6.25.15 Hate in Jeffco

We received this letter from a reader in response to an extremely offense retweet by a Jeffco Schools principal.

I never questioned the importance of my education until my 7th grade science teacher drew a swastika on my test paper with a 0% written across the top. He told me Hitler had the right idea.

With two powerful red pen marks shaping a symbol of hatred, he erased a child’s belief that teachers are to be trusted and that trying my best was valuable.

I went from straight A’s to ditching regularly before my brain had any time to process. I had to. Processing that event meant facing the fact that the very person educating me believed me to be worthless purely because of my cultural and religious roots.

I never told anyone. I didn’t want my parents to worry and I didn’t believe anyone at school would help. If my own teacher could behave that way, I was afraid of how others might truly feel about me being Jewish.

Now, I am a stronger person. I’ve identified myself as a teacher and parent for many years and today I’m identifying myself as an advocate for the students at Connections Learning Center (CLC) in Jefferson County.

CLC is a school designed to give a second chance to students who have been expelled from a Jefferson County school. To that end, their principal, Lisa Mumma, principal at Jeffco’s Connections Learning Center, is responsible for protecting any student who is being bullied by another student – especially if it is racially-driven bullying.

Unfortunately, instead of protecting her students Ms. Mumma recently re-tweeted the following:

You Say Not All Muslims Are Monsters… Imagine A Bowl Of M&Ms. 10% Are Poisoned…’Would You Eat A Handful’??

My heart aches remembering my skinny twelve-year-old legs climbing up the bus steps to go downtown instead of to 7th grade. My heart aches again thinking of the Muslim students at CLC as they face each new school day.

They are in a school that is meant to offer them a second chance, but if they look up, they may have to face a principal’s eyes that are full of hate for them. If they misstep, they may have to sit in a chair opposite of someone who believes them to be poison purely because of their cultural and religious roots.

CLC’s mission is to “empower students to be responsible, respectful, and to know where they are going in school and in life.” I suspect that now, Ms. Mumma has created students who only want to go away from school and life.

A student in Ms. Mumma’s school who re-tweeted that tweet might get suspended, expelled, or would at least be asked to apologize. As a principal, I believe Ms. Mumma should be held to an even higher standard by Superintendent McMinimee and the Jeffco School Board. Instead, there has been no accountability. I’m hopeful that Ms. Mumma, the superintendent, and Jeffco School Board members will choose to acknowledge the importance of her hateful act and work to rectify it.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


3.29.15 Teacher Licensure Matters

Your Childs Education

A “Highly Effective Educator” in every classroom. That is the term that JeffCo Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association use to specify the kind of teacher they want in every classroom in JeffCo. But what that means seems to be up for debate, and a few more questions were raised when the board majority heard an explanation of teacher licensure after adding the topic as an agenda item for the Feb. 19 study session.

First of all, teacher licensure is a state function, not a county function. The state sets requirements, manages the applications, and the renewals. What a person needs to be licensed for a given position is set at the state level and not by the county (or district). The requirements vary by position. Most teaching positions require only a bachelors degree, in the content area of interest, but then things get complicated. A degree in education or “alternative licensure” paths are both allowed. Some state colleges and universities offer a second bachelors degree in education, for example, and a person with a BA in education can count that toward their license. Teachers who follow that path obtain the “800 contact hours,” spend time in a classroom, and learn the basic ropes. Details of such a program at the University of Colorado Boulder are found here.

Similar situations exist for alternative licensure. One slight but perhaps important distinction is that you can get endorsement in only one area for alternative licensure. So, for example, a person could not get licensed to teach both math and science. This may make hiring of teachers with alternative licensure less flexible.

With the new Board Majority, perhaps the biggest potential pitfall around licensing is the additional funding they are sending to charter schools. Charter schools can hire teachers based on their own criteria and may not even require a teacher to hold a license in Colorado. All they have to do is request a waiver from CDE, and requesting a licensure waiver is considered a “standard waiver.” Here is an example from a recent application. All proposed Jeffco charter schools have to apply to the state, and all ask for these waivers as a matter of course. Mountain Phoenix, an existing charter school, has done so. This equals more Jeffco funding potentially going to more teachers who are not licensed. But what about those “highly qualified” teachers?

To be declared as “highly qualified” in Colorado is also a state level distinction, but it is dictated by “No Child Left Behind” and other Federal guidelines. You can see some of the gory details here. To be declared “highly qualified” one needs to:

  • hold a bachelor degree or higher
  • maintain a teaching license
  • demonstrate mastery in their content area

In 2012-2013, 99.49% of classrooms in Colorado had a highly qualified teacher according to these criteria.

Now “highly qualified”, as a legal term is defined, but “highly effective” is where there is more nuance. This is part of Senate Bill 191. If you want a good bedtime read, here is a link to the final SB 191 rules.

It is interesting to crawl through this document, however, because it is completely silent on the difference between effective and highly effective. Furthermore, Jeffco’s pay plan is predicated on a pay bump for highly effective teachers relative to effective teachers. The district will literally bankrupt itself if it meets its goal of having a highly effective teacher in every classroom. It may be an admirable goal, but, if there is pay for performance, then it is an unviable approach.

