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**