Story #2 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Expensive “National” Superintendent Search Turns Up One “Finalist”…Someone They Already Knew From Dougco

“I don’t know anything about Dougco.”–Ken Witt

McMinimee

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #2:

What Happened: The Jeffco School Board’s Superintendent search in the spring of 2014 started out with a seemingly reasonable step: the hiring of Ray and Associates as a consultant to guide the board through a search for the district’s new Superintendent, the CEO and face of the school district. A $40,000 price tag for Ray and Associates may seem steep, but it is so important to get the right leader for a school district the size of Jeffco, no one complained.

The first problem was that there were already whispers, by the time Ray was hired, that Dan McMinimee from Douglas County would be Jeffco’s next Superintendent, as he had been so loyal in helping to get to the holy grail in Dougco: the complete dismemberment of the teachers’ association, the “reformers” obsessive, main idea for improving education.

The second problem was that Ray and Associates recommends multiple finalists when working with school districts to select superintendents, but WNW strongarmed the situation so that only one “finalist” was presented, over the objections of Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman.

The third problem was that we know that many qualified applicants from around the nation applied for this premier position, yet WNW saw fit to say that Mr. McMinimee was the only one qualified to be a finalist. There is no other explanation for this other than a union-busting political alignment. It is simply impossible to believe that there were no more qualified applicants than Dan McMinimee, or that he was awarded the job for any reason other than that he shares the simplistic view that the way to improve your kid’s education all hinges on getting rid of the teachers’ union.

WNW left no other finalists to compare and contrast with McMinimee; they didn’t want transparent public debate. They went through the motions with Ray and Associates to make it seem like they did a national search. They were called on it. It didn’t matter. In the end, WNW voted 3-2 to make him Superintendent, without even close to adequately defending how he was the most qualified, despite all of the irregularities in the process.

Why It Mattered: Waste. Transparency. If this had been an appointment for a mid-level position, maybe no one would have noticed.

Transparency Problem 1: One of Ken Witt’s earliest public comments was “I don’t know anything about Dougco,” in response to those concerned that WNW would just implement a “Dougco-style” playbook. What a lie. Most people suspected that it was a lie; this move confirmed it.

Transparency Problem 2: The whole “one finalist” move. Ray and Associates is an experienced superintendent search firm that recommends bringing multiple finalists to the community for a reason. Why pay $40,000 for process recommendations that you’re going to ignore?

Transparency Problem 3: While WNW was trying to convince Jeffco that McMinimee is a modern day Aristotle despite his thin experience with anything other than school district administration, those looking into his background were pointing out his thin experience in almost every area other than union-busting. If WNW had campaigned on that platform, then McMinimee would be an appropriate choice. They didn’t, and he wasn’t.

Transparency Problem 4: Those whispers even before the application process started that McMinimee had already reached a backroom deal with WNW. Those smiling faces promising transparency in 2013 were only that…smiling faces promising transparency.

Of course, there’s the waste involved in hiring Ray and Associates to run this process. Spending $40,000 on a national search firm when you already know who you’re going to pick? Is this really the same group that complained about items as small as $100 here and there in the previous administration? They really should have just announced the hiring of McMinimee and saved the taxpayers $40,000. But that wouldn’t have been too transparent.

The biggest problem with this, aside from the huge additional trust deficit with WNW, is that such a wide swath of our community sees McMinimee as an illegitimate puppet, a yes-man only. Whatever his competencies may or may not be, the process left so many of us with the idea that, politics aside, Jeffco could have had a much more qualified leader for our schools, even among very conservative candidates if that’s what WNW wanted.

Of all people, McMinimee should be the angriest that the hiring process was so sloppy as to tarnish his entire tenure from the get-go, with doubts forever about his relative qualifications. When you’re making $280K, though, you can probably just live with that tarnishing and retire early.