A different approach, and one supported by JCEA and district staff (though maybe not by Mr. Witt) is to pay for advanced degrees. Most subject areas do not require a master’s degree (or higher) to teach or be in a given position but other jobs require an advanced degree. Speech pathologists and social workers require a master’s degree in order to practice. In addition, any high school teacher who teaches a concurrent enrollment class (in which students receive both high school and college credit), must have a master’s degree.

The district staff presented a plan at the March 5 meeting that included a bump in base salary for master’s degrees. Jeffco was compared to other local districts that do compensate master’s degrees. For Jeffco to remain competitive and be able to hire the best, most qualified candidates, it was suggested that teachers with master’s degrees receive more pay. There is data that suggests this practice improves student performance at the high school level and for minorities, and data that refutes this — sometimes in the same report.

So in summary, while teacher licensure, a state function helps guarantee that each child has a highly qualified teacher, and SB-191 purports to work toward each classroom having a highly effective teacher, the devil truly is in the details. If every teacher was rated highly effective, then the district could not afford it. A population as large as Jeffco’s teacher population guarantees a distribution of performance. The district should hire the best, nurture them, work with them to have a quality workplace, and pay them a salary commensurate with their skill and effectiveness.

Keep watching, keep fighting, JeffCo!


12/8 Post – A Short Apology & Meeting Prep

sorryAs many of you noticed, the BoardWatch has not been updated for the last two weeks.  

The reasons for this were actually pretty prosaic – vacation, work, and illness.

The primary writers and editors of the Board watch all found ourselves beset with travel, work, and bad winter colds hammering us repeatedly. And the calls of family, paycheck, and sleep overrode our commitment to you.

We apologize for that, but we cannot promise that it won’t happen again in the future.  Unlike some of WNW, ‘we work for a living’, and the time we put into the BoardWatch is squeezed from other parts of our lives.  We try very hard to always have someone covering, but Mr. Murphy is always lurking nearby.

One thing you can always be assured of, however, is that we are committed, and will always do our best to keep you aware and informed.

BOE Thursday Meeting Prep:

When: Thursday December 11, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. (Greenwood High School Band plays at 5:00 p.m.)
Where: 5th Floor Board Room, Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden
(If you cannot attend, please watch via live video stream at: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Overall Comments:  Words and pronouncements by can, and often are, twisted or ‘spun’ to either sound momentus when they are trivial or innocuous when they are very significant. But budgeting is where the real priorities are revealed. And this meeting will show us just what direction WNW really means to go.

The original four items in this section include the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, a review of what funding from the State can be expected, the proposal for the next “Community Engagement Survey/Poll” (This will be the third one.  WNW hopes this one will give them the results they want.  If not, will there be a fourth, even more tortured one?), and a “Teacher Compensation Update”.

In other words, the Board will discuss what the district’s current financial status is, what it may look like, how it should find out what the public wants it to spend money on, and how much they have been spending on teachers.

Definitely worth going to if education is important to you.

Key Agenda Items

Agenda Item 2.02:  Community Engagement: Community Diversity Advisory Council (CDAC)
Type: Discussion
PRESENTING STAFF: Members, Community Diversity Advisory Council, Dave Kollar, director, Student Engagement Office
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to learn more about the work of the Jeffco’s Community Diversity Advisory Council and its continuing work with the district.
BACKGROUND: The Community Diversity Advisory Council requested time with the Board of Education to provide an overview and history of its work including the relevance of efforts with data supporting the Council’s work to increase student engagement and achievement.

Attachments: Community Diversity Advisory Council 12-11-14.pdf (4,088 KB)

Our Comments: Here is the word that Witt hates, ‘Diversity’.  The powerpoint attachment holds no real surprises for anyone who has been paying attention to education in the U.S., Colorado, or Jefferson County. More of our students are non-white, more are from lower income backgrounds, more are from other cultures. And our teaching and administrative staff do not reflect the accurately reflect those demographics.  JeffCo has been making headway on this, but as with most Colorado districts, is lagging behind the student population.  

What is most interesting (and concerning) is not what this report reveals, it is the fact that neither McMinimee or Morgan are among presenting staff.

How much importance the District (and the Board) places on a subject is often directly related to who is presenting.  If Jeffco’s Superintendent or Chief Education Officer were among the presenters, then that would be a definite sign that the Board and the District leadership sees this as a major issue, worthy of attention from the highest levels of JeffCo. The fact that neither McMinimee or Morgan are presenting sends an unambiguous message how just how important they think this issue is.

Agenda Item 5.02: Public Comment

If you want to comment on an item on the agenda, click here.

Normally, we would now give a list of items you may want to comment on and questions you may want to ask.  But this time, it is what has changed in signing up for comment itself that is worthy of comment!

Even if you do not want to comment, click on the link and then on the button “Next”.  Then read what WNW is now demanding of those who want to comment!

*1. Online Sign-Up

I understand, acknowledge and agree that in order to present an item to the Board of Education during Public Comment; I must follow these guidelines:

  • when I am called for comment, I shall approach the microphone, introduce myself, state my city of residence and present my comments in a respectful manner;
  • while presenting my comments, I shall follow the Board’s guidelines; and,
  • at all times, I shall refrain from using the names of any students and families that are not my own and from using defamatory or abusive statements.

I further, acknowledge and agree that if I fail to follow these guidelines or if I display disruptive or inappropriate conduct before, during or after presenting my comments, the Board president may:

  • revoke my privilege to address the board;
  • request I leave the meeting; and
  • if I refuse to leave the meeting voluntarily, have me escorted from the property.
୦  I agree to comply with the Jefferson County Board of Education guidelines for public comment.

