Jeffco School Board: Last Two Years in Pictures

A quick chronological summary of the events of the past two years, in pictures and videos, starting with the 2013 election:

 

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The Koch Brothers played a major role in financing a victory for WNW in 2013 and are spending incredible amounts to keep them in office in 2015. They don’t live here, and their financing wildly dwarfs funding from outside sources used to support other candidates or the recall.

 

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This is video from the December 12th, 2013 board of education meeting and study session. In it, the board discusses hiring an attorney solely to represent the board.

WNW hire Colorado Springs attorney Brad Miller, in a surprise vote and having discussed it secretly beforehand in violation of Sunshine Laws. Miller represents districts around the state where there’s been Tea Party take over. To this day, only three of our elected board members know what he does.

 

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Virtually everything Miller does is redacted, despite WNW’s campaign of transparency. “Brad Legal Services” is not transparent.

 

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After Ken Witt famously says “I don’t know anything about Dougco,” WNW hire an expensive consulting firm to conduct a “national” Superintendent search. WNW, going against the advice of the search firm, only identify one “finalist,” that WNW already knew, from Douglas County. This “finalist,” Dan McMinimee, was clearly not the most qualified applicant in the pool, but had a “proven” history of union busting, WNW’s main answer to education improvement. Parents and teachers join forces to mock this relationship in public protests.

 

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The new Superintendent tries to be stealthy most of the time but his political intentions are clear.

 

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The Tea Party gathering McMinimee and Newkirk speak at is co-sponsored by the “American Freedom Party,” a self-affirmed White Supremacist party. Newkirk angrily dismisses the co-sponsorship as a “typo” without ever giving any realistic explanation of how those words somehow appear as the result of a mere “typo.”

 

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In the important day-to-day running of the district, McMinimee only offers token opposition to Witt and company, seemingly there only to play the “good cop” and soothe matters when citizens and teachers call foul on WNW’s agenda.

 

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Parents and teachers are locked out of school board meetings.

 

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Julie Williams proposes the censorship of U.S. History from which there can be no complete backpedaling.

 

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Thousands of knowledgeable students react to Williams’ request to eliminate civil disobedience from A.P. U.S. History by walking out of classes. Newkirk and Witt call the students of the district “ignorant” “pawns.”

 

 

silent-1Photo by Nicholas Garcia, Chalkbeat Colorado, November 6, 2014 9:54 pm - http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/11/06/jeffco-students-interrupt-board-meeting-leave-peacefully/#.VF7eKoXYXqb

Students begin attending board meetings, organize their efforts, and create “Jeffco Students for Change,” — but their input is summarily and repeatedly dismissed by WNW.

 

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Julie Williams posts an officially listed hate group’s admonition and recommendation for civil disobedience: to keep kids home from the “Day of Silence” meant to highlight LGBTQ students’ challenges. She claims she didn’t read it before posting it.

 

Edward James Olmos, the actor who protrayed L.A. Math teacher Jaime Escalante in "Stand And Deliver".

Edward James Olmos, the actor who protrayed L.A. Math teacher Jaime Escalante in “Stand And Deliver”.

 

People who know education all around the country take notice. Despite dreamy, idealistic “Stand and Deliver” references by WNW, the lead actor from that famous movie sends this picture to Jeffco.

 

fiscal conservativesAs time wears on, the more and more it becomes clear that “fiscally conservative” is only a campaigning tagline for WNW. 

 

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 Julie Williams’ brother-in-law, Tim Neville, is among those illegally using the Jeffco Public Schools logo in campaign ads. The ads also used doctored images of the student walk-outs. These violations are so egregious that even McMinimee and Miller have to put out a “Cease and Desist” memo.

Support Jeffco Kids | Facebook

One more small clip. What is the rush? Why not thoughtful discussion? Why not follow policy? They already have the votes to do anything they want to do, why do they do this?

Against Board Policy, Ken Witt yet again springs a surprise vote about a crucial matter with late-supplied information.

 

Witt ethics

In a political stunt rivaling the strangest, Ken Witt files an ethics complaint against himself surrounding his closed door meetings: a) in a closed-door press conference in which many were kicked out; b) to a governing body that has no jurisdiction over the case; c) this governing body won’t meet until after the election (even if it did have jurisdiction); and d) Witt’s complaint asks the wrong question about the actual law-breaking activity.

