Members of the group Jeffco Kids First, the group working with Laura Boggs to manage and promote the slate of Shelton, Miks and Wilhite (SMW), regularly make comments comparing what their candidates have raised vs what Varda, Reed, and Parker have raised.
SMW supporters, in virtually every post on social media, are obsessed with pointing out the fact that VRP have accepted the endorsement and donations from the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA). Gasp. The big scary union…a union that doesn’t have a big union boss, but is actually made up of and led by the Jeffco teachers working with your children.
And then comes a big bombshell from Dave Johnson, another candidate for the Jeffco School Board District 2 seat.
While we’re no stranger to dark money in Jeffco, the implications of this revelation should have everyone asking themselves, “If they asked Dave, and he said no, who said yes?”
Guess it remains to be seen how much they support them. Perhaps the conservative slate is neither “grassroots” nor “independent.”
Meanwhile, Paula Reed took campaign finance head on this week, talking about her fundraising strategy. Note: one can hardly be surprised that a retired 30-year Jeffco teacher accepted an endorsement and financial support from her Jeffco colleagues.
While JCSBW fully endorses Paula Reed for the District 2 seat, we also want to give props to Dave Johnson for exposing a hard truth here.
JCSBW supports three candidates — Varda, Reed, and Parker — who will support all of our local schools and all our students. October 25th is the last day you can mail your ballot. Find a drop box near you and vote today.
Laura Boggs is puppeteering your local school board election – again.
For those who are new to the Jeffco Schools scene, Laura Boggs is a former Jeffco School Board of Education Member who was censured – twice, for agreeing with a radio host that the then superintendent “should be shot” and for threatening to “tear this county apart.” Yes, that Laura Boggs:
She’s also known to have hidden behind an easel in a meeting trying to avoid being noticed, and even wrestled a high school classroom from a teacher’s control and then told the students that school is “stupid.” Yes, that Laura Boggs.
Unfortunately this very same effective manipulator Laura Boggs, “conservative” “reformer,” who, by the way, is really neither, has been identified as the mastermind behind the current opposition slate of Shelton, Miks, and Wilhite (SMW). People have been saying on social media they want proof; well, here’s the proof, clear as day.
This email screenshot is being spread all over social media in response to outrage that Varda, Parker, and Reed didn’t show to a Christians Who Care forum. More on that later. In this email, the forum organizer clearly identifies SMW as “her candidates.” Enough said. This alone should give everyone pause and raise your blood pressure, and hopefully, send you running to tell everyone you know who might be considering voting for “her candidates” to think again.
When the campaign took issue with Boggs being copied on the emails, this is how the forum organizer responded:
Further, Boggs has been an active part of the “grassroots” “independent” group that is promoting the opposition slate since the beginning, as seen in this Facebook discussion from January 2021.
Elections matter. We say this every election. And, seemingly, every election, Laura Boggs tries to come back. So what’s at stake this time? What’s different this time?
The short version: the (“conservative”) politicization of school boards on a national level as part of a national strategy. Laura Boggs and her Jeffco pals are trying to tap into this national strategy.
The above quote comes from Fairfax County, VA—one of the largest school districts in the nation–where a so-called “grassroots” group calling itself Parents Defending Education is working for a Republican takeover of what should be nonpartisan school boards.
In one recent example, a parent told the Fairfax County school board that the high school library contained two books containing pedophilia—a claim that is completely untrue. As is often the case with such groups, Parents Defending Education isn’t particularly interested in facts, instead retweeting her public comment and repeating the allegation. Conservative school board candidates also continued to repeat the lie, arguing, “I believe that parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.”
Mind you, no such books exist in the school library.
The story also notes that a group of parents in that district have been fighting to block new diversity and inclusion programs in the school district there, as part of a broader national movement led by people opposed to lessons on racism, history, and LBGTQ issues—often referred to by the now-population catchphrase “critical race theory.”
Bringing it Home
And now, Laura Boggs and Friends are cutting-and-pasting onto your social media all over Jeffco…
Careful readers may have noticed that and several other similar phrases being thrown about on social media and news stories in Jeffco. We’ll post a few screenshots for those of you who, wisely, have avoided social media for a while. For example:
Or there’s this one:
And this one, in response to a post for Varda, Reed, and Parker on Nextdoor:
Hive mind? Just a steady stream of slogans from the same echo chamber?
Unfortunately, it’s part of this larger strategy to politicize school boards—one that has been alive and well in Jeffco for some time now.
Today, JCSBW just wants to focus on one of the issues: all the stuff found under the catchphrase “Critical Race Theory.”
That battle over Advanced Placement United States History from 2014? Here it is again, wrapped in shiny new packaging.
