9/26 – JeffCo Students Defending History – A Facebook Invite!

american_rebels_advance

Egan Walker (10th grade at SLHS) and Emma Walker (8th grade Wayne Carle Middle School) came up with a great suggestion!  We invite all JeffCo Students & Teachers to demonstrate their opposition to the proposed Curriculum Review Committee this Friday, September 26th by coming to school dressed as a historical figure, event, or movement that created “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law…” and so made our country and the world a better place.

Parents can help the younger kids with their costumes, perhaps explaining what this person did or why that event was important or how this movement changed the world for the better.  Older kids can do research on the person, event, or movement, and be ready to explain to others how they made a difference.

You can go to the Facebook event by clicking here: JeffCo Students Defending History!

You can also make suggestions for the kids (and teachers) in the comments section of the Event page.

And sometimes we can…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

…and have fun at the same time!

 


 

9/22 Update – Student Protests Continue To Spread

Update

(updated at 9/23 7:08 a.m. – Lakewood High School added to the list)
(updated at 6:49 p.m. – Chatfield High School added to the list)

The Denver Post is reporting that 100-200 Evergreen High School students walked out of their morning classes to deliver a letter protesting the proposed Curriculum Review Committee to Superintendent McMinimee at the Education Center in Golden. 

That is the third JeffCo high school to have some form of protest against the policies of the new Board majority, led by Ken Witt.  Julie Williams’s proposed Curriculum Review Committee, which would have an Orwellian censorship charter and power, has sparked students already disturbed by how Witt, Newkirk, and Williams have been treating their teachers.

Additionally, in a press release (14.9.22.CHS.Statement) Conifer High School teachers state that  Williams’s Committee proposal was the triggering event in the Conifer teacher ‘sick-out’ and the Conifer student protest last Friday.

The students at three four five other high schools have FaceBook pages organizing potential walk-outs tomorrow (Arvada West, Pomona, Ralston Valley, Chatfield, Lakewood).  Rumors are running around that other high school student bodies are also talking about some form of protest.

That would mean student protests at six seven eight of 17 of Jefferson County’s neighborhood high schools.

The students are making their voices heard.  Let’s make ours heard as well.

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

 


 

9/22 Monday Post:

Is The School Board Listening To You

Photo from the Facebook Page “JeffCo, Stand Up”

Friday was full of confusion, conflicting stories, two JeffCo high schools closed, and serious Denver press attention on WNM+Williams for the first time.

(Updated at 9:16 a.m. with information on the Conifer student protest.)

We promised in our Saturday Post that we would try to find out what actually happened and report back to you. We did our digging, and here is what we have learned:

A number of Standley Lake and Conifer teachers, after having a compensation plan that had never even been subjected to public debate rammed down their throats, and against the guidance of JCEA, struck back with the one thing they still had control over – their willingness to show up for work.  At the same time, Standley Lake students who had independently planned a walk out in support of their teachers, instead held a protest at 104th & Wadsworth.

Now, mind you, these are still teachers. They care deeply about their students. They did not become no-shows. They simply called in sick.

And truth be told, they had plenty to be sick about.

The lead up to Friday’s school closings, student protests, press coverage, and many angry emails and posts got its real start last spring when Ken Witt unilaterally repudiated the District’s negotiating team, and led Newkirk and Williams in spurning an agreed upon contract with JeffCo’s teachers.

In doing that, Witt began his open campaign to discourage, dismantle, and disable JeffCo teachers. The next step was his insisting on all items on the negotiating discussion agenda be subject to Fact Finding, delaying any contract. Then he orchestrated the outright snubbing of the Fact Finder’s report that detailed the serious flaws in the teacher evaluation system.  He followed that by abrogating a previous agreement with the teachers that last years evaluations would not have an effect on compensation. He then imperiously imposed his own compensation plan with no public comment allowed, that drastically reduces the full salary available to the best teachers (trust us, a ‘stipend’ is not the same as a raise!).

Along the way, he has been condescending, disdainful, petulant, and overbearing when it came to teachers and to members of the Board who disagreed with him.

Then on top of everything, he allowed Julie Williams to present a proposal for a censorship committee with a scope and power that had the ardent conservatives on the Denver Post flinching.

This is the wind that he sowed.  Friday saw the first gusts of the whirlwind that JeffCo is beginning to reap.

Understand, JCEA had nothing to do with the ‘sick out’. In fact, through several sources, we found that for the most part JCEA was ‘out of the loop’, and when it did find out about it, it tried to stop it, fearing a public backlash. WNM+Williams must have heard rumors, for at least two different emails were sent out to the entire district from a brand new email account, warning them not to do it. Curiously the copies we have seen are unsigned. Nor are they from McMinimee’s email account. We are left wondering who sent them. Maybe someone who is not supposed to communicate with directly with District personnel…Mr. Witt?