 

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Julie Williams’ long-time friend, Nate Marshall, makes multiple recommendations on her Facebook page that teachers’ union members and pro-recall supporters be “executed” “swiftly” by a conservative tribunal. And their kids should be expelled, post-executions. Williams blocks people complaining about these messages long before she removes Marshall as a friend after public uproar. He continues to call teachers “vile” “ISIS-loving” “filth.” Many pro-recall supporters also report having their decorated cars damaged.

 

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See that “Americans for Prosperity” in he upper right corner? That’s the Koch Brothers. People who don’t live here. Never mind that a pay for performance plan was already being worked out when WNW got elected in 2013. The Koch Brothers wouldn’t know that.

 

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Kim Johnson and Tori Merritts try to run a stealth campaign by not associating with WNW, but the trails are everywhere. Johnson in particular claims to be “a little bit of a bridge builder,” and “not selected by any group,” which is reminiscent of Julie Williams’ campaign promise “to always have an open door.” It’s discovered that Johnson was selected after a rigorous process by a group of WNW’s staunchest “no compromise” allies.

 

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Ron Mitchell, Ali Lasell, Susan Harmon, Brad Miller, and Amanda Stevens, a truly independent “Clean Slate,” join forces to reclaim Jeffco Schools.

Need more information? Check out our Recall 101 page. Thanks to our partners at Jeffco Transparency, Jeffco Data View, and Support Jeffco Kids for originally procuring some of these images and videos.

Keep fighting, Jeffco!


 

Teacher Executions Now Recommended on Julie Williams’ FB Page, by Her Long-Time Friend

Troubling pre-publication note: As we publish this article, Julie Williams has still not deleted this person as a friend from her Facebook page, though she is deleting others who are complaining about the situation. Wow.

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The rhetoric around the recall is of course heated. But now, multiple, fresh calls for the execution of people, specifically teachers’ union members, that are pro-recall, especially among Julie Williams’ friends, is frightening on a whole new level. Read on for a brief history of how we’ve gotten to this point. [Please note that we are opting to not publicize this person’s name in this article, though there are plenty of screenshots of these online exchanges in our possession, and others have already posted some of them].

December 2014 — JCSBW reported on the fiasco of Newkirk and McMinimee speaking at an event that was “mistakenly” advertised as being co-sponsored by a white supremacist organization.  Following that report both our Facebook page and blog were inundated with vile, hate-filled messages from this former Republican State House candidate, including this message:

I AM ORGANIZING AGAINST YOU AND I ALSO WILLS TART TRACKING THE NAMES OF ALL TEACHERS AND STUDENTS WHO FALL UNDER YOUR SPELL AND WILL OUT THEM SO THEY WILL NOT GET INTO THE COLLEGES THEY WANT AND THE TEACHERS WILL BE SUBJECTED TO PUBLIC RIDICULE.
YOU ARE NOW MY ENEMY! GO **** YOURSELVES!

At the time we deemed them to be threatening not only to us, but to students and staff that opposed the board majority.  Those messages along with our concern for school safety were reported to Jeffco School Security and to the Jeffco BOE.

The security response?

After reading your email and the attachment it appears that the comments and statements are not intended for Jeffco Schools but are directed towards Jeffco Boardwatch.

Jeffco Public Schools strives to be a safe and welcoming environment free from threats, intimidation and disruption for all students, staff and visitors.  Our ability to provide a quality education begins with mutual respect and safe practices that are consistent throughout the District.  Should you receive information that directly targets or threatens our school, students, staff or District, please forward any information as soon as possible.”

(We do think the threats to track teachers and students were a threat on our schools but we opted to not give this person any more attention, while being watchful of him.)

Now this same person has returned on the scene to spew even more direct threats to those that support the recall, stating that pro-recall people and union members should be executed and our children expelled after swift justice (specifically, he recommends “within 24 hours”) from a “conservative” tribunal.

This time his hate and threats have been reported to the sheriff’s office.

The bigger issue is WHERE he posted these threats — on Julie Williams’ Facebook page!

Because her page is private, only friends can post to the page.  Now, we understand we probably all have a friend that has spouted off something we didn’t agree with and couldn’t control.  But to have a friend that promotes executing those in disagreement? That is something difficult to justify.

