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Finding It Very Hard to Get Excited about “Collaborpalooza” Coming Soon to Denver

I’ve got to hand it to Mike Antonucci for coming up with such a great name for an education event as Collaborpalooza (try saying it five times fast). Sounds like some sort of rock & roll festival.

But according to the U.S. Department of Education that’s putting it on, the actual name of the event is the Conference on Labor-Management Collaboration. Of 245 school districts that applied, the Department announced this week the names of the 150 that will participate, in addition to 13 districts separately selected to act as presenters.

Color me highly skeptical about the whole confab. Of course, all results and other things being equal, collaboration on a project is preferable to having it imposed from the top-down. But how often in the multi-billion, quasi-monopoly K-12 education enterprise are all other things really equal — especially when the Department insists on involving unions? Did Colorado’s 100-plus non-union school districts need not apply?

I like how Antonucci puts it, referring to the event organizers’ “tacit belief that there is no such thing as labor-management collaboration without the existence of a formal employees’ union.” How many unions truly (and I mean, truly) are committed to promoting choice, parental empowerment and other effective reforms even when it works against their self-interest? Do I really need to answer that?

Therein lies the fundamental flaw with Collaborpalooza. Nevertheless, Colorado will be well represented at the meeting. Denver Public Schools and Douglas County — the state’s second and third largest districts, respectively — will be presenting what they have learned. And the following Colorado school districts won the lottery to participate:

  • Adams 14
  • Colorado Springs District 11
  • Jefferson County Public Schools

Weld County Re-8 in Fort Lupton missed out on the drawing.

But travel expenses for the three Colorado winners will be less than the other participants. (Note: “Funding to support the conference is being provided by the Ford Foundation.”) Why? Because the national gathering known as Collaborpalooza is going to be held in our backyard (not literally, in Denver) on February 15-16.

Antonucci speculated why 10 states — including New Jersey, Texas, Washington and Wyoming — were not at all represented among the 245 applicants. He concluded:

Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Perhaps these ten states are just using sound meteorological judgment. Denver in mid-February?

To which I say, the timing and selection of the Mile High City as the site for the meeting aligns perfectly with the lottery-type procedure used to select participants. Denver in mid-February means you could get anything from sunshine and balmy spring-like temperatures to an icy cold blizzard blast. Good luck with that. Maybe event organizers should collaborate with the local weather forecasters.