2. For students under age 18.

My parent/guardian is aware I will be addressing the Board of Education during public comment.

୦  Yes

Just when we begin thinking that WNW could not overreach or be more ham-handed, they make that extra effort that amazes us again.

Apparently, the student protests at last month’s meeting bothered WNW a lot more than they have let on.

It would also be very interesting if this same conditions were applied to the members of the Board.

We invite you to think up your own questions on this agenda item!

Agenda Item 7.01:  Student Achievement: Third Grade Reading
Type: Discussion

  1. With the Board of Education’s continued focus on student achievement, time was requested to discuss third grade reading performance toward meeting the Board of Education goal in Ends 1 Student Achievement to increase students’ third grade reading in TCAP from 80% to 85% by August 2015.
  2. Dr. Syna Morgan, chief academic officer, and Matt Flores, executive director of Curriculum and Instruction, will provide information on challenges and action steps for struggling readers in Jeffco Schools.  School leaders Sherry Carter from Vivian Elementary, Rhonda Hatch-Rivera from Lumberg Elementary, Stacy Bedell from Eiber Elementary, and Achievement Director Karen Quanbeck will join Dr. Morgan and Mr. Flores for the Board of Education discussion.

Our Comments: As of today, there are no attachments.  We, the public, have no idea what is going to be presented, much less have any chance to review it ahead of time, and so offer our own opinions during public comment on this issue.  Are Dr. Morgan and Mr. Flores simply going to ‘wing it’?  We find it hard to believe that they and the school leaders will have done no preparatory work, and will have no formal presentation for the Board.

In our opinion, this is less than forthcoming, and definitely does not represent a ‘transparent process.’  

Agenda Item 8.01:  Comprehensive Annual Financial Report
Type: Discussion

  1. The Board of Education monitors the districtwide condition as outlined in Board executive limitation policies EL-6, Financial Administration and as monitoring for EL-5, Financial Planning/Budgeting.
  2. Kathleen Askelson and Paul Niedermuller, independent auditor from CliftonAllenLarson, LLP, will present information on the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014.
  3. Colorado Revised Statute (C.R.S.) 29-1-606 (1)(b) requires that the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report be delivered to the Board of Education by November 30, 2014.  The Board received a copy prior to November 30, 2014.
  4. Colorado revised Statute 22-32-109 requires the district prepare a comprehensive audited financial report.  The financial report consists of financial information prepared by the district and audited by an independent firm and indicates the financial status of the district at the end of the reporting period.  It also provides a starting point for the annual budget preparation process.
  5. In compliance with Board executive limitation policies EL-6, Financial Administration and  EL-5, Financial Planning/Budgeting, the Board reviews and monitors financial reports.

Attachments: Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, Jefferson County School District No.pdf (471 KB), Jeffco – governance letter.pdf (46 KB), Jeffco CAFR 2014.pdf (36,952 KB)

Our Comments: This is full financial report for last school year.  We have not been able to go through all 157 pages in depth at this point.

We invite those of you with accounting experience to review the documents and provide us with your feedback on what you find.

Grinding through these kinds of documents is not the most scintillating reading.  It is merely necessary for a truly functioning democracy.

Please send your comments to jeffcowatch@gmail.com or our new email address jeffcowatch@jeffcoschoolboardwatch.org.

Agenda Item 8.02:  2015/16 Budget Development – Governor’s Proposed Budget Update, Initial Board Direction
Type: Discussion (estimated duration: 1 hour)

  1. The Board of Education requested information and discussion time on the 2015/2016 budget development process.
  2. At the August 23, 2014, Board of Education meeting, staff presented recommendations for the 2015/2016 budget development process.  The presentation included planned changes and improvements to budgetary practices and the discussion of the objectives, budget timelines and specific questions regarding Board information needs.
  3. On September 4, 2014, the Board provided input and approved the budget development process and timeline.
  4. The purpose of this discussion will be to provide the Board with information on 2014/2015 enrollment and an update of the Governor’s Proposed Budget.
  5. Staff is requesting input and initial Board direction on any specific Board budget priorities that can be identified at this time and incorporated as preliminary placeholders in the projections.

Attachments: 8.02_Presentation 2015-16 Budget-Gov Proposed Budget.pdf (1,154 KB)

Our Comments: In a document filled with numbers, timelines, percentages, and ‘unassigned reserve balances’, the most important, and frightening thing in the presentation is not a series of numbers.  It is the new words WNW, McMinimee, Morgan, and Miller are now using to describe student enrollment in our schools.  And the first scary word is “Membership.”

Yes.  “Membership.”  It starts on the third slide with an upside down pyramid depicting “2014 Student Count”.  The top and largest segment says “Membership”.  It continues on slide four, where a breakdown of student “Membership” includes (and here is the second frightening new set of words) “District-Managed School Membership” and “Charter School Membership”.

Membership.”  As if being a child of school age is something someone can choose to be…or not to be!  

Membership.’ Something that has to be applied for…and can be taken away.  Something that is optional.  Something that is not for everyone.

We can understand having ‘membership’ in a political party, a religious group, a country club, a business group, and other voluntary associations. Associations that you have to apply to join.  Associations that can choose to reject your application, or turn you out if you displease it.

We reject the use of this word to describe the education of the children of Jefferson County.  

