Is change in the air for Jeffco Schools 2017?

urgentIn case you haven’t heard, Jeffco Schools announced Tuesday the Jeffco School Board will vote on whether to start a search process for a new superintendent at their Jan. 12 regular board meeting.

For some — perhaps most — of our readers, this is long-awaited news. Others may be wondering why.

What’s not yet clear is whether this means that board members are seriously contemplating not renewing Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s contract, or whether they’re just fulfilling their promise to be transparent and accountable with board decisions and are providing ample notice so the community can be a part of the process and offer their input on the decision.

Although some Denver news outlets are reporting that McMinimee’s contract will not be renewed, Chalkbeat took a more nuanced approach and suggested that it was possible the board could still choose to renew his contract at the meeting.

No decision has been made yet, so news coverage stating that McMinimee’s contract will not be renewed is mere speculation and is either irresponsible journalism, or based on unprofessional comments from some at the district. Jeffco School Board members have held two executive sessions to discuss the contract, most recently on Dec. 15, but any vote to renew or not renew has to take place in open session, preferably with time for public comment and thoughtful, articulate board discussion. That is now scheduled for the Jan. 12 meeting.

Also from the same press release:

“It was clear during our executive sessions that the board felt we should explore our options to support the vision and direction of our school district,” said Board President Ron Mitchell. “This is a very difficult discussion, especially since Dan has led Jeffco Public Schools through some challenging times and we all appreciate his work.

…. Now that the current Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education has served over a year, the Board president expressed his expectation that the Board will have a full discussion regarding the desired direction of the district at the Jan. 12 meeting.

“If the Board decides to begin the search for a new superintendent, that action should not be viewed as a commentary on the Board’s estimation of Dan’s abilities or his performance in the role of superintendent,” explained Mitchell. “Board members expressed a desire to have a broader discussion about the Board’s vision for the district and type of leadership needed to make that vision a reality.”

As a refresher, Superintendent McMinimee was hired in 2014 as the sole finalist of a $40,000 national superintendent search. Before his hiring, he had spent several years working as an administrator in Douglas County, and many suspected that now-recalled board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams hired him in part because he had been the lead negotiator in Douglas County when they cut ties with the union. He was hired on a 3-2 vote in a meeting in which Witt shut down public comment after a mere 45 minutes. WNW eventually approved a three-year contract with a base salary of $220,000 and bonus pay of up to $40,000 based on goals set by the board.

This year, McMinimee received $20,000 in bonus pay based on the goals set by the previous board before the November 2015 election. McMinimee and the board discussed potential goals for 2017-18 at a recent meeting, and suggested that many of the goals McMinimee suggested should be a routine part of his job. They directed him to select different, more aspirational goals at a future meeting.

Board members also had a long executive session at the end of the Dec. 15 meeting to discuss the renewal of McMinimee’s contract, which ends on June 30, 2017. The board needs to make a decision by the end of March, but stated they wanted to start those discussions now. We saw a lot of chatter on social media about the 3-1/2 hour length of the executive session and what that might mean, but no one knows for sure.

JCSBW fervently hopes that a comprehensive, articulate, and thoughtful discussion will ensue at the Jan. 12 meeting in order to better explain what board members are thinking. Among other things, the Jeffco School Board needs to clarify:

  1. Specifically what they envision for the future of Jeffco Schools, and specifically what they want from a leader charged with carrying out that vision. (Emphasis on “specific,” because the press release is so vague that it could mean anything.)
  2. Specific areas in which McMinimee’s performance has fallen short, and why the board thinks different leadership may be a better option.
  3. What options the board has for selecting a new superintendent, how much those options cost, and why any additional cost is justified.

Three board seats are up for election in November, so it is extremely important that the board members be as transparent as possible as they move forward with this decision.

The average Jeffco voter will want to know why this board decided to renew or not renew McMinimee’s contract — and they’ll need to understand why it’s not a waste of money to spend several thousand more dollars on another superintendent search three years later. Three years ago, that search cost $40,000. If McMinimee’s contract is not renewed, that means taxpayers have paid an additional $13.3k per year on top of his salary.

We know many families, principals and teachers in Jeffco have not been pleased with McMinimee’s time here, and feel he is not the best candidate to lead our schools. However, that is not clear to the average voter or even the average Jeffco Schools family. We have no doubt that the anti-tax forces in Jeffco will waste no time in pointing to waste, lack of transparency, and vindictiveness if board members do not clearly make the case for whatever decision they reach on Jan. 12.

Readers, we also encourage you to communicate with the board, either during the public comment session at the Jan. 12 meeting or by writing the board before the meeting. You will be able to sign up to speak at public comment beginning on Monday, Jan. 9, and we’ll update with a link once that is available.

You can email the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us, or email the board members individually using the links on the Jeffco School Board members page. It’s vitally important for the board — and the greater Jeffco community — to hear what you think and why.

Jeffco Proud!

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.

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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!


 

 

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:

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!