 

 

Story #3 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Williams Suggests Whitewashing Social Strife from AP U.S. History; Civil Disobedience Ensues

The Mask Came Off. The People Woke Up.

students

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #3:

What Happened: We trust that our readers are as familiar with this story as any other, as it dominated local news for a full week, captured heavy national attention, and even attracted significant international attention. A quick summary is helpful though, especially as WNW try to distort what really happened. The focal point is the exact language that Julie Williams used in her initial curriculum review proposal:

“Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”

Note that this language does not say “materials should present a balanced view of U.S. History;” it does not use any terms suggesting a mix of the good news and bad news about the history of our country. Instead, it uses simple terms that can easily be read by anyone as censoring negative aspects of U.S. History. When WNW later said that they were just seeking something more balanced than what was in the books, perhaps that was true, but that’s not the interpretation of the language that many smart people — yes, including students — derived from reading the proposal.

Fueling the fire were Williams’ bizarre follow-up comments. First there was the admission that she actually didn’t read the class framework before putting forth the proposed language. We don’t need to comment on that…

Second was an assertion that important figures in U.S. history were excluded from the course. How she could have understood that without reading the framework is head-scratcher. Worse, it’s simply without merit. The framework didn’t include every name of every important person…because it’s a framework. It’s like looking at a table of contents and objecting that a specific person isn’t listed in the TOC, even though they’re discussed in the book. Anyone teaching AP U.S. History should teach about the Founding Fathers and MLK, and our guess is that every last one does. But that doesn’t mean that those individuals are listed in detail everywhere.

Recently, the College Board, the company behind AP classes like AP U.S. History, added some of the individuals that Williams complained about into the framework. That is not a vindication of Williams or of some other Tea Party activists who made the same claim around the country. It was political appeasement that’s tantamount to adding a few specifics to a Table of Contents.

Of course, everyone knows the rest of the story, with a few teacher sickouts and student walkouts from every corner of Jeffco. More information about that sequence is contained in our Story #10, which was the whole new story created by Witt and Newkirk calling the students “ignorant” “pawns” after the walkouts. [In fact, we’d note that the votes received for these two stories put together would have made it the #1 story, but the split in votes means that they both appear in our Top 10 from our reader poll anyway.]

2013-2015 Poll Results: School Board Story #10: Witt and Newkirk Call Jeffco Students “Ignorant” and “Pawns”

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure. We presented many that didn’t make the cut; and they were troubling enough.

Why It Mattered: Two reasons: 1) the mask came off; and 2) the people woke up.

Prior to Williams’ proposal, there was still a holding out among many in the community that discontent with the school board was only related to teacher pay, and that teachers were just complaining. Insiders knew differently, but sometimes it takes an event like this for people to see the true colors of their elected officials. This wasn’t just a matter of poor wording on Williams’ part. Do you believe that if there hadn’t been community outrage, that Witt and Newkirk would have had any problem passing the language just as it was? We believe that they were all just fine with that language, and only scrapped it because of the community and national outrage. What this proposal did was give us a glimpse into who this board majority is; they are not just your pleasant locals cheerily looking for ways to be more transparent and determined to give parents a little extra choice. No, they are puppets in a national effort to try to take over school boards, privatize the districts they’re sworn to protect, and in the mean time usher in a new era of extremist indoctrination so that the next generation will align not just with healthy conservative principles like fiscal responsibility and law and order, but also with conservative ideology like a view of American Exceptionalism that somehow sees God’s light as shining solely on our country and justifying any mistakes that we’ve made. This proposal told us a lot about WNW and what they were trying to hide. For that we thank Julie Williams for not being very reflective and a loose cannon.

Second, this incident woke people up. There is a time in this fight to take back Jeffco Schools from outsiders that was pre-AP U.S. History proposal, and then there’s the time since this proposal. The difference has been stark. Before Williams’ proposal, a relatively small but energetic cadre of people were closely following the school board’s shenanigans. Since that proposal, we have a whole lot more sentinels and watchdogs throughout the county. Board meetings have been packed, and traffic on our site and many others has been double or triple what it was before. WNW had been executing the Dougco and Koch Brothers education “reform” playbook to perfection, in their minds. That playbook undoubtedly says to keep things just quiet enough to be able to deflect most criticism. This incident made a whole lot of people think “that’s not who we voted for!” and they’ve been watching much more closely ever since.

