WNW spent $40,000 on a two and a half month nationwide search only to settle on Daniel McMinimee, the Assistant Superintendent of Douglas County.
On a 3-2 vote, WNW voted McMinimee as the ‘finalist’ in the search. McMinimee has been the public point person for many of DougCo’s most controversial changes, including reducing Douglas County’s graduation requirements while cutting staff and increasing teacher workloads (see 9News article here).
All of this is despite the fact that Witt said in November “We want to be the best Jeffco we can be, not Douglas or Denver County….” (Denver Post, Nov 22, 2013)
McMinimee also acted as DougCo’s lead negotiator in the contract talks with the DougCo teachers in 2012 that ended with the District refusing to sign a contract, and instead entering into individual contracts with each teacher. Allegations of favoritism, overwork, political revenge, and a flight of highly experienced teachers have continued to beset DougCo ever since.
He has also drawn fire from the school advocacy group, Strong Schools Coalition, for giving out misleading and incorrect information at a public board meeting, later excusing it as ‘preliminary information only’.
McMinimee was also instrumental in the creation of the Douglas County School District voucher program that tried to redirect school district money to private religious schools through a fake charter school. A State District Court judge issued an injunction, stopping it. The District appealed and won, but the case was then appealed to the Colorado State Supreme Court, which accepted the case in March of this year.
The DougCo school board has also recently made changes to severely restrict public comment opportunities and times at General Meetings and has taken to going into Executive Session (which the public cannot attend) almost half the time.
Can we say he lied?
When Witt said that WNW wanted the District to the best Jeffco, perhaps he then muttered under his breath “and that means turning us into Douglas County.” Because that is the path WNW are taking the District down. Also, what was the purpose of a nationwide search that cost taxpayers $40,000? At the February Board Meeting, Jill Fellman asked Witt if the Superintendent had already been selected (by WNW) and the search was only a ruse. Was Fellman right? Is this the kind of honesty and transparency we can expect of WNW? Because when we expect to be misled and lied to, we have yet to be disappointed!
What is WNW’s next step?
We at JeffCo School Board Watch came into this expecting the worst, but cautiously hoping for something better. We are not so disappointed as we are bitterly affirmed. WNW is going to continue down the path of trying to make Jefferson County over in Douglas County’s image. If you want to know what they will do next, just look at what happened in DougCo. In fact, the next step is already being taken…WNW+Miller are apparently already looking at hiring a PR firm just for the Board. It seems that Witt may have been talking directly to the Communications staff about this (listen to the audio of the May 1st meeting).
Right now, we can trust what comes out of the District, although not the Board. With a new PR firm and a clean sweep of the District Communications team, that will most likely stop.
What do we do now?
This fight is not over yet. Not by a long shot. But as we warned you back in February when WNW+Miller forced out Dr. Stevenson, this is not going to be a sprint, but a marathon. Or another analogy, we just lost a big battle…but not the war. They can only win their war on public education if we give up fighting.
And that is the first and most important thing you can do – keep fighting!
Specific things you can do in this fight, includes bombarding the Board with formal emails, demanding answers. As we noted in our post last Saturday, Board Policy requires that they respond to all written (and email) communications with a written response. You can send the email to firstname.lastname@example.org or an actual physical letter to: The Board of Education, Jefferson County,1829 Denver West Dr., Golden CO 80401.
Be respectful, but firm. Remember, they may not behave like it, but WNW are our employees! Call them to task!
If you are not sure what to ask, there were a number of suggestions we made in last Saturday’s post. We can now add a few more:
- Does the Board’s selection of Mr. McMinimee mean the Board endorses the actions taken by the Douglas County School District? Does the Board now mean to emulate them?
- Why did the Board spend $40,000 to do a nationwide search, only to choose from next door? Was this just window dressing?
- Will the Board sanction the reduction in graduation requirements that Mr. McMinimee pushed through in Douglas County?
- How does the Board plan to prevent the type of experienced teacher flight experienced in Douglas County now that they have named the architect of the Douglas County program to head JeffCo?
- Mr. Witt stated in November that he wanted the District to be the best Jefferson County model, not the Douglas or Denver models. How does he reconcile that with following the Douglas County playbook and now naming the number two person at Douglas County to head the JeffCo School District?
We are sure you can think of some others.
WNW+Miller have been playing the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy pretty well so far. They have succeeded in getting many of the charter school parents on their side, and some of the GT parents as well by giving both groups extra money. But now, perhaps, the true nature of these extremists will become more apparent. The voucher program that DougCo is trying to push through would not only hurt the regular public schools, but the charter ones as well. It seems that when Douglas County announced their effort, the vast majority of calls (2/3’s – see Denver Post article Mar 18, 2011) into the District were from parents who were already sending their kids to private school! While they were initially turned down, if the State Supreme Court rules in DougCo’s favor, you can expect those same parents to dis-enroll their children from their private schools, enroll them in DougCo, then apply to use the voucher program to re-enroll their kids in those same or similar private schools. All of this with a ‘wink, wink, nod, nod’ from the District. At $4,575 per student, that would amount to $1.8 million dollars just for 400 students. Two thirds of it would be for students who would have been going the private route anyway!
And JeffCo is twice DougCo’s size. How would the charter school parents have felt if their $3.7 million went not to them, but to private, religious schools? Because that is what happened in DougCo.
It is time that the GT and Charter communities wake up and realize that WNW is offering to upgrade their airline seats to first class while at the same time WNW is busy canceling maintenance on the plane and now wants to siphon off the aviation gas it needs to fly.
We need to come together, or Witt’s unspoken wish to become DougCo will get closer to coming true.
Keep Fighting, JeffCo!