2013-2015 Poll Results: The Huge School Board Stories That Didn’t Make the Cut

A few days ago, we initiated a poll, asking you to pick a Top 10 out of 30 disturbing stories from the last two years under the rule of this new Jeffco School Board majority. More than 400 people voted, and we knew the results would surprise us, but we think the biggest surprise is how many big stories didn’t make the Top 10.

Now, all of these stories got more than 100 votes, so we think this emphasizes just how huge the other stories are. Couldn’t you see this as a Top 10 standing alone?

WNW reject the well-reasoned findings of a costly, neutral fact-finder that strongly recommends not using pilot evaluations for helping to determine teacher salaries because the evaluations were not designed with a link to compensation in mind…showing that they never intended to listen to the pricey fact-finder anyway.

John Newkirk and Dan McMinimee speak at an Evergreen Tea Party event where the “American Freedom Party,” an avowed White Supremacist political party, is listed as a co-sponsor. After intense questioning by parents, an angry Newkirk calls the listing of “American Freedom Party” as a “typo” for what should have been “Americans for Prosperity” (the Koch Brothers) despite the fact that “typos” only usually involve one or two letter differences. The genesis of how THAT mistake could be made is never adequately explained.

WNW drive off former Superintendent, and national Finalist for Superintendent of the Year, Dr. Cindy Stevenson. Dr. Stevenson had announced her plans to leave at the end of the school year, but they couldn’t wait to get her out to implement their agenda.

John Newkirk personally purchases website domain names designed to trick readers who want to see information critical of the board. Instead, the similarly named websites purchased by Mr. Newkirk redirect readers to a website supportive of him and that he personally helps fund. Aren’t the voters of Jeffco “already with you,” John? We’ve seen no such activity on the other side of this debate.

⋅ Regular school board attendees notice a disturbing trend of Ken Witt regularly talking “down” more to women far more than to men. His treatment of Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman is the stuff of legend, but his tone with Julie Williams was also much more condescending than his tone with Newkirk, and he seemed to direct this kind of boorish behavior toward female staff, too. Insiders have even informed us that they observed him recommending that women “button up” more often. We get it: at times everyone’s comments can be misconstrued, but Ken Witt can’t seem to help himself.

WNW approve loans to charter schools that have a serious history of financial mismanagement.  Their promise to be “fiscally responsible” seemed to have very limited applicability. When it comes to charters, the principle doesn’t seem to apply. A documented history of waste and poor budget management, and out of control spending? WNW’s solution: give them more money, including some extra thrown in for a marketing budget! We like charters too, but bad ones should be allowed to fail.

⋅ Dan McMinimee, likely at the direction of Ken Witt, tells John Hickenlooper not to come to Jeffco for a bill signing, citing “security concerns.” Never mind that Jeffo hastily arranged a Katy Perry concert (which Hickenlooper attended!) at the very same school Hickenlooper planned to visit, and that governors of all political persuasions have a long history of signing bills around the state without politics interfering. This ultimately seemed like nothing more than a naked political move.

The Jeffco District Court had to demand that the school board negotiate in good faith with the teachers. Of course, authentic good faith cannot really be demanded, but after WNW’s repeated insistence that they were bargaining in good faith and the teachers weren’t, thankfully the court intervened and made the right call.

John Newkirk, in describing the hardships that he sees (mostly imagined in Jeffco)  for charter school families, absurdly compares charter families’ situations to African-American families in the Deep South in the 1960s. No more explanation needed.

⋅ Responding to concerns about a real exodus of Jeffco teachers, Mr. Newkirk implies that it’s ineffective teachers that are leaving the district, despite the personal stories of hundreds of teachers officially deemed highly effective that are leaving and blaming it on this new board majority, and an avalanche of data to back it up.

Can’t believe that none of these made our Top 10? Agree with us that in any typical year, any one of these could make for THE top story of the year?

Just keep these in mind as we dig into our Top 10 in the coming days. It can’t be exaggerated how controlled by outsiders, unfit to govern, and destructive this board majority has been.

“Radio Jeffco”: Listen to Landmark Debut Podcast with Recall Petitioners Michael Blanton and Tina Gurdikian

We are proud to partner with a new website, Radio Jeffco, to bring you a new way to hear the voices of citizens concerned about what’s happening in the ideological takeover of Jeffco Public Schools. Radio Jeffco will present personal interviews of an array of citizens around the community via podcasts.

