What’s at Stake – November 2021

Jeffco school board election 2021

Laura Boggs is puppeteering your local school board election – again.

For those who are new to the Jeffco Schools scene, Laura Boggs is a former Jeffco School Board of Education Member who was censured – twice, for agreeing with a radio host that the then superintendent “should be shot” and for threatening to “tear this county apart.” Yes, that Laura Boggs:

She’s also known to have hidden behind an easel in a meeting trying to avoid being noticed, and even wrestled a high school classroom from a teacher’s control and then told the students that school is “stupid.” Yes, that Laura Boggs.

Unfortunately this very same effective manipulator Laura Boggs, “conservative” “reformer,” who, by the way, is really neither, has been identified as the mastermind behind the current opposition slate of Shelton, Miks, and Wilhite (SMW). People have been saying on social media they want proof; well, here’s the proof, clear as day.

This email screenshot is being spread all over social media in response to outrage that Varda, Parker, and Reed didn’t show to a Christians Who Care forum. More on that later. In this email, the forum organizer clearly identifies SMW as “her candidates.” Enough said. This alone should give everyone pause and raise your blood pressure, and hopefully, send you running to tell everyone you know who might be considering voting for “her candidates” to think again.

When the campaign took issue with Boggs being copied on the emails, this is how the forum organizer responded:

Further, Boggs has been an active part of the “grassroots” “independent” group that is promoting the opposition slate since the beginning, as seen in this Facebook discussion from January 2021.

Elections matter. We say this every election. And, seemingly, every election, Laura Boggs tries to come back. So what’s at stake this time? What’s different this time?

The short version: the (“conservative”) politicization of school boards on a national level as part of a national strategy. Laura Boggs and her Jeffco pals are trying to tap into this national strategy.

For example, from Fairfax, Virginia:

Note the last sentence.

Screen shot is from this longer thread: https://twitter.com/JuddLegum/status/1450081018040492038

The above quote comes from Fairfax County, VA—one of the largest school districts in the nation–where a so-called “grassroots” group calling itself Parents Defending Education is working for a Republican takeover of what should be nonpartisan school boards.

In one recent example, a parent told the Fairfax County school board that the high school library contained two books containing pedophilia—a claim that is completely untrue. As is often the case with such groups, Parents Defending Education isn’t particularly interested in facts, instead retweeting her public comment and repeating the allegation. Conservative school board candidates also continued to repeat the lie, arguing, “I believe that parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.”

Mind you, no such books exist in the school library.

In another story out of Southlake, TX, a school administrator told teachers that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom they should offer students books from an “opposing” perspective. Teachers were told this after a parent complained that a fourth grade teacher had a anti-racism book in her classroom (the book in question was This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell) and the school board voted to reprimand the teacher. We can’t make this stuff up.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/southlake-texas-holocaust-books-schools-rcna2965

The story also notes that a group of parents in that district have been fighting to block new diversity and inclusion programs in the school district there, as part of a broader national movement led by people opposed to lessons on racism, history, and LBGTQ issues—often referred to by the now-population catchphrase “critical race theory.”

Bringing it Home

And now, Laura Boggs and Friends are cutting-and-pasting onto your social media all over Jeffco…

Careful readers may have noticed that and several other similar phrases being thrown about on social media and news stories in Jeffco. We’ll post a few screenshots for those of you who, wisely, have avoided social media for a while. For example:

Or there’s this one:

And this one, in response to a post for Varda, Reed, and Parker on Nextdoor:

Hive mind? Just a steady stream of slogans from the same echo chamber?

Unfortunately, it’s part of this larger strategy to politicize school boards—one that has been alive and well in Jeffco for some time now.

Today, JCSBW just wants to focus on one of the issues: all the stuff found under the catchphrase “Critical Race Theory.”

That battle over Advanced Placement United States History from 2014? Here it is again, wrapped in shiny new packaging.

The claim is that (mostly white) children might feel badly about themselves if they learn about our country’s past. Last time around the fear was that our children might not become patriotic if they knew our country’s history (i.e., American Exceptionalism).