Story #4 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Witt Presents “Back of Envelope” District Compensation Plan, Rams It Through Ignoring Teacher Input

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #4:

What Happened: In August 2014, Ken Witt proposed a new district-wide teacher compensation plan. This wasn’t consistent with the usual way district-wide compensation plans are typically proposed, because (as you might gather by now is common) Witt just presented the plan with little explanation or discussion about how it was developed. The Superintendent had little to say about it. Teachers hadn’t heard of it. He appeared to have developed it with his attorney. Chalkbeat, in the article, noted that the proposal “surprised some board members, district staff, and board observers.”

The compensation package tied teacher salaries to performance, and when the teachers objected to the proposal, WNW gave a pre-ordained response: “those teachers just don’t want pay for performance.”

Among the problems with the proposal:

  • As explained above, teachers had no forewarning about the proposal;
  • Witt did not explain how he arrived at the proposal;
  • The proposal ignored a costly neutral fact-finder’s strong recommendation against allowing a “pilot” evaluation system to be used in determining teacher raises, especially after teachers were told that the pilot system was not going to be calculated into salaries for the first year;
  • Witt clamped down on public comment about it, and seemed to fully ignore teacher and board minority input.

At the following meeting, WNW passed the proposal 3-2, without an explanation of how it was derived.

The proposal did include raising minimum salaries (thereby allowing WNW to boast about “raising teacher salaries”) and did include raises for most teachers. However, the raises were mostly quite minimal, especially given that the economy was finally in recovery after years of pay freezes.

More complete coverage of “what happened” is here:

Jeffco board rejects fact-finder recommendations; Witt makes new compensation proposal

GOLDEN – Jeffco Public Schools teachers will continue to work under their 2013 compensation plan after the board of education here rejected the recommendations of a third party to provide salary bumps for teachers rated “partly effective.” Instead, teachers will receive retroactive pay increases later this fall after the Jeffco Board of Education settles the compensation matter at a later date.

Why It Matters: Transparency. Respect. Good Governance. Working Environment. Politics.

Transparency: Once again, we see WNW parading their “transparency” (look, see, board meetings are being live-streamed!) while coming up with major decisions (compensation for thousands) behind the scenes. Not explaining the rationale or the merits of such a system was about as anti-transparent a decision as we can imagine.

Respect. If you respect your employees, you explain to them why their compensation system is as it is. At the very least, you listen to their complaints. When neither of those things is done, you don’t feel respected.

Good Governance. Once again, we see major decisions being made behind closed doors, without the input of the other board members, and very likely in violation of Sunshine Laws.

Working Environment. Teachers don’t need a whole lot, but they do need two-way communication. It was evident that WNW didn’t read that part (or many others) of the business management textbook. Performance goes down when that communication is shut off. If performance has stayed reasonably high, it’s because teachers have worked hard to overcome the working environment that devalues them so much.

Politics. Remember the idea of a non-partisan school board? It’s hard but we need to try. It’s evident to us that this was the plan all along:

  1. Initiate a pay-for-performance plan without teacher input;
  2. When teachers object to problems with the plan and the lack of opportunity for input, use political jiu-jitsu and say “they just don’t want to have pay for performance” despite that not really being the case with most teachers, or the main concern.
  3. Tie the supposed hostility to pay for performance to union control.

It’s a simple political calculus. Problem is, it doesn’t work. Most teachers are open to pay for performance, and they had already started working on well-thought-out plans to implement such a system. Witt just manipulated it for political ends.

When teachers from two schools walked out the day after the proposal was approved, the predictable response from Witt was just “they don’t want pay for performance.” It was convenient politics.