The claim is that (mostly white) children might feel badly about themselves if they learn about our country’s past. Last time around the fear was that our children might not become patriotic if they knew our country’s history (i.e., American Exceptionalism).
If the opposition is elected, we’re going to be right back to this same battle.
First, a recent Colorado Sun article highlights a curious pattern in which conservative candidates around Colorado are focused on the same issues.
Meanwhile, the Colorado Sun also reported that in Colorado Springs, Church Voter Guides published candidate responses to a series of questions, including queries about critical race theory, sex education and coronavirus protocols, and the El Paso County Republican Party sent a questionnaire to board candidates in that county that included questions about critical race theory, mask and vaccine mandates, and false allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 elections.
See the pattern yet?
If not, how about this from the Summit County School District where another so-called “grassroots” group claims to be concerned about budget issues, academics, and politics in schools.
One of the Summit County candidates is also very concerned about school library books (just like in Texas), and wants to see books with “left-leaning points of view” balanced with books from a conservative perspective. She also is concerned about social justice and gender identity being incorporated into coursework, claiming it’s “the job of parents” to teach those issues at home.” Not content with that viewpoint, she raised the bar, claiming that teachers think they have the right to “almost raise our kids for us.”
One version of this played out here in Jeffco night before last, at a candidate forum by a group calling itself “Christians Who Care” —a group that is loosely organized at best because JCSBW couldn’t find any information about the group at all. Much ado has been made on social media because the pro-public education candidates, Danielle Varda, Mary Parker, and Paula Reed pulled out of the forum at the last minute.
Let’s start with the questions that candidates were provided ahead of the forum (typed as written in the screenshot, with three bolded by JCSBW for emphasis):
What are your qualifications for being a Board of Education candidate, and what do you see is the most important issue you would like to address?
55% of Jeffco’s 3rd graders are not at grade level reading. 74% of sixth graders are not at grade level math. Overall student achievement as declined as has student enrollment. In contrast, annual spending continues to increase. How do you explain these statistics and trends, and as a Board of Education member, how do you plan to address these issues?
We are aware that the Union has endorsed certain Board of Education candidates. How does a Union endorsement or non-endorsement influence your decisions, when making critical education-related decisions?
Several of the most highly contested issues in the educational systems in Jefferson County relate to mandated masking and vaccinations. As a Board of Education member, how would you address parents’ concerns? [JCSBW note: Neither Jeffco nor Colorado has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and any future mandate would be approved by the state legislature, not the school board.]
As a member of the Board of Education, how would you address the increasing intrusion of government into educational systems wherein the rights and responsibilities of parents are eroded?
From a Christian and parent perspective, how will you address the canceled culture/Woke mentality in schools with special attention to the political themes of Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory?
No wonder VRP declined to show to this forum. It was clearly a trap.
JCSBW apparently is not “woke” enough to understand what “woke indoctrination,” “woke curricula” or “woke mentality” are, much less “canceled culture,” but none of them are tied to grassroots movements.
Among the horrifying things we’re hearing these days, this stood out:
Jeffco currently has received the lowest number of ballots since 2009.
What does that mean?
It means we’re in danger of repeating 2013. As of Nov. 3, only 74,435 ballots were returned – and Jeffco has more than 450,000 registered voters. Four years ago, only 33 percent of Jeffco voters voted because too many people were complacent.
If you’re really pressed for time, email firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will arrange to pick up your ballot and deliver it to a drop-off location for you.
JCSBW supports the three candidates elected in 2015: Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell. Mitchell is running unopposed, but Rupert and Harmon both have opposition.
So why should you vote for Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell? We explained some of the reasons in this post, but here are a few more:
They have restored civility to discussions and listen to all voices
They have consistently listened to community feedback and used that to guide decisions
They are moving Jeffco forward
Why be concerned about the opposition candidates?
For starts, the District 1 opposition candidate is covering up his involvement with the Golden View Classical Academy’s PTO — as the PTO president — to the extent that Golden View actually deleted their PTO link from their website.
Here’s the cached version, as it used to look.
Here’s Van Gieson listed as GVCA PTO president.
And here’s what the GVCA website looks like now, with no PTO link on the website.
Why on earth would anyone go so far to hide their work as PTO president?
We have no idea. Every other candidate who has participated in their children’s PTA or PTO has included their involvement as one of their qualifications. Some don’t mention the name of the specific school their children attend — which we understand — but we can’t think of a single candidate who has gone so far as to convince the school to delete any reference to the (presumably still-existing) PTO on the webpage.
Why cover up your volunteer work with a Jeffco school? And if you’re covering up volunteer work like that, what else are you covering up?