It is another attempt by Witt, Newkirk, Williams, their hangers-on and their ideological string-pullers to try to change the fundamental basis of public education by changing the terms.

Our children do not have membership in their classrooms, their schools, or their district! Jeffco is not an association that can pick and choose its members.  Jeffco is a public school district with the legal, ethical, and moral obligation to educate all children and a charter from the State of Colorado to do just that.  Those children form the Student Body, the Student Population, the young residents and citizens of Jefferson County.  And they should not have to ‘apply’ for “membership” to be educated!

The next scary set of words?  Did you notice that WNW no longer refer to the ‘public school’ or the ‘neighborhood school’.  Instead they have ‘District-Managed’ schools or ‘District Assigned’ schools.  

This is nothing less than an effort to prejudice the public against our public neighborhood schools by trying to assign them pejorative titles.  

Above we said that ‘spinning’ words is done to make something significant sound trivial. This is such a case.  By changing the student body of a public neighborhood school into ‘membership in a District-managed school’, WNW is trying to make it sound as if 90% of the students in Jeffco have made a bad second choice.

We reject that on its face as well.  

If you want to make a comment to the Board on an agenda item, this would be a good one to pick!

Agenda Item 8.03:  2015/16 Budget Development – Community Engagement Tool and Budget Forums
Type: Discussion

  1. Staff presented recommendations for the 2015/2016 budget development process at the August 23, 2014, Board of Education meeting.
  2. On September 4, 2014, the Board provided input and approved the budget development process and timeline. A component of that process was gathering community input on budgetary priorities.
  3. Staff engaged the services of Open North/Citizen Budget to develop the community engagement tool. An overview of the engagement tool was provided to the Board on October 16 and draft questions were provided on October 24 in preparation for discussion at the November 6, 2014, Board meeting.
  4. At the Board of Education meeting on November 6, 2014, the Board directed staff to provide information on polling. The Board decided to have each Board member submit five questions for review and consideration. Staff ceased work with Open North/Citizen Budget on the development and implementation of the community engagement tool until further Board direction.
  5. At the November 20, 2014, Board of Education study session, there was discussion of polling cost estimates and options for the community engagement tool.
  6. Information on a proposed plan for a Community Engagement Survey and a proposed plan for holding Community Board Budget Forums in January is being provided.
  7. Staff is requesting direction and approval of the proposed plans as well as specific input on demographic groups for the survey and table group discussion topics at the budget forums.

Attachments: 2014 11 26 BOE Community Engagement Survey Proposed Plan.pdf (119 KB), 2014 11 26 BOE Community Budget Forums Proposed Plan.pdf (100 KB), 8.03_Presentation Community Engagement Tool and Forums.pdf (78 KB)

Our Comments: Last year, every community survey and forum the District held to find out what priorities Jefferson County wanted as its priorities for district spending was completely ignored by WNW. Why?  Because the results did not fit WNW’s preconceived ideas.  

So in every case, WNW tried to come up with some reason why that survey or that forum was really ‘wrong’.  The latest effort was launched by Julie Williams – a telephone survey of 500 people.

What will 500 people tell them that over 14,000 did not last spring and this fall?  What will WNW do if this ‘poll’ fails to give them the results they want?

How much more taxpayer money will they spend desperately trying to find a fig leaf to hide their agenda behind?

Agenda Item 8.04: Teacher Compensation Update
Type: Information

  1. On September 4, 2014, the Board adopted a compensation plan for teachers for the 2014-2105 school year.
  2. District staff have implemented the adopted plan and met with teachers and administrators to discuss details of the plan that must be resolved prior to the spring hiring season.
  3. Amy Weber, chief human resources officer, will present an update to the Board with current thinking and continued work, in accordance with Board executive limitation policy 4, Staff Compensation.

Attachments: Teacher Compensation 12-11-2014.pdf (552 KB)

Our Comments: The attachment sounds more like a marketing slide deck being presented by a desperate sales person than a truly unbiased, information presentation.  

It starts off by using the same misleading graph that Witt claims to have put together at the last moment back in August.  Then, we have a (probably) spinning and enlarging sign at a diagonal exploding across it trumpeting 118 “Stipends” for $180K and “Retro pay” of $1.5 million.  It includes quotes from the Jim Collins 2001 fad business book “Good to Great” about getting the right people ‘on the bus.’  

Side Note:  Collins touted the actions and culture of 11 companies. Since it was published in 2001, five of the companies have performed only at the market average, two better than market, two worse than market, and three have effectively failed:  Pitney Bowes (½ 2001 market cap), Circuit City (bankrupt & dissolved), and Fannie Mae (delisted by the NYSE and taken over by the government).  Only two are still ‘Great’ in the sense of dramatically outperforming their industry segment:   Nucor and Phillip Morris.  This means the exemplars of Collins management philosophy have less than a 20% success rate over the long-term.

Anyone with an MBA from the first half of the 2000’s would have read this book. Anyone who really took the lessons of that MBA to heart would have checked on how well Collins advice has held up in the last dozen years…and then probably would not have used this quote.

The rest of presentation is something of a bad remake of the DougCo ‘pay for performance’ plan.  If it was as good as WNW+M3 make it out to be, why have so many of our most experienced teachers retired?   And so many of our other, highly experienced teachers gone on to Boulder, Cherry Creek, and Littleton?