(Side note: Julie Williams persisted in being Julie Williams on Friday.  She apparently showed up in a parking lot at Standley Lake High School Friday morning with a video camera, intent on videoing teachers not showing up.(?)

It was the wrong lot, mind you.  She was in the student parking lot.  The teachers’ lot is on the other side of the school.  Also, Friday was a scheduled late start morning, so she was there too early anyway.)

Friday morning, the District announced it was closing Standley Lake and Conifer High Schools due to teacher absences…but they have been remarkably close-mouthed about exactly how many teachers were actually absent from each school.

Along the way another protest two other protests got started. This one One led by Standley Lake students, and one led by Conifer students.

Standley Lake High School The students at both schools learned of the sick-out plans, and decided on their own to hold a walk-out in support of their teachers.  When school was closed, they the held their protests anyway, with Standley Lake students gathering at 104th & Wadsworth and Conifer students waving signs at a high-volume traffic intersection in Conifer.  Cars in both locations constantly honked showing their support.  When we reached out to the students, they were adamant that theirs was a student-conceived and run protest.  The Standley Lake students, then pointed us to the Facebook Page they had set up to coordinate their efforts (JeffCo Stand Up).  While they definitely support their teachers, the proposed Curriculum Review Committee apparently was the final straw for many of the students.

In one of the sweet ironies of the situation, when Julie Williams was interviewed the day before about her proposed Curriculum Committee she told Channel 9 News, “I don’t think we should encourage kids to be little rebels….We should encourage kids to be good citizens.”

Perhaps Julie Williams should have recalled the words a rebel gave to another autocratic government that threatened force to make people do what it wanted, “They will not find a rebellion; they may, indeed, make one.” (Benjamin Franklin, 1776 1766, before the House of Commons on the Stamp Act)

Congratulations, Ms. Williams.  You have made your ‘little rebels’ – and they are now well down the paths pioneered by other ‘little rebels’ such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many, many others.  They are in good company.

And it is not stopping there.  There are at least three other JeffCo high schools (Arvada West, Pomona, and Ralston Valley) where students are organizing for some sort of walk out or demonstration this week.  And there are rumors of students at other schools taking note and starting to talk to each other and to other schools.

It seems that the students of JeffCo are waking up and realizing that it is their teachers, their curriculum, their school environment, and ultimately, their education that is at the center of this battle.  And apparently students are now deciding to make their voice heard.

Last week, many of our students saw what is at stake, and decided to take action.  How can we do less?

Let’s Fight Even Harder, JeffCo!

*Just to be clear, JeffCo School Board Watch does not approve, encourage, or support students walking out of class or participating in a demonstration, unless they do so with the full understanding and consent of their parents.  But based on the email and posts flying around this weekend, we do not think that is much of a problem.  Indeed, we see plenty of evidence that many parents are very proud of their sons and daughters.  As they should be.

9/20 Saturday Post – One Parents’ Response to McMinimee

MLK - Our lives begin to end

Thursday night, WNM+Williams completed another phase in their planned destruction of JeffCo’s teaching corps. The next day, both students and teachers apparently walked out at Standley Lake and Conifer High Schools.  We are still trying to find out exactly what happened, but the situation is confused.

(Any student or teacher from either school who knows what happened, please email us at JeffCoWatch@gmail.com.  All emails remain strictly confidential.)

One thing we do know, WNM+Williams and M2 (McMinimee & Morgan) seemed extremely well prepared, ranging from Julie Williams with a video camera apparently at the Standley Lake parking lot (the wrong parking lot, but that’s our Julie!), to McMinimee having scheduled a press conference, and then posting the following message on JeffCo’s “Chalk Talk” page:

As you may know, two Jeffco schools were closed today, Friday, September 19 because a large number of our teachers were absent. Both Standley Lake and Conifer high schools experienced a significant number of absences on the teaching staff. We felt there wouldn’t be enough adults in the building to ensure an adequate educational environment for students so we made the decision to cancel classes.

I’m not going to speculate on why teachers were absent. I do know that the majority of our educators were in our schools working with students providing the high-quality education that is the Jeffco standard of excellence. We believe passionately in supporting our great teachers and working to ensure we are able to recruit and retain the best for our students.

I can say with pride that last spring the Board of Education approved a compensation package for our employees of $18.2 million; it’s the first increase in compensation our employees have seen in four years. Additionally, last night, the board approved a plan that raised the starting pay for new teachers from $33,000 to $38,000 and set a maximum pay of $81,030. Effective teachers who are at the top of the pay scale (above $81,030) will receive a stipend to reward their efforts as great teachers.

Under this compensation model approved by the Board of Education, 98 percent of our teachers will receive a pay increase. Under the previous model, approximately 400 teachers would not have received any compensation increases. We want to attract and keep the very best teachers for your children and we feel this compensation plan will help support us in reaching this goal.