The school board majority is fighting for its political life, even though it has huge money from the Koch Brothers and other outsiders, and the blind support of several local radio stations as well as the increasingly superficial Denver Post. Those working on the recall have almost every advantage in this fight for our community, except the corporate media. Now, you will hear important voices in this battle that the corporate media don’t want you to hear.

We are so proud that yet again, citizens have taken matters into their own hands and now you can hear the voices of those who see through this hostile takeover of our schools.

Link below to listen to Katie Vernon and Bob Zachman interview parents Tina Gurdikian and Michael Blanton about why they initiated the recall, and some of the issues they see as most important.

We look forward to hearing more Radio Jeffco interviews soon!

This effort is a great one, but it will only work if you share with others. We can write all we want, but extra trust is built when actual voices can be heard.

So the most important thing you can do? Please take a moment and share this podcast interview via email or on social media.

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One of the first moves of the new board majority was to hire an outside attorney at $90,000 per year for very part-time work; this was done without discussion and as a surprise to the two minority board members, and when citizens asked to see what he was doing, he presented invoices with long lists of redacted tasks, hiding what he was doing from both the public and even some board members.

 

 

Vote in Our Survey: Choose Your Pre-Election WNW “Lowlights”

Want to take a survey about the Jeffco Board of Education that will actually get read?

Having trouble keeping track of the madness spurred by the board majority over the last two years?

Here is your chance to cast preliminary votes…on the things you want us to re-highlight about WNW in the coming weeks. We’ve chosen 30 of the most troubling stories about WNW over the past two years. Now you tell us which ones you want us to re-highlight with a dedicated post, for all to be reminded of.

Vote for 10 stories before midnight Sunday, and on Monday we’ll take the overall Top 10 and highlight them with dedicated posts between next Monday and the election.

Please share widely, we want a lot of votes to tabulate. So far, 200 people have already voted.

Stories are in random order. Click ‘other’ and post a comment if there’s a story that you think we’re missing.

Note that in the avalanche of stories, we did overlook WNW’s Free Full-Day Kindergarten debacle, including the denial of data supporting the importance of FFDK. We will make sure to mention that in our recap series.

Take the poll here:

Have your say: Choose Your ‘Top 10’ Jeffco School Board ‘Lowlights’ From the Past Two Years for JCSBW To Re-‘Highlight’

Voice your opinion on the poll: Choose Your ‘Top 10’ Jeffco School Board ‘Lowlights’ From the Past Two Years for JCSBW To Re-‘Highlight’

Another Guest Column (from yet another non-“union operative”)

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Remember these comments, by a former Jeffco Communications Director on a certain right-wing talk radio station?

“The so-called parents that they’ve drummed up…

There’s no way young students could have put those together.

There’s clearly some sort of mill where they create this correspondence….

When a so-called scandal erupted, which was always created by this group, then there would be these, right away there would be this flood of correspondence about this ‘issue’ by these same characters — the Wendy McCords, the Tina Gurdikians, their buddies, there’s a long list of names.”

But we’re not “so-called” parents or “characters.” We’re parents, taxpayers and voters, and we will not be silenced.

To Fellow Jefferson County Residents,

As an over 30-year resident of south Jefferson County, a graduate of Wheat Ridge High School, and a supporter of our children and one grandchild who has graduated from Jefferson County Schools, I support the recall of Newkirk, Witt, and Williams. Neither my husband nor I have been employed by Jefferson County Schools. The current situation on the Jefferson County school board is extremely concerning; it is impeding the future of our children.

The three School Board members listed for recall have demonstrated they are not interested in promoting the education of Jeffco students, enhancing the professional development of teachers, or listening to and communicating with parents and community members. They reveal their personal interests consistently by promoting their own agendas rather than serving as educated representatives of Jefferson County residents. The lack of education and understanding exhibited by these three individuals is an embarrassment for them and for our school district.

The time has come for us to contribute our voices and act; we must remove these members from our school board as soon as possible before they do more harm.

Sincerely,
Anonymous Residents of and Graduates from Jefferson County Schools


 

Analysis: Julie Williams “Vindicated” By College Board? Not Even Close!

It needs no long introduction: last fall, Julie Williams proposed the following for Jeffco Schools’ curriculum, specifically with respect to Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH):

“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.”