Get ready for an attempted slick hard sell.  Think used car sales.

Agenda Item 6.08: Contract Award: Presence Learning
Type: Action, Discussion

  1. In accordance with Board executive limitation, EL-7, Asset Protection, “the superintendent may not contractually obligate the Board to an expenditure greater than $250,000.”
  2. The federal statute Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students must have access to related services that have been deemed necessary in order to help the students benefit from their special education services and from the general education classroom so that they may achieve academic growth.
  3. Speech language services, occupational therapy services and physical therapy services must be provided in order to stay in compliance with current student IEPs in the district.
  4. According to IDEA, compensatory services must be provided if a student has not received the number of service minutes on the IEP.
  5. It is imperative that we hire related service providers for students that have an IEP or a 504 Plan.  Despite continued job postings for SLP, OT and PT service providers since May 2014, Jeffco Schools continues to have positions unfilled.  On-line services can be a stop-gap to ensure that students are receiving the services they require.
  6. Jeffco Schools will continue to search for related service providers to be employees of our district.  On-line services from Presence Learning will fulfill the required services to our students.  Although the shortage of SLPs, OTs and PTs is a state and national issue, Jeffco Schools will actively recruit and hire employees to serve our students.
  7. Request for Proposal (RFP) 23553 for On-line Speech Language and Occupational Therapy Services was issued on October 2, 2014.  The RFP was issued to 94 companies through Rocky Mountain e-Purchasing.  The District received proposals from six companies.  Three companies were selected to interview and demonstrate their system.  Presence Learning was selected for recommendation of award in an estimated annual amount of $267,300.

Attachments: Executive Summary SLP OT – Presence Learning 12-11-14.pdf (126 KB)

Our Comments: This item should normally have been part of the consent agenda.  One of the Board Members had to request that it be moved to the Discussion section.  At this point we do not know who requested it or why.  

Agenda Item 9.01:  Policy Revision: GP-17, Community Engagement
Type: Discussion

The annual work plan for the Board of Education includes the review of two governance process (GP) or executive limitation (EL) board policies monthly.

The Board will review Board governance process policy, GP-17, Community Engagement.

Our Comments: We know that WNW has not been very happy with the ‘engagement’ they have been experiencing from the ‘community’ so far.  Here would be the chance for them to do some actual soul-searching…or not.

WNW’s idea of ‘Community Engagement’ seems be limited to audiences who applaud them, rather than actually listening and considering what people who disagree with them are saying.  They do not understand the problems of hearing only what you want to hear.  Or actually giving serious thought to someone else’s viewpoint.  Far less, do they want to contemplate that they might be wrong.

They have continued their assault on the community’s engagement with the District.  In fact, in a twisted way, this plays to their advantage.  The more WNW can make people feel that the opinions, concerns, and thoughts of public do not count, the more those people will come to distrust the District specifically, and public government in general.

This works for them, because they fundamentally believe that government is inherently inefficient, and ineffective, if not evil.

And so their very actions, by destroying peoples faith in self-government can become the agents to fulfill their own prophecy.

At their core, they are not destroying just our school district.  They are attempting to destroy our very society.

Don’t let them.

Let’s Keep Fighting, JeffCo!





11/20 BoE Meets Tonight

Alert Symbol“The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.”  Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Tonight Witt, Newkirk, and Williams begin the assault on the next school year.  If your child, grandchild, neighbor’s child, youth at church, or even high school kid who asked if you wanted fries with your lunch is a senior at a JeffCo school, you can breathe a sigh of relief.  They are getting out while the getting is good.

If the young person or persons you know will still be in school next year, or will be starting school anytime in the next few years, tonight is the night the real assault on their education begins.

And even though Witt refuses to allow the Public to speak at these “Special” meetings, you should be there to bear witness.

You need to be there, because later people are going to ask you, “How did this happen?”  “What did they do?”  “Didn’t anyone notice?”  And you will need to be able to give them the answers.

BOE Thursday Meeting – Key items:

When: Thursday November 20, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: 5th Floor Board Room, Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden
(If you cannot attend, please watch via live video stream at: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Agenda Item 2.01:  First Quarter Financial Report 2014-15

Read this document, CLA Report on Applying AUP 1st Qtr.pdf (43 KB).  It will give you the highlights.  During the presentation, pay attention to the following:  How little money is being put into the Reserve Fund.  What items have been cut back.  What items have had increases.  Listen to see what WNW asks about.  You will then begin to see the trend.

Agenda Item 2.03:  2015/16 Budget Development Update and Board Budget Objectives and Priorities

This is one of the most biased set of Budget questions.pdf (131 KB) we have ever seen.  Instead of trying to honestly get a feeling for what parents and the public want, these questions are designed to push people into preselected answers.  It is not a true survey.  It is more of a propaganda document.

Agenda Item 2.04:  Choice Survey Findings

Every single survey done by the District since WNW took control has rejected their agenda and instead shown that people want to continue on the path the District had been following:  Working on improving genuine choice, improving the quality of instruction, and working hard at helping the most vulnerable students.  In the latest survey, WNW will once again have to figure out how to twist, warp, and disregard the actual responses contained here: PRESENTATION SchoolEnrollment_Choice.pdf (1,441 KB)

It can almost be entertaining, in a way.  Hold a neighborhood betting pool.  How long into the presentation till someone challenges the validity of the study?  Which member of WNW comes up with the most creative distortion of the results? (How many more can you come up with?)

