4-3 Board Study Session Summary: WNW vs. The Community

The 5:30 pm Study Session started on time but set the stage for a very long and wearisome night. Bill Newman of Ray and Associates presented information on the superintendent search community forums and survey results.

The community prefers:
● A “hybrid” or traditional (someone with an education background) candidate over a non-traditional (more business or military background).
● A high level leader who understands the needs of a district with a growing ethnic and culturally diverse population. (Newman said “diversity” was a recurring theme, the community is concerned about addressing the needs of these children.)
● A leader who will always put students first.
● Someone who will inspire and motivate for success.
● Someone who can address the problem of low teacher and staff morale.
● A leader who will recruit minority employees to better represent Jeffco’s changing demographics.
● A person who will strive for unity and bring back the district’s trust and integrity.
● Not to hire someone who represents change just for the sake of change.
● An authentic search – many in the community are concerned the superintendent decision has already been made and this search is a ruse to make the public feel the proper process was followed.
● A candidate who will inspire a 5-0 vote, someone all five board members can agree on.

There were over 1200 comments on the superintendent survey. The full report from Ray and Associates can be found here.

By contrast the board prefers (or rather, WNW prefer):
● A hybrid or non-traditional candidate with a military/business background (this is at the top of their list)
● A candidate who will hire people willing to support the board’s and district’s vision
● A strong innovation/reform candidate

Lesley Dahlkemper opened the discussion by saying there seems to be a huge disconnect between the community’s desire for a traditional candidate with an education background and asked to add to the flyer (which Ray & Ass will use to recruit candidates in April), in response to the community, the need for someone who can respond to the challenges of a district with a growing ethnic and culturally diverse community.

Jill Fellman agreed there is an obvious disconnect and felt the request for a “non-traditional” candidate should be left off the flyer. She added that she wants a superintendent who will reach to Jeffco’s business, chambers, and form community relationships.

Ken Witt made it clear he has no interest in adding culture and diversity to the flyer and said he believes the innovation piece is strong and wants to focus on a non-traditional/military background.

Newman said they generally don’t include that on the flyer.

John Newkirk asked if it is rare for them to place a candidate with no education background.

Newman replied that it is rare for them to place non-traditional candidates with little to no classroom experience. He said they generally, 7-1, place hybrid or traditional candidates. He added that a preponderance of comments said the community wants a supe who has at least 10 years of teaching experience.

Williams said that since they received the survey less than 24 hours ago she wants time to review and to put off deciding what’s on the flyer. She is concerned about making a hasty decision. (**Editorial Note:** Unless it involves hiring a board attorney without seeing a contract, scope of work, etc.)

Dahlkemper agreed they should take their time in order to do this right and asked that for now they put the focus on someone with demonstrated student achievement behind them, whether traditional or non-traditional. “We want a proven leader.” She then went back to the diversity piece, stating again that the community said this is important to them and to add something to the flyer about a candidate who can respond to the challenges of an ethnic and culturally diverse district.

Witt, “I reiterate that I don’t want that.” Then he asked if there was consensus on adding or not adding this to the flyer.

**EdNote** At candidate forums prior to the election Mr. Witt refused to acknowledge ethnicity, culture, or even poverty play a role in student learning and should be addressed. Once he said, “We are all Americans.” Another time he said, “I dream of a day when we don’t see color.”
John Newkirk, when asked about diversity stated, “As an American I am personally offended by diversity.” **EdNote**

Fellman said, “34% of our kids are . . .” and was interrupted by…

Witt, who said most districts have the same high numbers of poverty and diversity. **EdNote** Not a true statement at all. Dougco has something like 17% poverty & diversity, Denver has higher than 60%. **EdNote**

Dahlkemper said that if the board’s focus is on their student achievement ends, the board needs to align these ends with an effective leader who can address our district’s diversity needs.

Witt said it is important to elevate student achievement

Fellman said that since Witt doesn’t want to talk about cultural diversity would he be willing to open it up to saying “all” students.

Dahlkemper: “I think it’s important to elevate ethnic and cultural diversity.”

Witt: “We have addressed that by saying ‘all’.”

What proceeded was an argument of whether or not there was consensus on adding ethnic and cultural needs to the flyer. In the end, of course, there was no consensus. The decision by WNW was NOT to add anything about ethnicity or culture to the flyer.

**EdNote** It’s important to remember that WNW believe the vast majority of people attending forums and completing surveys and flooding board meetings are teachers and staff.  In their minds, all of this demand comes from the evil “union” and that makes it much easier for them to discount and/or completely ignore community input. **EdNote**

Williams then stated the obvious, that it would take time to read and digest 1200 comments (the budget survey, by contrast, had over 4,000.)

