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:

 

1112toon_luckovich

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.

 

Board of Education 12-12-13

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.

 

Brad miller invoice

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

 

Boots 2

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.

 

McMinimee

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

 

11.10.2014ETPEducationnighteventflyer

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.”

 

lackey

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.

 

lockedoutteachers1

Parents and teachers are locked out of school board meetings.

 

williams

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

 

students

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.

 

4-18-fb-post

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. 

 

neville

 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.

 

marshall

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.

 

Mailer-2-front

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.

 

unnamed (1)

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.

 

5-candidates-1024x612

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!


 

6.22.15 Late June Jeffco Teacher Negotiations Update

I can no longer tolerate the actions/policies of this school board.  I have accepted a job teaching at Monarch High School.

– Chuck Stephen, former Lakewood HS band & orchestra teacher

From the beginning of negotiations with the district, our Teacher Association, JCEA, has been seeking stability and certainty.  The best way to have a highly qualified teacher in a classroom is to have a career path for teachers that encourages them to develop their skills, live in their communities in which they teach, and impact the “whole child.”  This includes not just teaching core subjects, but also electives, clubs, sports, and more.  To that end, the association has been negotiating in good faith since March with designated district staff.  Little progress had been made until recently due to uncertainty over budgets. Now that that has been settled (through another 3-2 vote by our WNW triad of doom), here are some salient points:

  • Teachers with less than or 6 years of experience will receive a pay bump so that their salaries are in line with a new salary schedule for new hires that increases starting pay to $38K and increases 2% a year. Details can be found here.
  • Master’s degrees previously earned after 2012, but not compensated for will be caught up.
  • Hard to fill positions will get some additional money to aid hiring.
  • All other employees will see an approximately 1% increase, depending on their performance rating.

This plan is ONLY in place for the 2015-2016 school year, and there is no agreement on anything else going forward.  As for the certainty that the association is seeking, there is still none.

Now that negotiations are down to four scheduled days (June 29-July 2), it is looking increasingly likely that no agreement will be reached unless more days are added to negotiations.  Many of the open items are the ones that impact whether teachers have certainty in their future career options in Jeffco, such as:

  • District-proposed contract expiration of June 30, 2016, an echo of DougCo’s plan to crush their association.
  • No salary schedule or compensation plan beyond the 2015-16 school year.
  • No agreed-upon plan regarding how school principals will decide about displacement if staffing needs to change.
  • No plan for the use of buildings by the association, or even for the role of a JCEA president.
  • Completely open-ended questions on education of the “whole child,” electives, counselors, librarians, etc.
  • Class sizes (which, of course is a big budget driver)

Chalkbeat has posted many of the documents being negotiated, with “red line” versions available too (scroll past the first part of the article to view them).

Given that the board’s plan was to negotiate from a blank sheet of paper, they have done a good job of making clear their priorities. Their only priority seemingly was, up to a week ago, to get their new hire salary schedule approved.  Now that they have gotten what they wanted, it is clear that any other contract terms are going to be hard-fought for the association.

If we want teachers to not quit the district (more 600 last year, and more than 700 already this year), we need a contract that gives them reasons to stay, with reasons including everything from salary to professional development to respect for what they do for the community.  It is in the interest of the community to have happy teachers because they’re working environment is the student’s learning environment.  The association has repeatedly made clear their desire for a contract is NOT to protect bad teachers.  That is a red herring that has NO basis in facts on the ground.  Watch the negotiations if you have time, so you can see for yourself.


 

Keep fighting, JeffCo!

5.22.2015 Clear your Tuesday calendar

We know that many of you, like us, are deep in the glut of end-of-school concerts and activities, but things are heating up just in time for Tuesday’s board meeting. Here’s a brief summary of what’s been going on the last couple of weeks.

May 7 – The BOE majority votes to move $15 million from the budget “underspend” (dollars that aren’t already allocated) all for a new school in the NW Arvada area. The problem? There are many. Among them: $15 million is still $10 million short of the amount the district estimated for a K-8 school in the area. In addition, the vote puts less into district reserves than originally planned, and crushes all other options for those dollars. District staff had recommended the $13.5 million be distributed to teacher compensation, students, facilities and reserves. For more details about that discussion, check out the Jeffco Schools Examiner story.

Witt also targeted a high school student for the “crime” of clicking the favorite button on a tweet that came from the parody @notlisapinto Twitter account. During the meeting, which went way into the wee hours of May 8, he said he would not meet with Jeffco Students for Change because he claimed that their leader had favorited a Facebook post that contained a racial epithet aimed at a Jeffco staffer. Well, as it turns out, (1) it was Twitter, not Facebook, (2) there were no racial epithets, and (3) it’s a violation of board policy and probably a number of other laws to put the full name of a Jeffco student up on the screen in full view of the board room during the board meeting.

