Reminder for Sharing: “Clean Slate” Candidate Summaries

We know that many people are still asking who to vote *for* after voting “YES” to recall WNW, so we are republishing this as a reminder for you to share with your friends.

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Your ballots have arrived! If you haven’t had time to learn more about the five Clean Slate candidates that we are endorsing, here’s a quick summary about Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell. You can also click on their names to read more about them on their websites.

Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens are running for the District 3 and 4 seats that were already up for election this year. The other three — Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell — are successor candidates for the recall seats.

DISTRICT 3

Seat currently held by outgoing board member Jill Fellman

Ali Lasell

Ali Lasell is a parent of two Jeffco students and is active in PTA and School Accountability Committee at Maple Grove Elementary. She also spent 25 years as a teacher and has earned a Principal’s license.

She believes in:

  • Quality education for all students, including the option for full-day kindergarten
  • Strong fiscal accountability, with long range planning and collaboration with parents, community leaders and teachers
  • Everyone deserves to be heard: listening and respecting diverse ideas and beliefs to strengthen Jeffco Schools
  • Reducing the amount of time spent preparing or taking tests rather than engaging students in learning. Tests should be solely for student growth and data collected should provide timely feedback to students, families and educators.
  • Supports school choice and also keeping neighborhood school strong for students who can’t take advantage of school choice

DISTRICT 4

Seat currently held by outgoing board member Lesley Dahlkemper

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens was a Jeffco Schools student and now is the parent to two Jeffco students. She chairs the School Accountability Committee at her children’s school, and spent several years working as a teacher before become a parent.

– She believes in:

  • Excellence in education, transparency and accountability in decision-making, and cooperation to effectively and efficiently prepare students and manage schools.
  • That each student deserves high academic standards, effective and well-supported teachers and quality curricular and extra-curricular opportunities
  • That each student deserves a safe, positive school climate that treats children as whole people with intellectual, social and emotional needs and gifts
  • That all students deserve an education that develops engagement, strong work habits, teamwork, goal-attainment and problem-solving skills in schools equipped with the technology and tools to build 21st century proficiencies
  • That it’s time for politics to take a back seat to student success.

Successor Candidates

DISTRICT 1

seat currently held by Julie Williams

Brad Rupert

Brad Rupert is a Jeffco parent and step-grandparent, as well as the former president of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce and the current president of the Arvada Kiwanis Club. He has also spent many years working for non-profits like Habitat for Humanity and the Arvada Food Bank.

He’s running for school board because:

  • He’s worried about the district losing quality teachers
  • Political agendas have no place on a school board
  • Jeffco’s focus should be on providing an excellent education to every student every day
  • If elected, he would dispense with the board attorney position created by WNW and would address concerns about the current teacher contract

DISTRICT 2

Seat currently held by John Newkirk

Susan Harmon

Susan Harmon is a parent of two Jeffco students who serves on her children’s PTA board, chairs the school accountability committee and volunteers in multiple ways at the school and in the greater Jeffco community.

She’s running for school board to:

  • Reconcile the district with teachers and the community
  • Restore respect and listen to all voices
  • Address inequities with the current pay-for-performance model instituted by WNW. She supports the idea of pay-for-performance but says issues need to be worked through effectively.

DISTRICT 5

seat currently held by Ken Witt

Ron Mitchell

Ron Mitchell is a Jeffco graduate who returned to the district to work as a teacher. He served as Principal of Alameda High School for ten years and at Columbine for eight, and has continued to support Jeffco in numerous ways since his retirement. He is also a Jeffco parent and grandparent.

He is running for school board because:

  • The ideological behavior and poor leadership of the board has affected each Jeffco Schools
  • Jeffco teachers are leaving due to the board majority’s disrespect, which is negatively impacting our children’s learning experience
  • He is committed to listening to the community, keeping great teachers and putting education ahead of politics
  • He wants to restore common sense, community values, transparency and financial accountability to the Jeffco School Board

Remember to vote!

Please vote as soon as you get your ballot. This election is too important to sit out.

The first item on the ballot is the regular Jeffco School Board election for the District 3 and 4 seats. Vote for Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens!

Then vote YES to recall Julie Williams, John Newkirk and Ken Witt, and then vote for successor candidates Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell.

Our children and the future of Jeffco Schools depends on you.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

 

 

 

10.15.15 Jeffco WNW Recall Fact Check (Part 4)

It’s time for our Jeffco Recall fact check, Part 4! As you know, there’s no shortage of topics, but this should provide a useful boost for conversations with your neighbors, family, and colleagues.

Transparency

Hiding-Money-From-the-GovernmentKen Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams like to claim that they’ve made board operations “more transparent” because the board meetings are now streamed—or at least the parts of the meetings that include all five board members.