We can already hear the excuses: “She can’t control what other people say.  She didn’t know he was like that.”

Maybe — if this were his first offense.

March 2014 — This man runs for a state House seat and makes these same type of hate-filled statements.  He was asked to step down as a candidate and in subsequent interviews stated that he was asked to run originally by none other than Tim Neville, Williams’ brother-in-law.  Neville denied the claim, yet Williams approved this man as her Facebook friend — a man her family knew is a white supremacist who makes threats online.

December 2014 — JCSBW reported his threatening activity to the Jeffco School Board, but Williams still approved this man as her FB friend.

One of Williams’ friends had the courage to stand up to the hate spewed on her page and we commend him.  Unfortunately, his post remained up for hours and Williams didn’t do a thing about it.

We can’t control everything our friends say.  But we ask, would you even be friends with this person after you knew what kinds of things they wrote?

And what if they wrote was an insistence upon the execution of the people you’ve been elected to lead?

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Keep fighting, JeffCo! And VOTE! 

Vote for a clean slate: Lasell, Stevens, Rupert, Harmon, Mitchell


 

 

Story #5 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Witt and Newkirk Premeditate Abusive Student Privacy Violation

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #5:

What Happened: The backstory is fairly convoluted, so we’re going to mostly leave it to the Colorado Pols version, which includes a video of Witt and Newkirk conniving:

Investigation Underway Into Alleged Student Bullying By Jefferson County School Board, Staff

We wrote two weeks ago about an ugly and perhaps legally actionable incident that occurred at the May meeting of the conservative-controlled Jefferson County Board of Education.

The summary is that WNW’s continuous battle with Jeffco Students for Change reached a boiling point several times before this episode. When the students requested a meeting with the school board, WNW rejected the students’ request. That’s unfortunate, but not surprising.

What was surprising was that Ken Witt and John Newkirk had obviously pre-planned to “out” one of the student leaders, to everyone’s surprise, by showing personal information and calling her out at the public school board meeting, including an accusation of her being “racist” because she “favorited” a joke on Twitter that was critical of disgraced former Communication Director Lisa Pinto. Again, the backstory is complex and these stories are meant to be summaries, but let’s just say that that the “racist” accusation was a such a stretch that most people were scratching their heads about how such a connection could even be drawn. Furthermore, WNW’s organizer and previously censured Board member Laura Boggs had also “favorited” the same tweet, but of course she wasn’t called out. In a world of politically correct stretching often called out by conservatives, the “racist” stretch was dumbfounding to the extreme, but nonetheless what remained in people’s minds was two board members colluding to smear a student for simply “favoriting” a tweet that other people “favorited” as well, including their own allies.

Why It Matters: In two words, No Boundaries.

You can hear yourself thinking “OK, maybe they lie, cherry-pick, exaggerate, are hypocritical, are controlled by outsiders, and don’t know much about education, but of course they have boundaries when it comes to kids.”

“OK, maybe not on that last one either.”

That’s a big deal.

A chicken-guarding-the-henhouse investigator found no formal wrongdoing, of course, but suggested that the behavior was unprofessional and could have been handled much better. More importantly, according to some observers, the result was easily manipulated by the fact that in requesting the investigation of itself, the board did not include emotional distress as a result of the bullying but limited the inquiry to physical bullying.

Sound familiar? The board asking for an investigation of itself? With a tightly worded question designed to exclude the actual wrongdoing?

On top of the actual fact that a student and student’s family were deeply upset and unsettled, this whole episode was much more than a breaking down of the idea that “they wouldn’t go there with kids, would they?” barrier that some of us may have still had. It was also about their rank amateurism in dealing with conflict, and the way they spend their time. Over the past two years, it always seems as if they’re making hasty, coached decisions when it comes to actual substantive topics, but they’re spending a lot of time on stunt-planning. The fact that this was so obviously pre-planned, amidst a bunch of substantive discussion items that had been given short shrift, was a reminder that WNW’s primary “solutions” to education are about optics, power, and control, and not actual substance…or caring about students as individuals.

