11.3.15 Thank You.

Last year, my daughter’s school’s choir sang the classic, “525,600 Minutes” at their end-of-year concert. I loved hearing kids sing that and challenge their audience to think about how they measure a year.

For many of us, this last year has been measured in volunteer hours.

You’ve written letters to the board and area newspapers, attended board meetings, waved signs, signed petitions, carried petitions, phone banked, knocked on doors, put up signs, decorated cars, given out cards and been tireless in your efforts to tell friends and strangers alike about the recall.xcgK9x6Mi

Thank you.

We are grateful for every effort, no matter how big or small. It all makes a difference.

Most importantly, we’ve joined together to show our teachers that we will fight alongside them.

To the many volunteers in Jefferson County (and beyond), who have been fighting for this movement, we want you know that, regardless of the outcome of this election, those minutes were well spent.

As we all watch the hours tick by and wait for results, please fill your heart with gratitude from all of us at JCSBW. No matter your contribution, it was necessary, helpful, and it mattered. You’ve made us proud to live in JeffCo.

To our teachers who have stuck with JeffCo through these challenging working conditions, please know that we are on your side and are hopeful that you walk through the doors of your schools tomorrow with the confirmation that your community elected people who will value the work that you do.

To our students whose future is dependent on this election, please know that we fought this fight because you were worth it, and we will keep fighting it if we must.

We are hopeful that we’ll see good news tonight. We hope Jeffco voters vote yes on the recall and elect a clean slate. We hope this is the night we see accountability, transparency and respect restored to Jeffco. We hope this is the night that Jeffco elects school board members who focus on students as they tackle the very real challenges that our schools face.

Yard sign by yard sign, door by door, you’ve made a difference. Thank you.


 

7.8.15 Jeffco School’s Communication Problem

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I remember hearing the proverb, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” as a kid. I turned it over and over in my mind deciding what it meant. Now, I know.

The hiring of Lisa Pinto as Jeffco’s communication director was an act of foolery. She was unqualified, lied on her resume and had a past that made it no big surprise when she ended up embarrassing our district in her unprofessional, nasty and juvenile response to Governor John Hickenlooper’s staff. The hiring of Devan Crean is a second act of foolery, and it’s quite hard to sit by and watch.

Pinto and Crean have each been hired to work in the communications department for our district. Lisa Pinto resigned her post, effective June 19. Devan Crean was ostensibly hired for a different position — marketing and communications specialist — that Superintendent Dan McMinimee has said largely revolves around showcasing schools (supposedly both charter and neighborhood), but the proof is in the pudding.

A new communications director has not been chosen to replace Pinto. Crean, however, was working for Novitas Communications before she came to Jeffco. Novitas, you’ll remember, is the firm that Pinto hired to handle all the communication duties that Pinto apparently couldn’t handle (as explained in more detail here). On her resume, Crean claims she handled much larger duties for the district, including:

  • Managing social media content like Facebook and Twitter
  • Supporting all daily communications operations for Jeffco
  • Provided media relations
  • Managed editorial calendar for all publications and social media

If you’re wondering, the answer is yes, she also lists those same points under her current position, though it’s curious that social media feature prominently during the time when Pinto was clearly already devoting plenty of time to social media snooping research. Surely two full-time professionals didn’t both need to spend that much time managing social media.

Now, let’s do some simple math:

1 + 1 They are both under-qualified for the position.

+

They both have past professional experiences that demonstrate their downright offensive professional ethics. For example,

Pinto went on national TV and claimed that single parents have children who “don’t thrive. They commit crimes, they do drugs, they’re depressed….”

Meanwhile, Crean got tied into a scandal about tracking “liberals.”

 

= 2 These are political hires.These women were both brought in because they are comfortable working hard to help our BOE3 and McMinimee hide behind acts such as these:

  • Stalking a student’s social media account and then shaming them PUBLICLY at a board meeting
  • Posting homophobic content on their Facebook pages
  • Speaking at meetings funded by hate groups
  • Comparing being a charter student in Jeffco to being black in the 1960’s in the South.
  • Etc.

Why is this a problem?