Additionally, we know that many students and staff members are concerned with the current Board of Education discussion related to the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum. At this time there has been no decision about any changes to the course offering. The board will be putting the topic on their agenda for future meetings.

It’s my hope that there won’t be any further disruptions to our schools because of teacher absences. Losing a day of learning isn’t good for our students or our staff. I think most of us can agree that whatever issues may divide adults, our students shouldn’t be the ones impacted. Our focus remains on student growth and achievement. We will continue to notify parents as soon as possible if we are forced to close schools.

We know that our teachers care deeply about their students and chose their profession because they love teaching. Our compensation plan will now reward the vast majority of our teachers for the fine work happening in our classrooms.

Dan McMinimee's Signature

Gently put, there are more ‘inaccuracies’ and ‘mis-statements’ in this message than you can shake a stick at.  As we prepared to put together our Saturday Post, we were frankly puzzled where to begin.

Then Wendy McCord, a JeffCo parent, solved that problem for us.  Here is the letter she posted in response:

Dear Dan & members of the Board of Education:

I wholeheartedly support any show of solidarity that the teachers & Jeffco staff can muster in these terrible times. And I, for one, hope we see many more disruptions to business as usual, as it has come to be here in Jeffco since last November.

When I read about Julie Williams’ “Curriculum Review” committee, I was quite certain I had traveled on a time machine dozens of years in the past, and probably to the deep south. While I couldn’t be at last night’s meeting in person due to a school activity, I watched as much of it as I could via stream. And though most of the discussion surrounding the “Committee” wasn’t captured via stream, I listened to the audio recording as soon as it was up this morning. I find this communication to Jeffco parents (and staff?) to be misleading, much like Williams, Newkirk and Witt would like for APUSH to be. I believe that you know full well why so many teachers called in sick – and it wasn’t the new respiratory virus. 

You speak “with pride” about the compensation model. However, that compensation model flies in the face of the CONTRACT between the District and JCEA. It isn’t what the teachers voted to approve. It also completely disregards findings by the independent fact finder related to the unreliable nature of the evaluation system, and how that system should NOT be used as the basis for determining which teachers are sufficiently effective to warrant a pay raise.  After four years with no raise, and two of those with pay cuts, I’d say any teacher who has been here during that time deserves an increase unless they were scored completely ineffective. 

Dan, you point blank told our board at last night’s meeting that the stipend program would in fact send veteran teachers fleeing this District. Ms. Weber shared with the Board, whose majority members seemed unconcerned, that a stipend had significant financial consequences as compared to a salary increase. Why didn’t you share these important pieces of information with the public in your message below. These are essential pieces of the puzzle for the parents of Jeffco students to understand the direction this Board majority is taking. A teeny stipend, a once a year bonus, taxable at a higher rate, etc. is NOT a reward for great teachers. It’s incentive to get the heck out of Jeffco. So much for appreciating the teachers who make the most difference for our students and younger teachers. How is that holding the teachers harmless for the new, unreliable evaluation system that was implemented this year.

No one with whom I have spoken objects to tying pay raises to performance in theory. But the underlying assessment tool must be predictable across school buildings. There must be better training on how to use the tool so that a “highly effective” teacher at Lakewood H.S. looks the same as a “highly effective” teacher at another high school or a middle school, or an elementary school. And most of all, everyone needs adequate notice to prepare properly for such a significant change in process. 

From day one, this Board majority has made one hasty, ill-thought-out (if at all) decision after another. Hiring a month-to-month personal attorney for three members of the board, then refusing to discuss it further despite promises to the contrary; forcing out a stellar superintendent with education and experience that helped make Jeffco a fantastic school district months before her contract ended (to the detriment of the district); refusing to bargain in good faith with the teachers’ association/union; loaning money to financially-imperiled charter schools without even reading the materials submitted to the board related to such loans; refusing to provide full-day kindergarten to our children most in need, while spending MILLIONS on charter schools that are able to obtain private funding from business sponsors, etc. 

The majority of this Board of Education has completely failed in its fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of Jefferson county students. You get an “F.” You don’t do your homework, rather regurgitating skewed facts and dissembling to the public to mislead people into believing that you even care about our children. You have shown nothing but disrespect for our amazing teachers, who are the ones in the trenches with our children every day – you say you respect them, but your actions decry your words as foul. 

And you, Dan, are going along with them. Complicit in their ill-conceived plans. Be the leader the children of Jeffco need you to be, and start by telling the parents of Jeffco the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This Board of Ed has a lot of warts, and the public needs to see them to be able to think critically and analyze for themselves what is truly in the best interest of our children. I suspect that the reason so many people are so concerned about the “Curriculum Committee” is that our children will learn about US History what you are sharing with the parents about the Board of Education in this email. Half-truths, partial information and lies of omission. 