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Student walkouts followed, public outrage came right alongside, the chaos made international news, and Williams’ supporters still think it was all orchestrated by JCEA because Ken Witt called the students “pawns” and couldn’t imagine that students would actually react with outrage if they weren’t coached into it. Now, the College Board, the creators of AP courses, have made some clarifications that Williams’ supporters are hailing as vindication for her.

Don’t be fooled by the spin!

Let’s analyze. Of course, after hearing of Williams’ proposal, nearly everyone (including students!) immediately realized that the history of this country is impossible to tell without referencing civil disorder and social strife repeatedly. It is also evident that any thorough history of the United States brings forth many positive moments that we can all be proud of, and there needn’t be a big effort to artificially push more such moments onto our youth who need to understand all aspects of our history without a political agenda.

Only in her later explanations of her proposal did Williams proclaim the importance to her of “American Exceptionalism,” a stance that for her and many others goes far beyond pride in America’s best moments and finest attributes to an almost mystical, unquestioning reverence of our country being imbued with a providence that no other nation has received from the Almighty. Others believe that, but it is safe to say that there are many proud patriots who don’t quite jive with that version of American Exceptionalism.
The point is, her original proposal was the source of community outrage. Later on, she mentioned her belief in American Exceptionalism.

This past week, the College Board announced that, responding to critics, it will include mention of American Exceptionalism as guidance within its framework. Superficially this might seem like “vindication” for Williams, but remember that so much in her camp seems to revolve around the superficial; if it sounds like she might be vindicated, then she must be! Here’s why the College Board’s action has no vindicating quality for Williams:

-First, remember that Williams admitted that she never read the framework, and so didn’t understand how the course was structured. She still might not. Yet the APUSH course framework (guidelines) were originally left vague in order to allow teachers more flexibility, to encourage critical thinking as opposed to the memorization of names and dates. In the framework, some lesser known people and events were highlighted and highly recommended that students learn about them. However, that didn’t mean in any way that others like the Founding Fathers should be forgotten. Instead, the College Board set forth guidelines about what should be taught and then it was up to the instructor to flesh that out.

-The College Board did not feel the need to spell out and highlight “American Exceptionalism,” as they figured that was one concept, among many others, that could be noted and explored as part of the course. Think of all the other “isms” that have grabbed hold of segments of our population, and sometimes large segments that have defined us: capitalism, socialism, imperialism, segregationism, Darwinism, fascism, Totalitarianism, feminism, Catholicism. You get the picture. All of these elements would be at least mentioned, if not explored in depth in a year-long APUSH course. The fact that most of them were left out of the intentionally vague guidelines is not a sign that they are not worth teaching; the College Board just left the specifics up to the professional teachers and expected them to hit the major themes that related to the broader guidelines.

-Williams’ motivation was likely not purely a curriculum concern for Jeffco students, but instead a parroted talking point that some of her ilk raised in Texas. The Texas legislature, for one, had begun discussing abolishing APUSH for political points. The compromise made by the College Board in their recent revision simply expressly states what they figured was obvious, in order to appease the political motivations of Texas legislators and others. Basically, they changed wording because of money: the College Board is a business, and so many kids in Texas and other states with similar electorates take the test.

-The bottom line is that APUSH has not been fundamentally altered. “American Exceptionalism” has been added to the framework, though not of the type that Julie Williams probably ascribes to. It presents it as one worldview among many held by some in the United States: it does not promote it.

So, we have the College Board making modifications, only to make some elements explicit that were already implied. The changes are small scale and don’t add anything new other than to state the obvious for met. It adds clarification, not something new. Finally, the changes have nothing to do with Williams’ original proposal to “not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife…” which is censorship indeed.

If you’re still susceptible to believing the Williams spin versus this analysis, there’s no squaring it with the fact that the College Board actually wrote a letter in support of the Jeffco students’ concerns last fall. The College Board, in issuing their new clarifications this year, haven’t retracted their support of the students, nor has their leadership changed dramatically. Their clarifications are superficial and political only, as opposed to the substantive support they gave the students.

Just imagine another political leader not reading the course framework of a high school calculus course, but still attacking it for not including appropriate instruction for future engineers…and then in her explanation specified that the times tables should be included in the course materials because no calculus student could be successful without knowing basic multiplication. Later, she claims victory when the textbook maker, to remain in business in the face of a bunch of Texan legislators who hadn’t read the framework either, put a times table reference in the pocket of the book.

That’s not vindication, other than in ideological fantasies and the resulting propaganda pieces.