Agenda Item 2.05:  Board Academic Goals

More twisting of results coming up!   Some questions for WNW:

Does JeffCo have room to improve?
WNW- Absolutely! 

Should we look to other school districts for ideas? 
WNW – Of course!

Should we look at the school districts that scored better than we did for ideas, programs, and inspiration, such as Boulder, Cherry Creek, and Littleton?
WNW – Uhh…No!  Let’s look to the one that did worse, DougCo!

NAEP and State Test Predictions 2015.pdf (187 KB), DATA Colorado ACT Trends 2014 bag.pdf (101 KB), DATA PISummaryDistrict bag.pdf (23 KB), DATA CSAPSchProgSummary.pdf bag.pdf (45 KB), DATA CSAPSchProgSummary (Ethnicity) bag.pdf (224 KB), DATA CSAPSchProgSummary (Instructional Group) bag.pdf (310 KB), DATA CSAPSchProgSummary (Gender) bag.pdf (91 KB)


Go to the meeting.  Be a witness.  Do not let it be said that all of JeffCo slept while our school district was under attack.

And keep Fighting!


Curious how many times WNW have violated the Board’s own rules?  Check out our new page on WNW Board Policy Violations.




11/18 (late) – Evergreen “AFP” Fallout – JeffCo Officials Still Scrambling

United_States_Fallout_Shelter_SignA ‘Copy Error’. 

That, according to the Evergreen Tea Party’s Ed Sutton, is how their flyer advertising an “Education Night” with Jeffco Board members, Superintendent, and several Jeffco Principals, came show that one of the sponsors of the event was the ‘American Freedom Party’, a white supremacist hate group and fringe political party.

The “AFP” they were supposed to list is the Koch brothers creation, Americans For Prosperity.

In our post yesterday, 11/17 WNW, Due Diligence, & Racism, we explored the possibility that it was a mistake.  That someone was told that “AFP” was a sponsor and instead of typing in ‘Americans For Prosperity‘, typed in ‘American Freedom Party‘.

Which, as we pointed out in that post,

…still leaves unanswered the question:

Didn’t McMinimee, Newkirk, Williams, Witt, and the rest at least check the list of sponsors on the flyer and website?  

It also raises another question:

How did someone working for the Evergreen group confuse Americans For Prosperity with American Freedom Party?

If that person saw “AFP” and did not know what it meant, how did they end up with American Freedom Party?  And why didn’t someone else catch it?

If they did catch it, then why was nothing said about it (such as an apology) at the beginning of the event?

Those questions are still unanswered.

Even the Facebook Message we received from Melissa Reeves-Graybill, a  “News Media Specialist” at the District, did not answer the above questions.

Her FB message purports that a revised flyer was passed out at the meeting…but none of the people in attendance who have contacted us remember a flyer being handed out.  Certainly, as of that evening (and as right now, Nov 18, 2014 10:15 p.m.) the same ‘flawed’ flyer was (and is) posted on the My Mountain Town calendar.

(TPurported Revised Flyerhe purported ‘revised’ flyer is to the right.  A copy of her email can be found here:  JeffCoDistrictEmail2014-11-18fromMelissaReeves-GraybillNote:  Since Ms. Reeves-Graybill’s contact with us came through Facebook’s messaging system, all we have is her Facebook page as verification that she is in fact who she says she is.  We have asked her to resend her message to our email address from her JeffCo email account so we can verify that she does work for the District, but to this point, 11/18 10:15 p.m., she has not done so.)

One email response that Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian have received is from John Newkirk.  Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian sent us (among others) a copy of John Newkirk’s email plus their response late this afternoon.  Below is the text from Mr. Newkirk’s email:

Subject: Re: Regarding Your Association with the American Freedom Party
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2014 03:53:48 +0000

Dear Ms. Gurdikian and Ms. Johnson:

Thank you for your inquiry.  It is our understanding that the organizer of the event in question sent a correction notice and revised announcement to interested parties prior to the meeting.  After reading your email, I requested a copy of these documents from the event’s organizer, Mr. Ed Sutton, and assembled them into a PDF file at 9:17 this morning.  They are attached to this email.

The Board of Education is aware of its obligation to be fully transparent and truthful in connection with matters such as you raise in your communication.  To that end, please confirm that you were not aware of the correction notice sent out by the event’s organizer prior to the meeting.  We raise this question since your lengthy description (found at http://jeffcoschoolboardwatch.org/?p=2987) indicates that you may in fact have been aware of the corrected meeting notification but chose not to mention this in your correspondence to the Board.  In the event that you were not aware, please be assured that all Board members and administrators who participated in the event were fully aware that its sponsors were legitimate and responsible members of our community.

In the interest of accuracy and integrity, we hereby request that the website and other communications related to the question of this meeting be corrected accordingly with a note clarifying that the sponsor in question was “Americans For Prosperity” and not the “American Freedom Party” as alleged.

With regard to your particular questions, the fact is that only one Board member attended the event.  No attendee or speaker related to the District had reason to believe that the event was sponsored by any group connected to racist or otherwise illegal activities, nor was it the case that such connections existed.

Thank you again for your inquiry.


John J. Newkirk, Secretary

Jefferson County Board of Education

Ms. Johnson & Ms. Gurdikian’s response is below, but we, Jeffco School Board Watch, would first like to offer the following comments on Mr. Newkirk’s email.