Meanwhile, the District 2 opposition candidate has enrolled in the same program that brought us Witt, Newkirk, Williams, Boggs, and many of their supporters – Leadership Program of the Rockies.
Both candidates continue to lie about moving sixth graders to middle school, despite the reality that it was a decision made only after multiple meetings, surveys, and dialogue with the Jeffco community. For example, the cost to expand Drake and Dunstan Middle Schools in time for Fall 2018 is $14.5 million, as Superintendent Jason Glass explains in his blog.
The two opponents, on the other hand, either lack a solid grasp of math, or reality, and claim that the current cost is considerably more when that simply is not true. Perhaps this is because neither is on record as having spoken or written letters about moving sixth graders when the issue was being discussed?
Or perhaps it’s because we have yet to see either of them actually attend a regular board meeting?
One thing is certain: we can’t move Jeffco forward without strong, knowledgeable leadership, and that’s not going to come from either of the opponents.
Please vote for Brad Rupert in District 1, Susan Harmon in District 2, and Ron Mitchell in District 5, and then get those ballots in by 7 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
We know you’re busy. We are too (see, for example, how well we’re keeping up with this blog!).
However, busy won’t help us keep moving Jeffco forward. We remember 2013, 2014, and 2015 all too well: disrespect, drama, and constant turmoil. We don’t want to return to that, which means we need to support our current school board members in November’s election.
This fall, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell are running for re-election to the Jeffco School Board. Both Rupert (District 1) and Harmon (District 2) have opponents, while Mitchell (District 5) is running uncontested. Some of you might be thinking, “So all is well, right? Reasonable people who are listening to all of Jeffco will continue to retain the board majority regardless of what happens.”
Our response: DON’T. GET. COMPLACENT.
The five board members who were elected in 2015 — Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell, along with Amanda Stevens and Ali Lasell — have worked hard to restore respect, collaboration, and careful decision-making to Jeffco Schools and the community. Don’t mistake respect, civility, and thoughtful discussions for any suggestion that they always vote in tandem. They don’t. On several occasions board members have differed in their opinions, and yes, their vote.
That’s as it should be. And frankly, it’s been a relief for those of us who regularly attend or watch Jeffco School Board meetings to see people taking each other and the issues seriously.
No one has been turned away at public comment since the recall. No one has been insulted by board members. Angry parents, students, and community members have had their chance to address the board when they disagree with a proposal — and Rupert, Harmon, Mitchell, Stevens and Lasell have listened to those voices and made decisions accordingly.
Or if you want the bullet-point version, the current five-member board of education has:
Restored respect and civility and professionalism to the Jeffco community, inside the board room and out
Expanded public comment opportunities and discussion on all issues facing Jeffco Schools
Hired a nationally-known, world-class superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass, to lead Jeffco forward
Become more competitive in attracting and retaining teachers
Continued to address growth areas in the district, such as northwest Arvada and west-central Jeffco
Celebrated with our Jeffco Schools as schools received 31 awards from the state of Colorado, and 11 Jeffco high schools ranked in the U.S. News and World Report top 50.
How can you help?
First, share Brad Rupert’s video on Facebook, Twitter, any other social media sites you use, and through your email network. A lot of Jeffco voters haven’t been paying attention since 2015, and they probably wonder what the clean slate accomplished. Let them know!
Also take time to read and share Superintendent Glass’ blog, Advance Jeffco. He’s encouraging dialogue and questions, and it’s a great place to talk about how to move Jeffco forward.
And walk! Volunteer here to walk or to look for other campaign opportunities (like a house party this Friday). We need people to let Jeffco voters know what Rupert, Harmon and Mitchell have accomplished during the last two years, and why they should vote for them to serve Jeffco students another four years.
We’re finally on a solid path with thoughtful, experienced decision-makers and a deeply knowledgeable superintendent, all working together from the board table in the best interest of Jeffco. Our students, parents, teachers, staff and community have waited a long time for this. We need to keep moving our district forward, rather than returning to failed policies of the past.
The Jeffco School Board held its first regular meeting of the the 2017-18 school year. This was a quiet one as meetings go, but there are a few highlights we want to share:
Study Session: Strategies to Support Student Success
The study session focused on the work that had been done to improve student achievement at five different Jeffco Schools. Each of these schools had shown a marked improvement in their growth scores on the 2017 CMAS, and each principal had time to talk about the strategies their school used to produce better results.
So what works?
Support systems, both within the school and with outside community organizations
Collaboration at every level. This ranges from student learning approaches to the work done in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) where teachers, instructional coaches, interventionists, and other staff can collaborate to pinpoint the best approaches to engaging individual students.
Time. Staff need a structured time that supports collaboration and data-driven instruction, schools need time to implement and evaluate new approaches to learning, and time is needed to see improved results. There are no magic shortcuts.