To Lesley and Jill, I will say once again, as I have said before – thank you, for putting up with the shenanigans of the board majority, who purport to want to improve public education, but who are clearly hell-bent on dismantling it, piece by piece. And they’ve struck at the heart of public education – our amazing teachers. We all appreciate your tireless efforts to improve public education, not destroy it. Your hard work is greatly appreciated.

In conclusion, I want to let you know that I would gladly have my children miss one or ten days of school to ensure that the rest of their public education isn’t destroyed by the cancer that has been brought into our district. I stand up for our kids. I stand up for our teachers. I will not stand up for the dirty business that has seeped its way into our Board of Education. This is the future of our children & our country, not a political platform. 

Sincerely,

Wendy R. McCord, Esq.

The only thing left for us to say is…

Let’s Fight Even Harder, JeffCo!

 


 

9/18 BOE Meeting: A Letter From A Mother

woman_writing2We received permission late last night to print this letter one JeffCo mother has sent to the Board.

 

Date: September 17, 2014 at 11:52:08 PM CDT
To:board@jeffco.k12.co.us” <board@jeffco.k12.co.us>
Subject: Williams Curriculum committee propos

Dear Jeffco BOE,

I am writing this email while I sit in a hospital 1,000 miles away from my Jeffco school children caring for my mom who had a stroke last week. I have barely slept all week and now that I have time to sleep I am actually using it to write you. That is how strongly I feel about the proposed curriculum committee. For a board majority that supposedly touts the bill of rights I find this proposal abhorrent.  The committee selection process squashes any hope of a minority voice. It reeks of censorship. Who is to deem what is objectionable – a few hand picked people with little to no background in education? The proposal talks about not encouraging civil disorder or social strife. I was raised in the South – this was the exact cop out people used for not standing up for the Civil Rights. They didn’t want to disrupt ‘social harmony’. This country was founded because of the civil disorder of the first Tea Party. I find it ironic that a member of the current Tea Party would propose this.

You claim to want tough standards to prepare our children for college but your first priority is to attempt to eliminate an AP class. Are you really supporting our kids or your own personal political agenda?  

My children I know have been exposed to curricula that would not meet this standard. It has challenged them to think and examine deeper history, literature etc. And truly if a teacher has ever assigned something that might be controversial the teacher has always given us THE PARENTS another option for our child.

I listened to the last board meeting. Jeffco has a curriculum committee of trained educators. By the way many of them are community members and parents. I trust them to do their job. Why this board feels they know education better than educators I don’t understand. Even this public proposal has grammatical errors. And I’m supposed to trust the person writing that with my child’s education? Sadly I have lost trust in this board. If this proposal is passed not only will I be anxiously awaiting a recall petition, but for the first time in my life I will be donating to a political cause, your recall. I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I am a parent. And hijacking my child’s education for political purposes is something I will not accept.

Concerned Jeffco Parent,
Alice Wurst

Sent from my iPhone

Ms. Wurst cannot be there tonight, so we ask you in her name to be there for her.

Be there for Ms. Wurst, who cannot be as she cares for her ailing mother.
Be there for every JeffCo parent who wants to be, but cannot because of job, distance, or family need.
Be there for every JeffCo parent who would be, if they only knew the gravity of the situation and what is at stake.

Be there for every JeffCo student who deserves an education filled with open exploration, genuine curiosity, critical thinking, and support for the questioning mind.
Be there for every JeffCo student who deserves an education untrammeled by propaganda, censorship, and authoritarian suppression.
Be there for every JeffCo student for whom education is the way up and out of poverty, ignorance, and a limited life.

Be there for our Community.
Be there for the business people who need workers with initiative and ideas and not mind-numbed robots.
Be there for our social groups who need volunteers who when they see something wrong, have the courage and faith to do something about it.

But most of all, be there for yourself.
Be there to help defend your school district, your neighbors, and your community.

Be there.

5:30 p.m., 5th Floor Board Room, Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO

If you are one of those who cannot make it, then if you can, watch it on your computer via the live video stream at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/JeffcoBoardRoom

You can and should also send emails to the Board and to the individual Board members, letting them know what you think and how you feel:

Board email: board@jeffco.k12.co.us
Ken Witt, President – District 5: kewitt@jeffco.k12.co.us
Julie Williams, 1st Vice President – District 1: juwillia@jeffco.k12.co.us
John Newkirk, Secretary – District 2: jnewkirk@jeffco.k12.co.us
Lesley Dahlkemper, 2nd Vice President – District 4: ldahlkem@jeffco.k12.co.us
Jill Fellman, Treasurer – District 3: jcfellma@jeffco.k12.co.us

Be there, and…

Fight Even Harder, JeffCo!