If the opposition is elected, we’re going to be right back to this same battle.

Some examples:

  • First, a recent Colorado Sun article highlights a curious pattern in which conservative candidates around Colorado are focused on the same issues.
  • That Parents Defending Education group we talked about above? It’s also actively involved in the Mesa County School Board race. Yes, that Mesa County, the one where County Clerk Tina Peters was recently banned from having any role in the November 2021 election.
  • Meanwhile, the Colorado Sun also reported that in Colorado Springs, Church Voter Guides published candidate responses to a series of questions, including queries about critical race theory, sex education and coronavirus protocols, and the El Paso County Republican Party sent a questionnaire to board candidates in that county that included questions about critical race theory, mask and vaccine mandates, and false allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

See the pattern yet?

If not, how about this from the Summit County School District where another so-called “grassroots” group claims to be concerned about budget issues, academics, and politics in schools.

One of the Summit County candidates is also very concerned about school library books (just like in Texas), and wants to see books with “left-leaning points of view” balanced with books from a conservative perspective. She also is concerned about social justice and gender identity being incorporated into coursework, claiming it’s “the job of parents” to teach those issues at home.” Not content with that viewpoint, she raised the bar, claiming that teachers think they have the right to “almost raise our kids for us.”

One version of this played out here in Jeffco night before last, at a candidate forum by a group calling itself “Christians Who Care” —a group that is loosely organized at best because JCSBW couldn’t find any information about the group at all. Much ado has been made on social media because the pro-public education candidates, Danielle Varda, Mary Parker, and Paula Reed pulled out of the forum at the last minute.

Why?

Let’s start with the questions that candidates were provided ahead of the forum (typed as written in the screenshot, with three bolded by JCSBW for emphasis):

  1. What are your qualifications for being a Board of Education candidate, and what do you see is the most important issue you would like to address?
  2. 55% of Jeffco’s 3rd graders are not at grade level reading. 74% of sixth graders are not at grade level math. Overall student achievement as declined as has student enrollment. In contrast, annual spending continues to increase. How do you explain these statistics and trends, and as a Board of Education member, how do you plan to address these issues?
  3. We are aware that the Union has endorsed certain Board of Education candidates. How does a Union endorsement or non-endorsement influence your decisions, when making critical education-related decisions?
  4. Several of the most highly contested issues in the educational systems in Jefferson County relate to mandated masking and vaccinations. As a Board of Education member, how would you address parents’ concerns? [JCSBW note: Neither Jeffco nor Colorado has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and any future mandate would be approved by the state legislature, not the school board.]
  5. As a member of the Board of Education, how would you address the increasing intrusion of government into educational systems wherein the rights and responsibilities of parents are eroded?
  6. From a Christian and parent perspective, how will you address the canceled culture/Woke mentality in schools with special attention to the political themes of Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory?

No wonder VRP declined to show to this forum. It was clearly a trap.

JCSBW apparently is not “woke” enough to understand what “woke indoctrination,” “woke curricula” or “woke mentality” are, much less “canceled culture,” but none of them are tied to grassroots movements.

Turns out that some of those questions come directly from Parents Defending Education. Their website includes encouraging parents to create social media pages to “document examples of woke indoctrination” and waging lawsuits against “woke” curricula. 

Now consider the questions in bold above. Coincidence? No.

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to protecting our Jeffco neighborhood, option, and charter schools.

JCSBW supports three candidates — Varda, Reed, and Parker — who will support all of our local schools and all our students.

If she gets her way, Laura Boggs won’t just be organizing candidates, she’ll be commanding them to “tear apart” the county again.

There’s more to come. In the meantime, remember to vote for Varda, Reed, and Parker. Ballots are due by 7 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 2!