A) While Mr. Newkirk’s first paragraph states that a correction had been sent out, please note that he did not already have that correction.  In fact, Mr. Newkirk stated that he had to request it today (Nov 18th) from Ed Sutton, the head of the Evergreen Tea Party.

Based on this, at the time Mr. Newkirk, Mr. McMinimee, the Jeffco Principals, and Mr. Shuler, founder of Golden View Classical Academy, showed up at the event, they had not been notified that an error had occurred.

Therefore, there are really only three possibilities.  Either they had decided to attend without ever looking at the promotional material; they did look but did not check on the name of a unfamiliar group; or they had no problem attending an event that listed the American Freedom Party as a sponsor.  The first two possibilities suggest carelessness and a lack of due diligence.  The last possibility suggests far darker implications.

Being optimists, we hope that it is one of the first two.  Mr. Newkirk and Mr. McMinimee?  Care to answer that?

Mr. Newkirk’s second paragraph offers a host of topics that deserve comment

B) In the first sentence, Mr. Newkirk says the Board is aware that it has an “…obligation to be fully transparent and truthful….”  But then in the second sentence, he says that the Board’s obligation somehow means Ms. Johnson, Ms. Gurdikian, and Jeffco School Board Watch have to confirm something?  How does the Board’s obligation for honesty and transparency get transferred to someone else?  This, in our opinion, is a non-sequitur argument.

C) Mr. Newkirk then goes on to reference our post 11/17 WNW, Due Diligence, & Racism, but somehow twists it into JeffCo School Board Watch being aware of a corrected flyer?  We are not sure how he arrives at that.  We stated in our post (click on the link in this paragraph) that we thought the listing of the American Freedom Party might be in error.  We also stated the reasons why we thought that might be the case, specifically:

Another possible explanation is that maybe it is simply a mistake.  People who were there say that all the sponsors had posters up indicating their sponsorship. There was no American Freedom Party poster…but there was an Americans For Prosperity poster.  The original flyer does not show American For Prosperity, but they had a poster.  The flyer does shows American Freedom Party, but they did not have a poster.  They both, apparently, go by the initials of “AFP”, so…a simple mistake?

Okay.  That is possible.”

<emphasis added>

That is why we considered the possibility of mistake.  But to be sure, after we received the copy of Mr. Newkirk’s email, we double-checked with our sources who were at the meeting.  None of them received or saw any flyers at the meeting, original or revised.  If such flyers were handed out, it was to a limited number of people and done so in a very unobtrusive fashion.  Which bring us to…

D) Mr. Newkirk assures Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian that “all Board members and administrators who participated in the event were fully aware that its sponsors were legitimate“.  To which we ask:


The responses Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian received from the principals of D’Evelyn and Evergreen high schools indicate something quite different.  D’Evelyn Principal Mr. Edwards states that his secretary “informed whoever contacted the school” that he could not attend.  Evergreen Principal Mr. Alsup wrote that he had received a telephone invitation and that, “I never received anything in writing, in fact I was not aware of the flier until after I attended the event.

Further, by Mr. Newkirk’s own admission, the corrected flyer was not received by him until today (Nov 18th) more than a  week after the event!

So we repeat our question:

How were all the Board members and JeffCo personnel (including Mr. McMinimee) fully aware of who was really sponsoring the event?

E) Mr. Newkirk in the third paragraph seems to be laboring under the belief that Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian are either members of Jeffco School Board Watch, or have control over it, despite the fact that they have made no such claim.  Mr. Newkirk should have made his request direct to us, as Ms. Reeves-Graybill did.  We invite Mr. Newkirk to directly email us at jeffcowatch@gmail.com with any concerns he has about our posts.

But before he does so, we would encourage him to fully and carefully read what we post.  If he had, he would have realized that we already brought up the possibility that the listing was a mistake.  Of course, if he concedes that, then he is also left with the questions we asked after that, to which there is still no response:

Didn’t McMinimee, Newkirk, Williams, Witt, and the rest at least check the list of sponsors on the flyer and website?  

How did someone working for the Evergreen group confuse Americans For Prosperity with American Freedom Party?

If that person saw “AFP” and did not know what it meant, how did they end up with American Freedom Party?  And why didn’t someone else catch it?

If they did catch it, then why was nothing said about it (such as an apology) at the beginning of the event?

Since Mr. Newkirk states that the Board (and by implication, he personally) has an “obligation to be fully transparent and truthful….” we ask him once again, did he receive and review the original flyer, including it’s list of sponsors?

Finally, to Mr. Newkirk’s last paragraph.  He has avoided the question about all three of ‘WNW’ having been invited and advertised as speaking at the event.  It seems he would prefer that everyone forget about the potential violation the Colorado Sunshine law that such a gathering could have entailed.

To us, in his last sentence, Mr. Newkirk is seemingly trying to avoid the positive responsibility given to him by Board Governance Process GP-08, Board Covenants, item #18:

Make every reasonable effort to protect the integrity and promote the positive image of the district…

To us, verifying all the sponsors and reviewing the advertising of an event at which Jeffco Board members and employees are the main attraction would seem to be a “reasonable effort”.

Perhaps now, after all the fall-out from this faux pax, Mr. Newkirk will think so to.

Below is Ms. Johnson and Ms. Gurdikian’s response to Mr. Newkirk’s email:

Mr. Newkirk, your anger and accusatory tone are extremely unsettling.