Angry? Us too, though we also wonder whether it was meant to be a distraction for what came next.

May 12 – The district’s new compensation plan was put on hold by a Jeffco judge, who ruled that the district may not pay new hires under that plan–at least if they were hired after May 1. It’s unclear what will happen to those hired between the decision and the May 1 date. For more details, check out Chalkbeat’s fine article.

May 18 – Jeffco refuses to host a bill signing for Governor John Hickenlooper at Lakewood High School, claiming that it would be too inconvenient with students taking finals and would create a security staff shortage (or something along those lines). So, hosting Katy Perry last year (an event early in the morning that the governor also attended, by the way) isn’t a problem, but a bill signing is. Please. We have amazing security experts in Jeffco. They would handle it fine–if only they’d been given the opportunity.

May 20 – Contract negotiations with JCEA took a turn, after the district realized it needs some plan to pay those new hires. Again, check out Chalkbeat for the details.

May 21 – Jeffco’s talks with JCEA stall. We’re sure you’re shocked. Not surprisingly, the district continues to maintain the position that they want to remain competitive for new hires, never mind the salary gap and the fact that our veteran teachers are not being recognized in any way for sticking with the district through the years of pay freezes. The JCEA Twitter feed is one among many that gives a feel for Thursday’s conversation, but you can also watch the video feed here or read the Chalkbeat article.

District officials blame the budget–and this is where your help is needed. The first hearing for the budget is this Tuesday, May 26 (note the date change!). It’s time to help the school board remember what its priorities should be: compensating our teachers fairly and focusing on the classroom. Instead, they’re claiming the budget is too small to give much if anything to veteran teachers, but that apparently isn’t stopping them from awarding a $5,236 raise to Chief Communication Officer Lisa Pinto.

Wait, you say? How is she getting a raise when she clearly has not proven to be a highly effective or even effective employee? Where’s the data that her position has improved student achievement–which is Witt’s usual rallying cry? Instead, she’s increased the amount of negative press that Jeffco has, including the May 19 Denver Post editorial by the criticizing the district’s refusal to allow the bill signing. Pinto didn’t make that call, but her response to the governor’s office was far from professional (as is any communication that begins with the phrase “for your information”). She is not effective and by Witt’s own rules, does not deserve a raise until she becomes effective. We’re still waiting.

If you don’t like what’s going on, it’s time to speak up. Sign up for public comment here (and if you do, plan for public commented to be shortened to 1 minute for individuals). Can’t make it to the meeting? Write the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us, and mark off June 11, which is the date of the second budget hearing.

Finally we’re sorry to report that Lesley Dahlkemper will not run for her seat again this November. She made that announcement on her Facebook page on May 3. But all is not lost, as Jeffco parent Amanda Stevens will run for that seat. Amanda has been a strong voice for our students at board meetings, and we hope you will like her Facebook page and support her in every way possible through the coming months.

Keep fighting, Jeffco!

We cannot give up now.


 

BOE Agenda for 5/7/15 – Or should we say Hidden Agenda?

The school board will meet in regular session on Thursday 5/7/15. Here’s the link to the live stream: http://livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

After public comment is complete and Julie Williams is properly chastised for her Day of Hate post, the meeting will discuss many issues.  Among the more interesting consent agenda items is a delay, after 90 days, for an additional 30 days to extend the charter for four charter schools:  Free Horizon Montessori, Lincoln Academy, Montessori Peaks Academy and Rocky Mountain Deaf School.  Why the delay until June?  We will only know in June!  Is this a classic attempt to move it out of the public spotlight?  Especially since the chief financial officer raises some Yellow Flags on some of these schools?

One of the main agenda items is a review of the fiscal third quarter. Thanks to so many people leaving the district and unfilled positions, there are actually savings being realized in the expenditures due to staffing holes.  Despite this, in  five places in the presentation, the chief financial officer may be asking for supplemental appropriations for COPs, Building Fund, Debt Service, Activity Fund, and Enterprise Funds (Food, Childcare, Property Management).

There is a discussion item on Ends goals.  But no supporting documents as of Sunday May 3rd.  Why?

There is a discussion of the tabled motion on Facilities.  The board has heard repeatedly from district staff that there needs to be building in the north part of the district.  Again there is to be a presentation to the board on this.  Will they listen this time?  Who knows.  Meanwhile, there is no presentation available again on the day the agenda is posted.  Meanwhile, read about a conflict of interest for Witt elsewhere around building schools.