11.18.15 Ready for a New Era

motivation-is-when-your-dreams-put-on-work-clothes

As you can tell, we’ve been enjoying some rest the last couple of weeks (translation: we’ve been tackling all the stuff we put off until after the election, and this proves that we’re actually parents and not a funded 24/7 machine!). But we’re not going away. Yes, we’re excited about the Clean Slate. We’re thrilled that we’ll have a full set of school board members dedicated to tackling the many challenges that Jeffco Schools faces with careful consideration and community input.

But we also know that WNW supporters are incensed that voters exercised their critical thinking skills and clearly stated that partisan politics have no place in our schools. They’ve always been fired up, but their outrage took on a new level at the Nov. 5 board meeting. We’re not going to repeat their drivel here because it doesn’t deserve the light of day (and can be heard on the recording of the meeting anyhow). It’s clear that our job is not done.

What we know:

  • There are challenging decisions ahead
  • The new board members will solicit community input
  • Community input needs to be based on good information
  • WNW supporters are already working to spread their lies and rumors.

So we’ll continue to watch. For the time being, we hope to simply highlight the topics that will be addressed at upcoming board meetings and to provide a summary of the meeting afterward. We’ll try to highlight big issues and give you a more detailed picture as it comes. And we’ll let you know what else we’re seeing and hearing out there. Brad Miller, WNW’s board attorney hired under extremely questionable circumstances and the top vote-getter among a poll of our readers, has already resigned, opening the door for less partisan legal counsel and discussions.

We hesitate to say that we’ll let you know what we’re seeing from “the other side” because this is not an our side/their side fight. But — and we cannot emphasize this strongly enough — the Independence Institute, Jeffco Students First, and the Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity do see this as an our side/their side fight. They don’t see middle ground nor do they value it, and they are already making it clear that they will fight anything that doesn’t align to their very strict, partisan ideology with every lie and rumor they can fabricate. Jon Caldara also made it clear they intend to start working now, “ruthlessly” and “24/7” in order to be successful in 2017 when the three seats are up for election again.

We, on the other hand, recognize that there are many perspectives on education, many needs to address and insufficient resources for doing so. We hope the board members are able to successfully navigate the decision-making process and find the middle ground — and that they’re equally successful in communicating that message to the public.

We’ll continue watching and hope you’ll continue reading.

The Clean Slate members, Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell will be sworn in this Thursday, 11/19, at 5:30 pm in the board room. They’ll decide leadership positions, and then will hear public comment if you’d like to sign up for a slot. It should be refreshing to have five board members who care about what we think. We’re looking forward to it.


 

One More Board Meeting to Stand Guard…And Some Big Decisions

dignityAs much as we want to (and have) celebrated a clean slate thanks to the amazing Jeffco community, we still have work to do.  The new board will not take office until November 19, so we have to put away the confetti and get back to business.  Tomorrow, on Thursday, November 5, WNW will reign over one last board meeting.

There are 3 items to highlight for this meeting.  The first comes in the consent agenda.  The ratings are out and overall McMinimee is PARTIALLY EFFECTIVE.  With 12 goals he was rated Highly Effective in 2 areas, Effective in 3, Partially Effective in 5 and INEFFECTIVE in 2.  Using the simple 4 point elementary grading system that works out to a 2.4  (keeping in mind being Ineffective gives you a 1 from the start).

This brings up a few questions.  Is McMinimee, with no experience leading a large school district, in over his head?  Was he truly the best candidate WNW could find? (That’s rhetorical). Now that we are saddled with his contract, what will the clean slate do?

Bothersome is that PARTIALLY EFFECTIVE will result in $9,500 in bonuses.  That is 4.3%.  In a year when EFFECTIVE teachers will see less than a 1% raise and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE will see just over a 1% raise, McMinimee will be awarded a 4.3% bonus.

Knowing that DR. Stevenson chose to forego bonuses in times when teachers saw no raises, will MR. McMinimee choose to follow her example of leadership?  Or will he take the 4.3% bonus?

Doral Charter Application

The next questions for Thursday night, will WNW continue to ignore the community? Will they go out with the same disrespect they have reigned with?  Or will they make a mature, graceful decision?

