Many of those meetings will have concluded by the time this article comes out, but you can find out more information online.

I also met Teekee McClain, a teacher originally from California. She handed me a business card with an image of a green apple on it that simply said “35 years experience,” along with her phone number. She was drinking a glass of the house cabernet, Marcus James 2009 from Mendoza, Argentina. The tasting notes I found are as follows: “Originally of French origins, this versatile grape produces exceptional wines around the globe. It's usually medium to full-bodied with a fine structure that supports black and red fruit flavors with typical notes of olive, chili and herbs that add complexity.” You know, just in case you want to try it.

Teekee must know quite a bit about wine, letting me in on a little-known California secret called Amador County, an up-and-coming wine country region in California, apparently out of which much good wine comes. My research confirms that many of the best zinfandels come from the 2700 acres of vineyards and 30 or so wineries in the county, though I couldn’t recommend any of them yet.

The topic of conversation that evening was “elite private school vouchers, good or bad?” It seems that most of the Douglas County Democrats in the room were opposed, but for varying reasons. This is meant to be an experiment for Colorado in Douglas County, but the group expects it to spread throughout the state.

How the voucher system works is that names are randomly drawn from a lottery, after an initial screening, and a certain number of public school students, in this case 1,000, can then attend a private school after first meeting the particular school’s requirements, other than financial, of course. The objection to this is that it would lead to discrimination. Well, that is the whole point of private schools, isn’t it? That your student is brought up among others who have parents of the same values is the whole basis for segregating them from the rest of the population.

Once the student gets in to the private school, that student may continue to attend that particular institution until they graduate, providing they perform adequately in the eyes of that institution. One objection to that is, some of these private schools may not require standardized testing, which may be seen as a benefit for some students who do not test well, but excel in other areas.

Of course, in all cases where a child is accepted into the private system, the parents of that student must continue to pay taxes into the public system, as do other parents of private school students, but some Parker taxpayers think this is unfair. They assume the neighborhood will suffer, and what’s so bad about Douglas County schools, anyway? Are private school kids any better off and able to deal with the challenges of real life?

I spoke briefly with Stacey Neith in the communications department at the Douglas County School Board, who directed me to some information on the program on the DCSB website. She said it is called a “Scholarship Program.”

According to the DCSD website, it’s actually called the Option Certificate Program. The bullet points there indicate that “scholarships would be provided to parents for use at approved private school partners, private schools would have conditions of eligibility that must be met, and DCSD scholarships would only be available to currently enrolled DCSD students.”

Looking further on another link, they say that the OCP’s “purposes are to provide greater educational choice, improve educational performance through competition, obtain a high return on educational spending, and close academic achievement gaps for disadvantaged student populations.”

A paragraph later, it goes on to say that, “Nonpublic schools that reside in the District, whether religious or nonreligious, may apply to participate in the OCP.” This is what Teekee McClain takes issue with the most. She is very passionate that tax dollars should not support religious education, and that it is unconstitutional. “Whatever happened to separation of church and State?” she asked the room, taking another sip of her wine.

The current Subcommittee recommendation is that the matter requires further research. As it should, and so it would seem, does the wine.

Until next time, cheers!