For one, Pinto was given a $120,000 salary (nearly triple what our teachers make) as to work as our chief communications specialist. One of her first moves was to hire Novitas, a Republican communications company, to help her carry out duties that should have been her own. Now, Crean, a Novitas employee, has joined the department. Will Crean be paid by our district twice, as she has contracts for Jeffco to pay her by the hour through Novitas as well as a salaried position starting in June? The Novitas contract is through June 30, but Crean’s own resume shows that she started working as a Jeffco employee in May.

Why else is this a problem? It’s a problem because we actually need a good chief communications specialist. We need someone to help our students who are achieving great things get a megaphone announcement to the community. We need someone who can help us recruit and keep the best teachers out there.

Instead, we’re ending up with people hired for their love of political antics, who merely wordsmith form letters for the BOE3 and superintendent to use in response to our correspondence.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

 

5.6.15 A Well-Deserved Thank You

To our teachers and administrators,

We recognize you for what you are – warriors for children and education.

Each time a stone has been thrown at a school community in Jeffco by our hostile, politically-charged board majority, you have continued to wake up each day to walk through the front doors of your school and teach our children.

There are people all over this district pretending to know what’s good for our students. There are publications hitting mailboxes, email blasts entering thousands of computers, and professional trolls and propaganda masters working on making the BOE3’s agenda seem valid. In all reality, these people have never walked into a classroom.

They have never actually experienced the joy of watching a student sit up straighter with the confidence of having learned something that matters.

They have never stayed up late to finish a unit plan or swiped their credit card to buy school supplies for their students.

They have never watched a shy student raise their hand for the first time or seen a classroom erupt into an awe-inspiring Socratic seminar.

You are someone who knows that.

You are someone who chooses to educate our amazing children in a politically hostile district.

You are someone who deserves a standing ovation.


 

4.25.15 On building bright futures

Our district proudly displays a banner on its homepage advertising that Jefferson County Public Schools builds bright futures. Somehow, that’s hard to believe when one of the key architects, our school board member Julie Williams, is taking pieces out of our foundation all the time.

Here’s one foundational truth that applies to all of Jefferson County’s
students. It can be hard to be an adolescent. It’s a time filled with insecurities, rejection, fear, and often loneliness. It can be torture to be a gay adolescent. It’s a time filled with teasing, hateful words, threats, and additional fear.

It’s an atrocity to realize that a student in our district holding the hand of a same sex partner is still an act of bravery that might be punished through unthinkable acts of violence while Julie Williams can sit comfortably in her chair and say she didn’t take the time to read the hateful, gay bashing post she put on her Facebook page. Of the many people in Jefferson County who care passionately about the well-being of our students, Julie Williams does not appear to be one.

After all, our teachers are working tirelessly to make sure that students do read things and become thoughtful and contributing members in our diverse community. Julie Williams is far from a role model.


 

Students With Power

A few months ago, WNW crossed a new line by suggesting that our district’s AP US History curriculum should change. Essentially, WNW insinuated that our students are not to be trusted with learning about some of America’s most influential leaders because they could be labeled as dissenters. Many of us had a bad taste in our mouths as we realized that what WNW would like to see is graduates who are followers and don’t question or challenge status quo, and who don’t look for opportunities to advocate to make our country a better place.

Thank goodness our amazing students know they deserve a top notch education. Thank goodness our students realize that they have loud, essential, and thoughtful voices. I am proud to be a parent in a district where our students organized a justified protest. I could imagine many of our country’s greatest leaders– from Jane Adams to Dr. Martin Luther King — tipping their hats to our students.

Last week, Chalkbeat hosted an event called Rising Up: Voices from Colorado’s Emerging Student Protest Movement for student activists from four Colorado school districts. JCSBW would like to thank our Jeffco reps from the Jeffco Student Network for Change. They did a phenomenal job demonstrating that the students of Jefferson County have been given a useful and powerful education.

Last weekend, the group also organized a public meeting with the Jeffco School Board to discuss concerns.

As a parent who refuses to be anything other than hopeful for the future of our students and our school district, the power for change clearly lies in the hands of our students.

I would like to encourage our students to keep their momentum going and offer any help our students need to be informed and influential. I would like to challenge WNW to look our students in the face and ask their opinion before trying to pull their education out from under them.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!