Before them is the Doral Academy Charter Application.  Doral presented virtually the same application to Cherry Creek last month and it was unanimously rejected.

Here are our concerns with this application:

This would be the first charter school in Jeffco to be run by a Charter Management Organization (CMO).  And not just any CMO.  This CMO is Academica.  Academica is currently under federal investigation for financial conflict of interests. So it is particularly troublesome that according to the charter “Academica will be responsible for the DAC’s bookkeeping and financial reporting. Academica will also be assigned by the Board to bid out third-party services that the school requires …”

(For more information on who profits from these deals, we recommend you read this article.)

Another concern is the misrepresentation of this school as an arts school.  The curriculum clearly states it is an arts integrated school (meaning kids learn using songs, like children learn the presidents in their neighborhood schools).  However, in an effort to make a case for the school at the last presentation, Newkirk repeatedly tried to draw parallels to the Denver School of the Arts – which the charter panel never denied.

DSA is a wonderfully successful program, but it requires auditions and focuses on the arts.  It is not arts integration.  Would it be great to have an arts option school in Jeffco some day? Yes, but Doral Academy is NOT an arts school.

A third concern raised by the charter review committee was fiscal feasibility.  With 285 students needed to break even and 121 letters of intent, Doral is far from reaching that number.  Even then, the committee pointed out the budget was lean on staffing, infrastructure and food services.

As a parent though, the seating of the board is the most concerning element of the application.  The board terms are FIVE years (and a member can serve 2 terms), which seems lengthy.  The original board is formed from the founding committee with staggered terms (nothing unusual there).  However, as the terms expire the BOARD votes for their OWN replacements.  A self-perpetuating board DENIES any voice from the school’s community in their board.  Furthermore, with a board as large as possibly 9 members, there are only 2 seats allocated to parents.

This is far from the grassroots charters that thrive in Jeffco, and it is very far away from the community/parent voices this election advocated for.  When you add Academica in the mix – where school board members for one of their schools was none other than the President of Academica, the seating of the board becomes a vital issue.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: Our ideal would be that this contentious issue be tabled for the new board to vote on since they will be left with the fallout of the decision either way.  Unfortunately, state statute requires a response within 75 days, which may not be possible given the timing of the application submission.  Barring tabling the vote, our recommendation is that the application should be denied at this time due to: the fiscal jeopardy from lack of interest, the association with the troubled and beleaguered Academica, and the overly self-perpetuating structure of the board.

Public Comment Proposal

We commend Jill Fellman in this last act.  She has proposed that in study sessions that have 2 or more action items requiring a vote, that public comment be allowed.  Thank you, Jill, for being open to ALL voices.

District Accountability Committee (DAC)

Finally on the agenda are the revisions to the DAC.  Our hope is merely that when the Clean Slate takes office they will revisit this committee, returning the voices of PTA, parents, faith leaders, etc.  We also hope that the application for these positions in the future will include more than name and child’s school so that the candidate can be vetted properly.  Our final request is that a new policy would also include appointments from all members, rather than a majority vote that silences the minority.

accept

THIS IS NOT FAREWELL: A PERSONAL NOTE FROM JEFFCOFACTS, ONE OF OUR WRITERS

A little over a year ago I met the founder of Jeffco School Board Watch for coffee.  I had never been involved in politics and had no desire to be.  But I was appalled at the actions of WNW and had been so for months.  As coffee progressed I heard more about the agenda of Americans For Prosperity and WNW.  At first, I honestly thought – conspiracy theory.  But I agreed to write on occasion for Board Watch.  I chose the moniker JeffcoFacts, because I wanted to present a fair analysis based upon facts, not theories.  With time there were days that my emotions did ride high – when I saw the disrespect to students, teachers and board members.  When I saw the complete disregard for community surveys.  Some days JeffcoFacts and the Jeffco parent in me could not be separated.