STORY #6 FROM 2013-2015 POLL RESULTS: WILLIAMS POSTS LINK TO ANTI-LGBTQ HATE GROUP, SUGGESTS KEEPING KIDS HOME FROM SCHOOL ON “DAY OF SILENCE”

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #6:

What Happened: Julie Williams is well-known for posting hyper-inflammatory links on her Facebook feed (example: a speaker suggesting that parents pull their kids out of public schools because teachers are just ‘glorified babysitters’ and that the only reason parents haven’t done it sooner is because they’ve become lazy and dependent) and for not reading things before she develops a strong public opinion about their contents (example: the AP U.S. History framework).

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This regular combination of Williams’ habits came together in an explosive way this spring when she published a link on her Facebook page to a savecalifornia.com screed that encouraged parents to keep their kids home from school and “away from perverse indoctrination” on April 17, which had been deemed a “Day of Silence” designed to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. SaveCalifornia is on the official list of hate groups kept by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Williams claimed she didn’t read the SaveCalifornia newsletter before posting it, and later apologized and deleted it from her Facebook page.

By the way, notice the commenters and their comments in the above image.

Why It Matters: Time and again, Williams wrote and said during her 2013 campaign that her “door would always be open to all voices” in Jefferson County. There didn’t need to be any more evidence that she was just stating mindless political platitudes that someone coached her to say, but this kind of action made it clear that if she ever had such an intent, she didn’t understand what it really meant.

Certainly, it was better that she deleted and apologized than not having done so, but the public had by then grown so weary of both her carelessness and her creation of a hostile environment for so many in the district she is charged with helping lead.

Students struggling with sexual orientation have a far higher suicide and suicide attempt rate than average, and experience bullying, depression, and anxiety at significantly increased rates too. If Williams isn’t entirely personally comfortable with sexual orientation questions, the least she could do as a leader of an enormous organization would be to keep quiet about it.

Williams often does not seem to treat her school board behavior any differently than a private Tea Party meeting. She seems to think that her mandate from the voters is so broad that the totally unfiltered Julie Williams is what’s best for the county. While we are increasingly enamored of politicians who “speak their mind,” Williams represents a total lack of discretion when her duty to not be careless is doubled by the fact that the primary people she serves are kids. Even after two years, it’s obvious that she is simply woefully unprepared to be a public official, much less one “leading” an enormous number of youth coming from a variety of backgrounds.


 

 

Reader’s Thoughts on Being Told that WNW Vote is “Godly” Choice

Another Guest Column for our “Faithful and Fed Up” series, this time from a reader of faith who is beside herself that her vote is being tied to Witt, Williams, and Newkirk’s “Godly” attributes:

FaithfulFedUpSomeone told me today that voting against the recall would keep “Godly” people in their leadership positions.

I felt gutted.

I found the suggestion that I would prove my respect for God if I voted for Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk infuriating.

Let’s start by saying that I disagree with them.

To me, “Godly” people don’t shame and humiliate a student who is bravely standing up to voice her experience as a student in Jeffco to her school board.

To me, “Godly” people don’t comfortably compare the atrocities that Black people in the south suffered through during the 60’s to being in a charter school.

To me, “Godly” people don’t arrogantly run a school board while pompously ignoring the needs and wants of the very community they were elected to serve.

To me, “Godly” people don’t tell students to stay at home during Jeffco’s Day Without Hate. We have a suicide problem directly linked to hateful things like that.

To me, “Godly” people don’t speak at workshops co-hosted by a political group that openly suggests violent acts in order to defend and preserve White power.

However, I will pause and respectfully acknowledge that many people may agree and even feel grateful for some of the changes this board majority suggests. Some voters might like to see our history and health curriculum modified to align more closely with their religious beliefs. So, to them, I say, vote.

As one person who considers herself “Godly,” I retain one strong belief:

Those in public office need to run their office with honesty, transparency, and a willingness to listen to their community members. A quick look into the origins of most religions will guide you to leaders who follow those clear guidelines about respect.

So, this Godly person is going to vote for the Clean Slate. Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Ron Mitchell, Brad Rupert and Susan Harmon all bring with them a strong commitment to doing what is right. I have no doubt that they will follow the Golden Rule and treat others and they would like to be treated.

They will think of their own children when they make decisions that impact mine, they will consider the needs of the many, and they will let community input guide their decisions.