Strong, stable, and consistent leadership to recognize issues and target appropriate resources to address issues and support staff and students.
Superintendent Glass has also summarized this study session discussion and his takeaways on his Advance Jeffco blog. We encourage you to read his post and thoughts about what this means for the rest of the district.
We’d also like to emphasize the collaboration theme again. It’s one we’ve heard before, back when Jeffco Schools received a $39 million, five-year Teacher Incentive Fund grant to do a strategic compensation study that compared the impact of merit pay and the impact of additional resources and collaboration. There were three different presentations given to the Jeffco School Board as that study progressed; resources, support, and collaboration were repeatedly mentioned as the most effective elements in boosting student achievement. Some of the 2016 findings are summarized in this Denver Post article:
Data in Jefferson County’s schools also is being watched at a national level. The district is near the end of a federally funded pilot program that tested performance incentives and changes to how teachers are supported.
So far, analysis of the project shows that the supports provided to teachers — such as creating leadership opportunities, professional learning communities with coaches and a system for constructive feedback — have increased student performance. Financial incentives are not showing a strong link.
Jefferson County officials say they believe the best and fastest results will happen with both components.
Aswege, who taught at one of the schools in the pilot program, said bonuses for school or team goals didn’t remove collaboration, but she said the money is still more necessary for the coaching resources.
“When you have a healthy culture in a school, you don’t think about the pay,” Aswege said. “You don’t think about anything else but helping children.”
Why is that important? Because too often, the argument goes something along the lines of “any kid can learn in any condition, including a cardboard box, so long as they have a great teacher.”
What the data actually shows is that while great teachers make a difference, collaboration and resources for a team of great teachers makes a much bigger, school-wide difference. And then we need to give it time to work rather than rushing off in search of a different quick fix.
We’ve sat through a lot of superintendent’s reports over the years, but this is the first time we’ve been completely blown away. First, he had a slide presentation that summarized the various groups he’s met with and meetings he’s attended in the past few weeks. It also included a list of future events and meetings.
We are thrilled to see our superintendent out getting to know people in all parts of Jeffco so he can hear about what’s working, what’s not, and issues we need to address going forward. We’re also thrilled to see it documented, so that anyone who wants to know what our superintendent is doing can see it, too.
Now before anyone jumps in to argue that many or most of our students are failing, etc, we’d like to remind our readers of these very important points:
Spring 2017 marked the third year that students took CMAS (also known as PARCC), and increasing numbers of families have chosen to opt out of testing.
The bar was raised with CMAS, with students being pushed to higher academic expectations. Students have been expected to meet those expectations, despite the reality that the years since 2009-10 have been marked by larger class sizes and fewer resources. Despite these challenges, student achievement continues to improve.
In middle and high school, the CMAS math tests students according to the math they are taking rather than their grade level, which leads to a bit of confusion. Eighth grade students who take Algebra I are counted in the algebra results rather than the “8th grade math” results, and the same is true for 7th grade students enrolled in Algebra I or 8th grade students enrolled in Geometry. “Seventh grade math” only includes those students not enrolled in algebra rather than all 7th graders, and the same is true for 8th graders. What this shows most clearly is a math divide between students who are already excelling in math (and thus taking algebra in 7th or 8th grade), and those students who were already struggling and continue to do so. We hope this allows Jeffco staff to keep working to better address struggling students and bring them up to grade level, but also want to make it clear that the 7th and 8th grade math categories only feature a subset of students.
The report also summarizes some of the elements that are pushing student achievement higher, as well as the areas that need improvement.
Also keep in mind that “churn” is a key word in understanding Jeffco’s student achievement scores in the past several years, as Chalkbeat makes clear:
Colorado has already changed math and English testing twice in the past decade, making comparing past results extremely difficult — if not impossible. Officials say it won’t be the case now because this is essentially a contract change. However, more significant test changes may need to be considered after the state’s academic standards revision process is completed in 2018.
Yes, a new set of tests (though supposedly comparable to CMAS) and yet another academic standards revision are already on the way. It seems like we barely have time to adjust to one change before another is headed our way, and that’s hardly a process that benefits our students’ learning.
Other items of note
The rest of the meeting largely consisted of policy reviews, and few of those required changes. Any policies with changes are listed on Board Docs.
Also of note: for the first time we can remember in years, no one signed up for agenda-related public comment. We found that odd, particularly because student achievement has reliably been one of the most popular topics for citizens. Only one person signed up for the non-agenda-related section as well, making for a very quiet (and quick!) meeting. Curiouser and curiouser? Quite possibly.
With that in mind, we owe our readers a post about the upcoming school board election. We’ll post that soon. Until then, we remain