Today we celebrate the end of the reign of terror.  And today in the spirit of Thanksgiving I give thanks to the many community leaders that stepped into the fray – too many to name.  And I thank the passionate founder (turns out he wasn’t a crazy conspiracy theorist) that gave me a voice here.

This election is not farewell.  I have learned so much about what makes great schools and what a true reform movement within a community can look like, that I can’t go back to the cocoon of inattention.  For the sake of not just the children of Jeffco, but for the schools fighting this battle in Thompson, DougCo and throughout the country.

What does the future of Board Watch look like?  It is too early to know.  But I can say that even the Clean Slate of candidates knows we are watching and we will always fight for our children, regardless of who is in office.  To do anything less, would be disingenuous.

Finally I want to say thank all of you – our followers.  I never thought I could do this.  And there were days I seemed so unqualified.  But then on occasion a comment would come in on an article and it lifted me up.  Or I would see the number of reads and I knew you were listening and sharing.  You are the reason the recall was successful.  Thank you for that and thank you for supporting us.

11.3.15 Thank You.

Last year, my daughter’s school’s choir sang the classic, “525,600 Minutes” at their end-of-year concert. I loved hearing kids sing that and challenge their audience to think about how they measure a year.

For many of us, this last year has been measured in volunteer hours.

You’ve written letters to the board and area newspapers, attended board meetings, waved signs, signed petitions, carried petitions, phone banked, knocked on doors, put up signs, decorated cars, given out cards and been tireless in your efforts to tell friends and strangers alike about the recall.xcgK9x6Mi

Thank you.

We are grateful for every effort, no matter how big or small. It all makes a difference.

Most importantly, we’ve joined together to show our teachers that we will fight alongside them.

To the many volunteers in Jefferson County (and beyond), who have been fighting for this movement, we want you know that, regardless of the outcome of this election, those minutes were well spent.

As we all watch the hours tick by and wait for results, please fill your heart with gratitude from all of us at JCSBW. No matter your contribution, it was necessary, helpful, and it mattered. You’ve made us proud to live in JeffCo.

To our teachers who have stuck with JeffCo through these challenging working conditions, please know that we are on your side and are hopeful that you walk through the doors of your schools tomorrow with the confirmation that your community elected people who will value the work that you do.

To our students whose future is dependent on this election, please know that we fought this fight because you were worth it, and we will keep fighting it if we must.

We are hopeful that we’ll see good news tonight. We hope Jeffco voters vote yes on the recall and elect a clean slate. We hope this is the night we see accountability, transparency and respect restored to Jeffco. We hope this is the night that Jeffco elects school board members who focus on students as they tackle the very real challenges that our schools face.

Yard sign by yard sign, door by door, you’ve made a difference. Thank you.


 

11.2.15 The final push: Get out the vote!

ballot

Today and Tuesday before 7 are the last chances to vote if you haven’t and more importantly — to remind every Jeffco voter to turn in that ballot.

You can find drop-off locations here: http://jeffco.us/elections/voting-and-registration/drop-off-locations/.

Colorado also allows same-day voter registration, so if someone you know thinks they can’t vote, please direct them to one of the Jeffco Voter Service & Polling Center locations.

We need to recall Jeffco School Board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams and we need every vote. We’ve outlined the reasons we support the recall, and we hope that you will continue spreading the word in this final stretch.

Need a reminder about how to fill out the ballot:

  1. Vote for Ali Lasell in District 3
  2. Vote for Amanda Stevens in District 4
  3. Vote yes to recall Julie Williams.
  4. Vote for Brad Rupert as the successor candidate.
  5. Vote yes to recall John Newkirk.
  6. Vote for Susan Harmon as the successor candidate.
  7. Vote yes to recall Ken Witt.
  8. Vote for Ron Mitchell as the successor candidate.
  9. Drop off your ballot at a drop-off location or in a 24-hour ballot box by 7 pm this Tuesday, 11/3.

It’s as easy as that. Go vote if you haven’t, and if you have some time on Monday, considering phone banking during the day or in the vening to help encourage others to vote too.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!