Thus far, every other email conversation we have had with those who received our original letter has been civil and professional. Your tone has no place here. 

To your points, we take issue with your unfounded allegation that we are Jefferson County School Board Watch (JCSBW).  We are NOT JCSBW and we did not write or help write their post.  If you have a request for changes to be made to JCSBW’s blog post, we suggest you take that up with them.  We note that past allegations linking other individuals to JCSBW have been unfounded, as is this one.  Mr. Newkirk – it truly is unprofessional for you to make this unfounded allegation.  We are not making any unfounded allegations in our email – the fact remains that ETP material listed the American Freedom Party as a co-sponsor of an event where you and other district personnel attended, presented, and represented our school district.  Surely you can see why this would be alarming – especially given the total lack of evidence that a retraction was distributed.  In fact, we held off in sending this response to you in expectation of receiving a response from the ETP to our email yesterday, but we have not heard from Mr. Sutton or anyone else of the ETP yet.  Again, we are perplexed at the anger in your email – if your anger should be directed at anyone, it should be the Evergreen Tea Party as they are the ones who were careless, and THEY are the ones who have placed you in this predicament – not us.

And we do not appreciate your your allegation that we knew of the retraction – we most certainly did not – how could we?  Even given the supposed retraction you and Mr. McMinimee provided, we still have not been able to find any independent evidence of it.  Forming the responses into a .pdf at 9:17am yesterday is not the same as providing the original document. Someone must have emailed that back around November 10.  A “reformulation” of documents provides no evidence.  We want to see the original communication of the correction. We look forward to Mr. Sutton’s response to our email sent yesterday.  Surely if such a retraction did go out, there would be email evidence of it. 

Speaking of which, it would seem reasonable to expect that speakers would also have been notified of the retraction. Did you – or any others on this email – receive an email from Mr. Sutton or the ETP that you could forward to us?  We’re thinking that if you didn’t receive notice of the retraction, why then would you have agreed to speak that night knowing the American Freedom Party was listed very publicly as a co-sponsor?  If the retraction did indeed go out, why did the meeting organizers STILL list the American Freedom Party as a co-sponsor when they posted video from the meeting on YouTube on November 12?  My Mountain Town still lists the American Freedom Party as a co-sponsor of the event (see attached screenshot):


Note: The referenced screen shot did not show up in our copy. Due to the lateness of the hour, we have gone and downloaded the current image on the website. This is that image.

Clearly someone is not doing their due diligence to correct this mistake, leaving the public, including Kelly and me, to conclude that this mistake must not be of much concern to the Evergreen Tea Party or they would have ensured this correction was carried through appropriately and thoroughly.  And, we find it highly improbably that someone would accidentally type American Freedom Party when they meant to type Americans for Prosperity.  Nobody that we’ve talked to about the American Freedom Party had even heard of the group before this unfortunate incident.  It’s just not a plausible excuse.

Still, we maintain that the Evergreen Tea Party should easily be able to put this issue to rest by sending the email with the retraction that went out to co-sponsors and the media – and an apology to the principals whose names were used without their permission.  I’m not sure why you chose not to address this issue in your email as we feel this is a blatant overstep by the ETP that needs to be addressed.  As that question was in a separate email we sent to Mr. McMinimee after we started receiving feedback from principals, we’ll grant that maybe that response is forthcoming.  However, for the sake of consolidating responses, we reiterate our concerns here:

  1. Mr. Newkirk – you did not answer our question as to why you participated in this event.  Could you share that with us?
  2. If you did not receive the retraction from the ETP, why did you agree to speak at this event when the American Freedom Party was publicly listed as a co-sponsor?
  3. The ETP did not have permission to use Mr. Edwards’ name, and Mr. Aslup’s name was used in promotional materials before he even knew he was speaking.  Who gave Mr. Sutton permission to use their names?
    • D’Evelyn Principal Edwards noted, “I do not know why my name was affiliated with the event.  Possibly because we have some students enrolled here that travel from that area of the district, so perhaps they thought I would like to communicate the positive work we do at our school each day.  My secretary informed whoever contacted the school that I was not able to attend.”  
    • Evergreen Principal Alsup shared, “Personally, I received a phone message from a Ed Sutton of the Evergreen Tea Party inviting me to listen to presentations from Dan McMinimee and a few board members. I never received anything in writing, in fact I was not aware of the flier until after I attended the event. Shortly before I arrived at the event, I received a phone message stating that plans had changed and I would have a few minutes to talk about Evergreen High School.”  
  4. During the election, we saw three candidates illegally use the Jeffco Schools logo to further their own campaigns and spread misinformation about Jeffco Schools. We believe this is yet another example of an unfortunate co-branding – accidental or not.  Jeffco Schools needs to be very careful about how they allow the Jeffco Schools brand to appear.  Is someone responsible for vetting speaking engagements to ensure board members and district personnel – and thus our district – are protected from such embarrassments?   If so, who?  If not, how is the district doing to address this recurring problem?

 We look forward to a response to our outstanding questions.

Thank you.

Tina Gurdikian

We, too, await Mr. Newkirk’s response.


If due to these latest events, you now want to get directly involved in fighting for our children’s future, please go to our page, Groups Opposing WNW’s Agenda. Select a group, volunteer, and then

Let’s Fight Back, JeffCo!