Why does JCSBW support the recall of Jeffco School Board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams? To restore transparency, accountability and respect back to the Jeffco School Board. Here’s a brief run-down of the issues.
- Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s total compensation was set at $280,000, which is thousands more than the $217,510 compensation package approved for experienced and nationally-recognized Superintendent Cindy Stevenson in 2012/13. Stevenson, who holds a Ph.D., also has more education than McMinimee, who only holds a masters degree. This post includes the district’s budget numbers and more details.
- $90,000 per year for school board attorney Brad Miller, when previous school boards relied on the district lawyer and only contracted with an outside attorney on the rare occasions that it was necessary. You can watch how that played out in this video. Now Jeffco taxpayers pay both Miller and the school district attorney.
- There are also several cases in which WNW paid an outside individual or firm thousands of dollars, and then completely ignored the results of that work. For example:
- $44,580 for a search firm to conduct a national superintendent candidate search that resulted in only one finalist — from Douglas County.
- $9,000 for a community budget survey in Spring 2015 that produced essentially the same results as the Spring 2014 community budget survey that had been written and administered by district staff at no additional cost to taxpayers. WNW ignored the results in both cases, but wasted $9,000 more to ignore results the second time around.
- Thousands more for fact-finding in Summer 2014. The board sent the entire JCEA (teachers’ association) contract to a neutral fact-finder, which took considerably more time and money — about $1,000 per day for 7-10 days — than merely sending the disputed portions. The result? The third-party independent fact finder sided with JCEA, and then after all that time and expense, WNW refused to approve the fact finding recommendations for the first time ever in Jeffco’s history.
- $800-1,200 per day for a mediator for contract negotiations with JCEA — only to insist on a mere 10-month contract. Prepare to fork over another large chunk of your taxpayer money to repeat the process this year.
Violating Colorado open meeting laws
- WNW discussed a school board lawyer in 2013 behind closed doors — which violates Colorado sunshine laws. Witt contacted Newkirk and Williams about hiring a school board lawyer and asked them to interview two candidates weeks before he informed the other two board members. That is a violation. Newkirk admitted in the board meeting that he had interviewed Brad Miller for the position at CASB meeting in November. WNW also voted to approve the contract without disclosing scope of work and the cost at the the meeting. Why hasn’t anything been done? Read this post for more details.
- Other instances of this kind of secretive behavior have been slightly better hidden, but it has still been clear that WNW have discussed issues that they are not discussing with the other board members, in violation of the law.
- Not enough seats for students. The NW Arvada area will need 6,000 – 7,000 new seats by 2020, but WNW refuse to approve the Certificates of Participation that would allow the district to build three new schools and finish Phase II of the Sierra Elementary expansion. The Candelas school will only provide 625 seats, and only for grades K-6 after WNW refused to accept the district’s recommendation to build a K-8 that could accommodate 1,000 students.
- Failed to acknowledge or address additional facilities concerns outlined by Jeffco Schools staff, including a growing population in central and west Lakewood, deferred maintenance costs, and demand for a third athletics facility in south Jeffco.
Refusing to Negotiate in Good Faith
- WNW were not transparent in their intentions when they negotiated with teachers in 2014 and again in 2015. In 2014, it turned out Witt wanted a pay for performance compensation plan…but didn’t bother to mention that until Aug. 27 — after school had started, after taxpayer dollars had been wasted on mediation and a full fact-finding report, and after WNW refused to approve the fact finding recommendations.
- WNW insisted on fact finding for the entire contract rather than simply the disputed sections — and that costs much more because the fact finder is paid by the hour. WNW were warned multiple times in the board meeting about the greatly increased cost by district staff, so they knew exactly what they were doing when they voted to waste our taxpayer dollars.
Cutting vital school staff without parental input
- In 2015, parents at Fletcher Miller, a school that serves the needs of Jeffco’s most medically fragile students, learned that their nursing staff would be cut by two-thirds. Fletcher Miller parents confronted the district and school board at the next meeting, in which the community was told that not only was there a known shortage of speech pathologists in the district (this has been documented and has been ongoing), but there was also a shortage of school psychologists and social workers (likely due to the lack of respect and WNW’s repeated refusal to adequately address compensation issues).
Jefferson Area Plan B
- After principals in the Jefferson articulation area worked with their students, parents and teachers to find ways to improve student achievement by restructuring schools, John Newkirk introduced a surprise “Plan B” that would have moved students out of neighborhood schools without talking to the communities or even parents of students in those schools. The plan was eventually scrapped, but even the group that had originally suggested it distanced themselves from Newkirk’s proposal.