This incident made it so high on our list with our voters, we think, because it affected so many and contained so many elements of the reasoning behind the recall.  Witt playing politics, acting secretly, being disrespectful, and creating a hostile work environment. And Newkirk and Williams going along with it. And Brad Miller coaching them to toe the line the whole way. This wasn’t leadership, it’s sloppy, dangerous, demoralizing puppetry that has a real impact on many lives in our community.


 

Kim Johnson: The Worst Kind of Lies and Why You Really, Really Shouldn’t Vote for Her

distraction“Independent?” Really?! Says who?

There are lies that don’t matter much, but then there are lies that matter a whole lot. This lie matters a whole lot: Kim Johnson has been spinning a web of lies about her “independent” campaign.

Why? She doesn’t want to be associated with WNW — but she’s been working with them for months.

You see, Johnson was mentioned as a potential candidate in a Nov. 4, 2014 meeting of Jeffco Republicans.  On Dec. 13, Johnson met with the Jeffco Republican group and introduced herself “to the team.” The minutes also noted:

Kim expressed her strong desire to be part of this process regardless if she is the candidate or not

You can read the emails containing the two sets of meeting minutes at this link, thanks to our friends at Support Jeffco Kidshttp://www.supportjeffcokids.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Opposition-meeting-minutes-1.pdf

Months later, Denise Mund — who previously co-owned Charter School Solutions with Jeffco board attorney Brad Miller, sent this June 29 email stating that Johnson was selected by the same “team” after an extensive, months-long vetting process:

After months of meetings, about 12 Jeffco conservative education leaders have selected a candidate for the Jeffco school board, to represent District 3 (Arvada).

Five prospective candidates participated in an extensive vetting process that included weekly meetings for five months and mock interviews, speeches, and responses. These people were grilled!

Following this extensive vetting process, the team selected Kim Johnson.

In a recent blog post on her campaign website, Johnson readily admits that she was asked “early on” to be part of a team. She says she “chose not to, because it would undercut my goals in running.” Then she goes on to say that “members of that group decided to support me, but saying anyone selected me is not accurate.”

We don’t buy it. And we especially don’t buy it because Johnson filed her campaign with the Colorado Secretary of State on June 19 — a mere 10 days before Mund sent her email stating that Johnson had been selected after a five-month vetting process. If Johnson knew she wanted to run as an “independent candidate,” why did she wait until she had the approval of the GOP selection committee? She could have announced her candidacy months earlier — but she didn’t.

And Johnson wasn’t picked by just ANY group. According to emails from Jonah Hearne, an officer with the Jeffco Republican Party, a group of “about 12 Jeffco conservative education leaders” convened to “contact the potential candidates for District 3 and 4 to invite them to a potential candidate meeting to discuss ideas and reach a consensus on who will be in it to win it with our support.” Other emails confirm this information. They included:

  • Sheila Atwell – executive director of Jeffco Students First, who publishes the Jeffco Observer, defends WNW at every turn, and who was often seen as the only face opposing the recall on the news over the summer (also the group to which the .com version of our domain name and the Support Jeffco Kids domain name redirects to trick recall supporters)
  • Ben DeGrow – the Independence Institute’s Education chief, who is also a graduate of the Leadership Program of the Rockies
  • Laura Boggs – former Jeffco School Board member censured twice for her reprehensible behavior
  • Denise Mund – former co-owner of Charter School Solutions with partner Brad Miller, (see above)
  • Preston Branaugh, Brett A. Moore, Rachel Swalley, Dan Green, David Brazzell, Jim Powers and Mary Everson.

The connections among the group involved in selecting Johnson run deep. Several of them ran for open seats on the Board of Education in 2011 or have been appointed to serve on district committees by WNW.

But now, because she says so on her website, we are to believe that Ms. Johnson is running an “independent campaign?”