The facts:

  • During their first year, WNW repeatedly declared how much they wanted to stream meetings and then repeatedly chose to meet in local high schools where streaming was impossible.
    • When those high school auditoriums filled up, sometimes an overflow room was established so attendees could at least listen to the board meeting, but after a while they stopped doing that too. That’s not transparent.
    • WNW didn’t stream the meeting in which former Superintendent Cindy Stevenson announced she would be leaving the district even earlier than her intended resignation date—which means you have to look at audience videos to see Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman asking WNW about the transition plan and not getting a response. Yep, more closed-door conversations taking place between WNW while Dahlkemper and Fellman were shut out.
  • The streaming has been spotty for a lot of Jeffco taxpayers who’ve tried to use it—sometimes refusing to stream, sometimes streaming only for mere seconds before seizing up, then streaming 5 more seconds seizing up again, etc.
  • Play-by-play tweets from district staff have disappeared, so there’s no information for the times when the streaming goes down or doesn’t have sound, as was the case recently.
  • Even Witt’s little media stunt last week was behind closed doors — literally. Only invited press were allowed in. That alone speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

And let’s not forget the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) violations.

Colorado Ethics Watch called out WNW for violating the CORA requirement that the district have a written policy regarding email retention, which they pointed out was in violation of a 1996 CORA amendment that mandates the board “adopt a policy for retaining, archiving and destroying emails and other digital records.”

The school board’s refusal to adopt an email retention policy in the face of such clear mandatory language in a state statute is a flagrant, and apparently willful, violation of CORA.”

— Ethics Watch Senior Counsel Peg Perl in a July 29, 2015 letter to Jeffco Schools

Also check out this story from Colorado FOIC, and Nic Garcia’s Chalkbeat stories, in which he documents missing emails that were not provided in response to his CORA request, and where he documents board attorney Brad Miller advising the board to simply delete emails.

We’re talking about broken laws — again. If someone tells you WNW increased transparency because they stream meetings, ask them about the deleted emails and the board lawyer hired behind closed doors who advised them to write a policy stating that emails could be immediately deleted and therefore not subject to CORA requests.

We’ve mentioned violations of Colorado’s sunshine laws before, but here’s Chalkbeat reporter Nic Garcia explaining Colorado open meetings laws and “spoke: meetings in case you missed it:

The state’s open meeting law allows board members to discuss the school district’s business one-on-one.

However, it forbids three elected officials or a quorum, whichever is greater, from meeting without proper notification.

Further, transparency activists and case law from around the country suggest it is illegal for elected officials, like school board members, to work around the law by coordinating “spoke” meetings.

A “spoke” meeting, also known as a “walking quorum,” is when one elected official meets with other members of the board on the same subject to coordinate a vote or policy stance.

One example of a “spoke” meeting is Witt contacted Newkirk and Williams and told them to interview Brad Miller and the other board lawyer candidate long before he told Dahlkemper and Fellman and you the public. Newkirk said he interviewed Miller during a convention that took place Dec. 5 through 8 — a week before the regular board meeting. Dahlkemper and Fellman weren’t told until Dec. 10. The agenda item itself wasn’t added until the 10th.

Bottom line: WNW aren’t transparent and never have been.

One of the largest issues around this recall is not necessarily what’s been done, but how it’s been done.

— Nic Garcia in an interview with Ryan Warner on CPR’s Colorado Matters

EXACTLY.

The way issues have been pushed through without careful planning, without conversation and without collaboration is unacceptable.

Do you want last-minute surprises + board majority who ignores portions of the CORA law + a board lawyer who advises them to simply delete their emails + a board member who advised her supporters to email her privately to skirt CORA requests + more than one violation of open meetings laws? No! That combination equals one thing: RECALL.

Here’s what you need to do:

Vote!

  1. Vote for Ali Lasell in District 3
  2. Vote for Amanda Stevens in District 4
  3. Vote YES to recall Julie Williams
  4. Vote for Brad Rupert as District 1 successor candidate
  5. Vote YES to recall John Newkirk
  6. Vote for Susan Harmon as District 2 successor candidate
  7. Vote YES to recall Ken Witt
  8. Vote forRon Mitchell as District 5 successor candidate

WALK!

Go to JeffcoUnited.org to sign up to walk this weekend. We need to get the word out to the 70 percent of Jeffco voters who do not have children in schools, and we need to remind everyone to vote!

DONATE!

It’s not too late. You can donate to any of the candidate’s individual campaigns, or to Jeffco United Forward to benefit all five.

It’s time to get out the vote! Ballots start arriving this week. You may have already received yours. When you have it, vote and return it. We can’t afford apathy this year.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

10.8.15 Witt’s Carnival Sideshow

If you saw Witt’s stunt this morning–and it’s hard to imagine that you didn’t because social media has not stopped talking about it since–you know that it was merely a distraction.