- Thousands of students walked out of classes after Julie Williams attempted to censor history, writing that the course should “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and eliminate materials that would “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” Her claim that she only wanted to examine the issue covers up the fact that the district already had a curriculum committee. She wanted — and succeeded — in establishing a board-operated curriculum committee whose members would be approved by the board (likely on a 3-2 vote). The framework was revised this year, but Williams wasn’t right. She admitted that she hadn’t looked at the textbooks or the framework and didn’t really know what was in them, all while claiming — inaccurately! — that major historical figures had been left out. Not true.
- In the spring 2014 community budget survey, 71 percent of Jeffco prioritized expanding free full-day kindergarten for at-risk children. WNW refused to allocate the $600,000 to do so, claiming that even though multiple national studies have demonstrated that full-day kindergarten improves student achievement for at-risk students, WNW needed Jeffco-specific studies to prove its effectiveness before they would fund it. Williams has since stated that she doesn’t support full-day kindergarten for any students.
Disrespect to staff and teachers
- Witt’s vague, hand-drawn pay for performance sketch was a surprise he whipped out at that Aug. 27 meeting. Then he asked district staff to figure out what the numbers would look like in less than a week — with the Labor Day holiday also cutting into that time frame. Teachers wouldn’t see the pay increase until the end of November.
- In 2015, WNW repeatedly ignored district advice to address salary gaps between experienced Jeffco teachers and new hires with the same experience and education. It took a court injunction before they addressed the problem — and even then they tried to back out during the meeting.
Disrespect to students and the community
- Cyberstalking, bullying, and not allowing Jeffco students who opposed them to speak at board meetings.
- Limiting public comment to as little as one minute, and selectively enforcing the rules.
- Cutting off public comment after a mere 45 minutes at the public hearing to hire Superintendent Dan McMinimee. The superintendent was the only item on the agenda that night, but WNW refused to hear more than 22 speakers out of the 86 who signed up, even though the board had not enforced the 45-minute rule in any previous meeting.
2012 vs. 2013 Election Results
WNW supporters like to claim that because WNW won good-sized majorities that they have overwhelming support. Wrong again! Voting results show that 33 percent (135,891) of registered Jeffco voters (412,954) bothered voting for a school board candidate in 2013.
And in 2012? That year, 72 percent voted on the Jeffco Schools mill and bond issue (299,415 out of 414,436 registered voters).
Approximately 164,050 Jeffco voters who voted on 3A and 3B in 2012 didn’t vote in the school board election in 2013.
What this really means is that Witt, who received 78,943 votes out of 135,891 cast, can truthfully say he’s was supported in 2013 by a mere 19 percent of registered Jeffco voters. Newkirk only received 17 percent support (72,769 out of 134,842). Williams still can claim the largest amount of support in 2013, when 20 percent of registered Jeffco voters chose her (82,868 out of 135,804).
As an interesting footnote, less total voters voted total for BOE candidates in 2013 than voted for 3A in 2012 (176,785 for 3A vs ~135,891 total votes for Witt).
2015: It’s Your Turn
What does all of this mean? It means that you need to fill in and mail that mail-in ballot as soon as you receive it. Voter apathy was the reason WNW were elected. Let’s not make that mistake again!
We hope you will join us in voting YES to recall Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams. Then vote for the successor candidates who will move Jeffco forward: Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell.
What will the ballot look like?
City council and other local elections will be first on the ballot.
Next on the ballot are the Jeffco School Board District 3 and 4 seats, currently held by outgoing members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper. Those seats are separate from the recall, as Fellman and Dahlkempers terms were slated to end in 2015 and they have chosen not to run again for those seats.
We are endorsing Jeffco parents Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens as the best candidates for District 3 and District 4 BOE seats. We know that despite muddling statements, unfortunately, Kim Johnson and Tori Merritts are aligned with WNW and desire to continue their policies and style of governance.
Proposition BB is next on the ballot.
Then there’s the Jeffco Public Library issue 1A, which we also strongly endorse.
And then there are the three Jeffco School Board recall questions.
You will vote on the recall question first, and then need to vote for a successor candidate. The recall questions will appear in this order:
Should Julie Williams, Jefferson County School District R-1, Director District 1 be recalled?
Vote YES. Then vote for a successor candidate. We are endorsing Brad Rupert.
Should John Newkirk, Jefferson County School District R-1, Director District 2 be recalled?
Vote YES. Then vote for a sucessor candidate. We are endorsing Susan Harmon.
Should Ken Witt, Jefferson County School District R-1, Director District 5 be recalled?
Vote YES. Then vote a successor candidate. We are endorsing Ron Mitchell.
Ballots must be returned to the County Clerk’s office by Nov. 3.
Keep fighting, JeffCo — and VOTE!