No, ma’m. At this point, probably the worst lie you could tell when running for school board in Jeffco is to say that you’re independent when in fact you’re collaborating with WNW’s team. Hiding your intentions, again. We fell for it in 2013, but we won’t fall for it this time, Kim Johnson!

This is why JCSBW has been starting to use the term WNW + Johnson + Merritts.

If leaked memos aren’t convincing enough, consider that Johnson and Merritts both recently had ads in Atwell’s WNW/Koch mouthpiece (and newspaper wannabe) The Observer, and both candidates’ yard signs are appearing together. Jeffco Students First is also endorsing both of them.

The email string about Tori Merritts’ selection process just hasn’t been leaked yet.

It’s time for a clean slate — and we have just the ticket. So when you receive your 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 District 1 successor candidate
  5. Vote YES to recall John Newkirk
  6. Vote for Susan Harmon as District 2 successor candidate
  7. Vote YES to recall Ken Witt
  8. Vote for Ron Mitchell as District 5 successor candidate

Jeffco voters will start receiving their ballots this week. When you receive yours, please vote! Every vote counts, and we need yours.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

Story #5 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Witt and Newkirk Premeditate Abusive Student Privacy Violation

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #5:

What Happened: The backstory is fairly convoluted, so we’re going to mostly leave it to the Colorado Pols version, which includes a video of Witt and Newkirk conniving:

Investigation Underway Into Alleged Student Bullying By Jefferson County School Board, Staff

We wrote two weeks ago about an ugly and perhaps legally actionable incident that occurred at the May meeting of the conservative-controlled Jefferson County Board of Education.

The summary is that WNW’s continuous battle with Jeffco Students for Change reached a boiling point several times before this episode. When the students requested a meeting with the school board, WNW rejected the students’ request. That’s unfortunate, but not surprising.

What was surprising was that Ken Witt and John Newkirk had obviously pre-planned to “out” one of the student leaders, to everyone’s surprise, by showing personal information and calling her out at the public school board meeting, including an accusation of her being “racist” because she “favorited” a joke on Twitter that was critical of disgraced former Communication Director Lisa Pinto. Again, the backstory is complex and these stories are meant to be summaries, but let’s just say that that the “racist” accusation was a such a stretch that most people were scratching their heads about how such a connection could even be drawn. Furthermore, WNW’s organizer and previously censured Board member Laura Boggs had also “favorited” the same tweet, but of course she wasn’t called out. In a world of politically correct stretching often called out by conservatives, the “racist” stretch was dumbfounding to the extreme, but nonetheless what remained in people’s minds was two board members colluding to smear a student for simply “favoriting” a tweet that other people “favorited” as well, including their own allies.

Why It Matters: In two words, No Boundaries.

You can hear yourself thinking “OK, maybe they lie, cherry-pick, exaggerate, are hypocritical, are controlled by outsiders, and don’t know much about education, but of course they have boundaries when it comes to kids.”

“OK, maybe not on that last one either.”

That’s a big deal.

A chicken-guarding-the-henhouse investigator found no formal wrongdoing, of course, but suggested that the behavior was unprofessional and could have been handled much better. More importantly, according to some observers, the result was easily manipulated by the fact that in requesting the investigation of itself, the board did not include emotional distress as a result of the bullying but limited the inquiry to physical bullying.

Sound familiar? The board asking for an investigation of itself? With a tightly worded question designed to exclude the actual wrongdoing?

On top of the actual fact that a student and student’s family were deeply upset and unsettled, this whole episode was much more than a breaking down of the idea that “they wouldn’t go there with kids, would they?” barrier that some of us may have still had. It was also about their rank amateurism in dealing with conflict, and the way they spend their time. Over the past two years, it always seems as if they’re making hasty, coached decisions when it comes to actual substantive topics, but they’re spending a lot of time on stunt-planning. The fact that this was so obviously pre-planned, amidst a bunch of substantive discussion items that had been given short shrift, was a reminder that WNW’s primary “solutions” to education are about optics, power, and control, and not actual substance…or caring about students as individuals.