One of the normally sleeper topics, review of board policy is interesting.  This document EL-02, covers Treatment of Parents, Guardians, and Community. Reference to another document posted here, is being removed and replaced with a generic statement about cooperation of the superintendent with the public.  Why the fear of having a well-defined process?  Afraid of accountability?  Who knows?

With this BOE, the mysteries just grow and never really get solved. Sure, they could argue that the policy should stand on its own and not reference another document. But what is left has no appeal process.  Yet another way to close the public out of the debate about what is best for kids.  Here are parts of a brochure describing the policy.  All of this will be rescinded with the change proposed by “district staff.”

How do you feel you have been treated so far?  Expect worse.

A couple of other housekeeping notes:

1. Have you written to the BOE and/or the district and received a dismissive, demeaning or otherwise unprofessional response? If so, we encourage you to reply and copy board@jeffco.k12.co.us. Note that your question was not addressed, even though someone clearly had the time to respond. This will ensure your response gets into BoardDocs and the public will be able to track the number of unprofessional or otherwise inappropriate responses to JeffCo parents and community members.

2. A number of people have been surprised by the public comment rules, which are definitely confusing. Here’s what you need to know if you want to speak to the board at Thursday’s meeting:

  • Signup time is limited! It opens at 10 am on Monday, and closes at 3:30 pm on Thursday. Don’t wait!
  • If you are speaking on an agenda item, sign up for Part 1 of public comment. If not, sign up for Part 2.
  • The amount of time you are allowed to speak varies, and you won’t know how long you have until you’re at the meeting. In general, there are enough people signed up for public comment that individual speakers are limited to 1 or 2 minutes while groups of receive 5 minutes. Play it safe: plan to speak no longer than 2 minutes, and have a 1-minute version you can use just in case. The way it works is based on the number of people who sign up:
    • 0-20 speakers = individuals 3 minutes, groups 10 minutes
    • 21-30 speakers = individuals 2 minutes, groups 5 minutes
    • 30 + speakers = individuals 1 minute, groups 3 minutes

 Keep watching, keep fighting JeffCo!


 

Analysis: Are Sensational Board Majority Stories Distracting From, or Highlighting, the Dismantling of Jeffco Public Schools?

The board majority’s actions keep producing headlines that capture the attention of the general public, and not just those in the school district or others that follow their actions closely. To insiders, it’s a daily occurrence: the board majority or the district’s new top staff make inexplicable mistakes that are alarming, or say or do things that further the idea that their end game is ultimately to privatize the public school system. We suspect that the board majority’s privatization goal stays mostly under the radar.

Still, some of their bizarre actions have captured a wider audience, garnering media attention because they either sit at the intersection of one of our nation’s cultural wars, or because the action would have direct and immediate impacts on a lot of families. Who can forget this sampling of these headline-grabbers?

-Last fall, Julie Williams proposes a committee to review the AP U.S. History course out of concerns that the course is not patriotic enough and emphasizes social conflict and civil disobedience. This is followed by mass student walkouts during which Ken Witt calls the students “pawns.”

-This winter, John Newkirk and Dan McMinimee attend and speak at a community forum hosted by the Evergreen Tea Party and co-hosted by the “American Freedom Party,” an avowed white supremacist party that does have a foothold in Colorado and a presence in Jeffco. Although labeled a mistake, questions remain about how such a mistake could possibly have been made and why no one caught it.

-This spring, John Newkirk proposes jettisoning large portions of a district plan to address underperforming schools in the Jefferson articulation area in favor of moving two other schools without adequate research, vetting, or analysis, and for reasons that were not clear. Sustained outrage over a lack of thought or planning around the proposal causes the board to scrap the idea, and even the members of the community group that had originally proposed the alternative rescinded their support of the plan.

-Last week, Julie Williams shares a message on her Facebook page that promotes far-right views about the “Day of Silence,” including the suggestion that parents keep their kids home from school because the Day of Silence “teach[es] children to support and embrace the unnatural and unhealthy homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda.” Mass media and social media again catch fire over these comments. She later apologizes, saying she hadn’t read the post before reposting it and calling it a mistake. Nevertheless, see above (the white supremacist group). That’s a lot of accidents in a few months.

This is just a sampling. To be sure, these are important issues that deserve scrutiny. They offer a window into the board majority’s lack of competency and naked political motivations. They also each ultimately have real, practical effects on our students, teachers, and the community.