Then followed a discussion of whether or not to extend the timeline (they didn’t) and though Newman expressed concern that pushing back the timeline might keep them from seeing the very best candidates given the time of year, Witt very sharply (and rudely) said “we told Ray and Associates we needed flexibility.”

Newkirk said he wants to see all the applications regardless of who Ray and Associates picks so he can see why a candidate “didn’t make the cut.” **EdNote** Because why would you want to trust the consulting firm you’re paying thousands of dollars to? **EdNote**

Witt said he wants to see all of that in advance.

Newman said that while he could make all the applications available to the board they probably would not be able to provide all of it in advance.

Ray and Associates were thanked and there was a short break before the general meeting.

**EdNote** Witt said no less than three times that he didn’t want cultural diversity on the flyer. In addition to their own statements on diversity at candidate forums, WNW all have close ties to former board member Laura Boggs who, at many board meetings, talked about how Jefferson High School – a school made up mostly of poor, Hispanic students, many of whom don’t speak English and are homeless – is a failing school and an example of why Jeffco is a failing district. **EdNote**

7 thoughts on “4-3 Board Study Session Summary: WNW vs. The Community

  1. The lack of interest by WNW in acknowledging that there are differences in backgrounds, including economic differences, was also evident in their clear disdain for offering 13 more sections of free full-day kindergarten in schools where the Free & Reduced Lunch program reaches 35% of the students. That’s more than one in three students who can’t afford lunch, let alone the many other expenses of school (and life). Very disheartening. Especially since the cost is a measly $650K. Only 20% of the money WNW wants to to provide to 14 charter schools (I suspect none of which serve that many F&RL families).

    What WNW seems to want is EQUAL treatment of all children (as we heard ad nauseum and in violation of yet another board policy during public comment), without regard to the childrens’ needs. I’m not sure where they got the idea that this was good education. I’ve never actually heard that theory espoused by anyone anywhere. Especially shameful since Julie Williams frequently points out that she has a disabled child (and a GT one).

    I’m definitely disturbed that they appear to want to put the non-traditional candidate on the flyer because that will severely limit the pool of applicants – there will likely be excellent traditional candidates who will not apply because of the way the flyer is worded. And I’m quite certain I remember Newkirk pointing out that they wanted a large candidate pool. Shame on the board majority.

    P.S. Ken Witt is administratively the president of the board, but he doesn’t get to make decisions (other than apparently for his cohorts, which is unfortunately the board majority). But when he says things like “I don’t want that”, he makes it quite obvious that he thinks he’s the boss and what he says goes. Not sure when the BoE became a dictatorship.

  2. Where did Newkirk say he was offended by diversity? I can not believe this guy is in charge of our children’s education. Is he really that intolerant of Americans? This is the kind of crass verbage you see on Tea Party blogs, not from a BOE member. Wow.

    Williams often seems to want to study things more. This is a pattern with her. Why? Does she need direction from others before “deciding” and casting her vote?

    Witt seems to be becoming a bit of a tyrant. Is he getting tired of pretending to respect parents and teachers? It will be informative to see his behavior as the board continues to get pushback from parents and teachers.

    Thank you for these extensive reports. The extended comments from the Lakewood teacher and JCEA rep were very interesting. Keep it up please!

    • Newkirk said he is offended by diversity at a candidate forum in the fall, when he was campaigning. Witt has made it clear at every meeting that he expects to get what he wants. He frequently says “I want this” or “I don’t want that” as though his opinion is the only one that matters and Newkirk and Williams seem more than happy to let him have his way, usually with very little discussion on their part.

  3. Thanks for the thorough updates.

  4. This board majority is obviously not going to change and suddenly start listening to the community. How much longer can we afford to “wait and see”? We really screwed up by allowing them to be voted in; what recourse do we have now?

  5. On the SAVE OUR SCHOOLS Facebook page, I organize prayer efforts for Jeffco for every Friday morning.
    After reading the report of last Monday’s board meeting, I feel like we need to be praying specifically for Leslie Dahlkemper and Fellman.
    I think we should pray on MONDAYS as well. So, please join me in praying for our schools and for the two board members who are fighting so hard to meet the needs of ALL students in Jeffco. Please pray on Monday morning sometime between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.

    • Hi, jfichter! I just want to clarify for you that board meeting days are almost always Thursdays. Thank you SO much for your post. Lesley and Jill need all the support we can give them!

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