Laura Mutton had always seen herself as an introvert – “the quietest person in the room.”
But the Highlands Ranch mom and software engineer couldn’t keep quiet when, sitting through a Douglas County School District meeting in 2012, she realized the system had been amassing a whopping budget surplus while slashing programs for kids.
One of Mutton’s freedom of information requests led to another until she uncovered the fact that the board was spending 50 percent of its time in secret, closed-door meetings. After more digging, she learned that the conservative majority quietly had been squirreling away tax dollars to develop a massive, for-profit software program in hopes of implementing its anti-union, pro-voucher “Reinventing American Education” agenda in communities nationwide.
“There was no accountability, no transparency about what they were up to. It really felt like they were intentionally harming our public schools. It was wrong. It just felt so wrong,” she says.
Mutton transferred her daughter out of the district after seeing programs cut, student performance plummet, and too many teachers and principles walk off their jobs. But she didn’t abandon her activism. People needed to hear what was happening to the school system whose reputation as one of Colorado’s finest had years ago lured her and neighbors to the county.
Sometimes, she says, you have to speak out.
“This effort took me way outside my comfort zone. I got sucked into it far more than I expected.”
Mutton gathered with family, friends and fellow activists at a Douglas County sports bar Tuesday evening to wait for election results. The numbers geek was reluctant to put too much stock in the early returns showing a mandate for school board regime change. But as the precinct counts kept coming and the hoots around her grew louder, she let it sink in that the movement she started five years ago had won.
Mutton has found her voice in this long, hard fight she says was less a choice than a calling. And so she was called, once again, to turn up the volume tonight – the quietest person in the room so moved by the moment that she, too, hooted.