Nevertheless, we wonder: are these stories making the general public more watchful?

Or are these tabloid stories intended to distract the general public from the more general, policy-oriented steps that the board is taking to seemingly to dismantle the schools in order to make way for a private system?

After all, as many “insiders” realize, the board is not behaving very conservatively. It approves loans to poorly performing charters, often doesn’t follow its own governance policies, and its key staff appears to be hired more for political reasons than for their merit. Even more concerning, staff morale appears to be at an all-time low. Many of our most talented teachers are leaving at a record clip, while the board majority continues to fight with student groups on another front.

Everything is run through a legal filter that lacks transparency, and the board majority seems to think that the teachers’ association serves only nefarious purposes, rather than working for reasonable working conditions so that our teachers can concentrate on teaching. They put off building new public schools despite the exhortations of long-time key staff and local business leaders about a coming train wreck. Thinking that they have a mandate (and almost unlimited outside funding), the majority keeps doing whatever they want, claiming to listen to the community when in fact it appears to be the same few inside supporters appearing at public comment, and a whole lot of money backing them from places like Texas and Colorado Springs.

The general public knows the shocking headlines, but do they really understand what’s happening to our district over the long-term? If they do understand, will it be enough to withstand the avalanche of Koch and related money coming for this fall’s elections?

One could argue that the sensational headlines put the general public on notice and create an air of distrust. While many voters are still entirely disengaged with what’s happening with our school board, more and more people have heard one or more of these troubling tales. If an uninformed and uninvolved voter hears one of these stories, unfortunately it may be easy to dismiss as an isolated incident. On the other hand, when the stories start adding up, it creates an atmosphere of distrust for the board majority, and then suddenly the majority’s other decisions don’t seem as trustworthy to the general public either. That’s a lot to overcome.

An opposite argument can also be made. Because the media hasn’t been covering plummeting teacher morale or the board’s financial irresponsibility, voters with little connection to the schools might think of the board as bumbling, but generally headed in the right direction. Does the average voter really care that the board rejected the findings of a neutral federal fact-finder, no matter how important that decision was to our community? Do the majority of voters strongly oppose tying pay to performance? (Do they even kow how pay for performance works?) Are they concerned about the treatment of public comment time at board meetings?

Some are aware, but we think that many are not. Does all the coverage of the sensational stories make the general public think that there’s not more going on, because the attention is diverted? Do voters not see that the board majority is being coached to dismantle the schools slowly, and mostly non-sensationally? Or are they already too saturated with the sensational stories rapidly cascading out of the district to realize there is a deeper story?

Whatever the case may be, we don’t think that Jeffco voters will be pleased to wake up with a decayed school system and most of their best teachers gone. We don’t think that businesses will be happy, once the real estate boom has slowed, to learn that people don’t want to settle down or do business in Jeffco because the school system is not highly regarded. We do not want to be associated with incompetent and partisan leadership. We don’t think that Jeffco wants their schools to be modeled in cookie-cutter fashion after the schools in Dougco. Jeffco is independent; Jeffco was fooled in 2013 but won’t be fooled with the disastrous results that occur with the implementation of unproven philosophies crudely rammed home.

The truth is, we don’t know if the stories that raise the eyebrows of the general public distract from, or shine light upon, the real issues.

In our minds, this questioning does underscore two strategies that need to be in place more moving forward.

First, we need to tie the policy shenanigans more to headlines. We need to tell stories of the individual human cost of what’s happening. We need to see more significant actions that are visible and dramatic reminders of what is happening.

It is easy to think of policy disagreements as only having incremental impact, but we need to translate policy impacts into a steady stream of headlines that feature personal stories, or stories of mass disenchantment. The public forms its opinions primarily from mass media still, and the mass media covers the sensational stories. Fact-finders and changing pay scales do not make for sustained headlines. Personal stories of excellent teachers leaving Jeffco, student action, or mass teacher departures for more supportive environments, get the media’s attention.

Finally, as we were reminded just this week, it will take money to tell these stories. We are not affiliated with JCEA or any other organization, so we don’t know what their plans are for this fall’s critical elections. We do know that the board majority’s allies at the Independence Institute called for $300,000 in donations to fight the imagined “’Leftists’ iron grip” in Jeffco. Candidates this fall will have to stave off Independence Institute money in addition to huge money that will be coming in from other outside sources, but well-hidden, just as it did in 2013.

For Jeffco to keep fighting effectively, it will take generating more media attention through the sharing of real stories or clever activism, and for all parties to fund reasonable and competent candidates this fall so that those stories can be shared.