  1. The Independent Ethics Commission has no jurisdiction over Colorado school board members (see page 6).
  2. The IEC isn’t meeting until Nov. 6 — after the election.
  3. There’s no reason for them to call a special early meeting (see #1, above).

Witt’s complaint only asks if voting on the matter in a public meeting was a violation of sunshine laws, failing to make the distinction between voting in public and deciding in public. Sunshine laws exist to prevent elected officials from merely rubber-stamping behind-the-scenes decisions in public.

Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams made the decision to hire Brad Miller before the Dec. 13 board meeting.  We know because Bob Kerrigan, president of the Thompson School District Board of Education, told his fellow board members that Jeffco had a school board attorney — and told them this on Wednesday, a full day before the Dec. 13 Jeffco BOE meeting where the issue was first discussed in public.

Not only did Kerrigan know that Jeffco had already hired a firm 24 hours before the BOE met to discuss the issue, he knew that Jeffco would be hiring Brad Miller himself, as reported by the Reporter Herald on Dec. 12:

Kerrigan then revealed that a contract had already been drawn up by a Colorado Springs-based law firm that currently represents Jefferson County schools.

The proposed contract, dated two days after Kerrigan was elected board president, begins: “We are pleased that the District has asked Millers Sparks LLC … to represent Thompson.”

It’s an issue we’ve written about multiple times, and it’s one of many, many reasons to vote yes on the recall.

Meanwhile, we’ll leave you with some of today’s highlights, such as the 7 News story “Jeffco Public Schools board president Ken Witt stunts for attention as he faces recall” (and hopefully this clip will open with the anchor saying “Bizarre news out of Jeffco today” because that’s by far our favorite).

And we’ll end with one of the many, many funny social media posts that we saw in our feed today:

Charles Buchanan on Twitter

Kinda wish Witt had ended the press-stunt with a citizens arrest of himself. #Copolitics #JeffcoRecall #JeffCo

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

Recall 101: Your Guide to the Candidates and Issues

DSCN0244You asked and we did it: a Recall 101 page highlighting the top issues that prompted the recall.

There’s a tab at the top of our website homepage so you can access it easily and share it with others. Thanks to our readers for the suggestion!


 

10.4.15 WNW Rewrite History Again

Have you seen the latest mailer from Americans for Prosperity?

One side claims that equal funding is working. Their proof? ACT scores (from tests taken before charter schools were equally funded) and graduation rates from 2012-13, before Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams had been elected.

That’s right: the AFP claims that actions taken by the current board majority months after they were elected influenced events that had happened before the election.

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Yep, this is another attempt to rewrite history.

The mailer references a February 2014 Denver Post article about improved graduation rates in Jeffco. The rates are from the 2012-13 academic year, and those students graduated nearly six months before the 2013 election.

The mailer also references ACT scores, but full equalization wasn’t approved until after all of Jeffco’s juniors had taken the 2015 ACT. How would that work? Oh wait, it doesn’t!

We’d also like to remind our readers that as recently as Thursday evening, WNW were citing “poor” ACT scores as the very reason they need to appoint a new membership to the newly-formed District Accountability  Committee and throw out all the work that has been done by volunteers to write bylaws for the new DAC in the past few months. One part of Newkirk’s DAC membership proposal reads as follows: “Whereas, the Board of Education has concluded that the percentage of students meeting the college and career ready standards on the ACT test taken by all students in Colorado is not acceptable…” (emphasis ours). Witt also has argued that the urgency of this issue is why they need to rush ahead with a new DAC membership, even if the application makes it clear the membership application process is a farce.

Don’t forget that WNW also tried to censor AP classes and has suggested that they’d rather see other options like concurrent enrollment instead of Advanced Placement.

Note that a previous AFP mailer claimed that so-called reforms like pay for performance — which Witt didn’t even introduce until August 2014 — also increased the 2012-13 graduation rate. The AFP is clearly delusional.

The reality?

  • Improvements in the number of Jeffco students who are career and college ready is due to the dedication and diligence of their teachers and parents
  • Improvements in Jeffco AP scores is due to students, parents, teachers and community members who fought long and hard last fall to keep those classes untouched by WNW’s partisan agenda
  • Improvements in the 2012-13 Jeffco Schools graduation rate are due to the dedication of teachers, staff, and former Superintendent Cindy Stevenson, and those largely took place between 2008 and 2013.
  • All five of the clean slate candidates — Amanda Stevens, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell — have said they will will keep equalized funding, so our Jeffco charter families can rest easy on that issue.

Our teachers continue to be dedicated and our students continue to succeed, but this is despite the havoc wreaked by Witt, Newkirk and Williams. Meanwhile, more than a thousand teachers have chosen to leave rather than deal with the lack of respect shown to them by WNW, and more are considering it.

It’s time to recall Witt, Newkirk and Williams. Please spread the word. Make sure that your friends, family, and co-workers know that WNW and the AFP are rewriting history again, and set them straight on the facts.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!