Today is the first day of school for most of JeffCo. Teachers, of course, have been back for a while, and District staff have never left. It is also the first day of school for Witt, Newkirk, & Williams (plus Miller) two imports from DougCo: Dan McMinimee as Superin-tendent and Syna Morgan as Chief Academic Officer.
McMinimee, for all the justified criticisms of his credentials, does have one key ability he has already called upon: he knows how to schmooze.
We have seen his calm demeanor absorb and de-energize a lot of anger and fear that has been verbally directed at him. While he reacted angrily in early sessions with the public, he now speaks soothing words that seem to minimize the radical talk coming from WNW. Because of that, many educators, staff, and parents have tentatively decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, many of us here at JeffCo School Board Watch have long experience with corporate marketing and sales. We have seen more than our share of corporate climbers come and go. McMinimee’s manner of tranquilizing the fears of those now under him smells to us too much like the corporate aroma an organizations’ new hatchet man (or woman) exudes when trying to lull to sleep those he or she is about to take for a ride.
We hope we are wrong, but this has been the pattern of DougCo, Denver, and many other districts around the country where Libertarian-like extremists have taken over a school board.
So today’s Do List is for the teachers and staff of the District – protect yourself from the kinds of snooping that can set you up as a target.
A target? Yes. There have been several cases where DougCo teachers, after exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech, and criticizing the DougCo Board and District, then found that at the end of the year, mysteriously there was no teaching position left available for them. Or if there was, then it was split between several schools miles apart.
Already we have evidence of snooping via public media, specifically, Julie Williams verbal and written ill-aimed tirade against two JeffCo volunteers for twitters taken out of context.
If, as we believe, WNW has no intention of coming to a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with JCEA, the next school year will see JeffCo with every teacher being an “at-will” employee. That means they will be able to be fired for any reason that is not prohibited by law. In short, if you look cross-eyed at McMinimee, or Morgan decides she does not like a bumper-sticker on your car, your position can suddenly just…vanish. And you will have no recourse. That is what “at-will” means.
With current social media, email, twitter, etc., it is all too easy for people to monitor what you say or write. There have been several court cases where a company’s right to snoop on their employees Facebook pages and then fire them for something they posted there has been up held. Further, your email is not necessarily ‘personal’ when it comes to your employer. In today’s environment, there is no such thing as semi-public speech, and pure private speech is under heavy assault.
So what can you do? The first thing is to not be an obvious target. You can do that by following a few simple guidelines:
- NEVER use your JeffCo email for anything you do not want McMinimee or WNW to be able read. That email ID actually belongs to the District, which right now means WNW. They have the right to read anything you send or anything sent to you.
- NEVER use the JeffCo network, wired or wifi, to send personal emails or visit websites they may not like (such as ours). If you use JeffCo resources (i.e., their network and access to the internet) even with your own personal device, they have a right to snoop on what you send, receive, or where you electronically visit.
- NEVER keep anything on your JeffCo PC that is not strictly related to your job. Even using a USB drive is not necessarily safe. You may have on your USB keydrive the MS-Word file of your private diary in which you castigate some loopy decision by WNW, such as not funding additional free, full-day kindergarten for poor children. But if you edit it at work on your JeffCo PC, MS-Word generally will keep a copy of your document on the PC’s own hard drive for editing purposes and then ‘delete’ it…except it is not really deleted. Most of the time it is still there. Even a non-techie can find plenty of utilities that will be able to find that file and ‘recover’ it.
- ALWAYS use a private email address for private communications. We suggest using Google’s gmail or other free email service. The first and best step is simply to make sure that the email ID does NOT have your name or any other identifiable information in it. It should be generic enough that no one can do a simple search and discover that your dog’s name is your email ID. Pick something obscure that means something to you, such as “MileHighLife@gmail.com” or “TheAnswerIs42firstname.lastname@example.org”.
- If you are on District property and you need to send or receive a personal email, ALWAYS use your own computing device (i.e, laptop, smart phone, tablet, etc.) and a non-JeffCo link to the internet i.e., through a cell connection on your phone, or a mobile hotspot, or simply wait until you can go off the premise and use a local restaurants’ wifi.
- Even when you are at home, NEVER do anything private on your computer while connected to the District via a VPN link! That VPN link is designed to secure your communications with the District from outside prying eyes. But it also can serve as a tunnel INTO your computer.
- SECURE your Facebook account! Currently state law prohibits an employer from asking your for your Facebook password, but that does not mean they cannot snoop on what you have listed as public. Here is one article on securing your Facebook account. To be doubly secure, you may even want to create a Facebook account with your new email ID, but keep it anonymous. This way you can still link, comment, and join groups that you like without risking someone reporting your name as “disloyal”.
Many of you may think this is a bit extreme. Unfortunately, we must disagree. In addition to the reports coming out of DougCo, we have also heard from people who have been pressured to ‘de-friend’ us by co-workers or business partners. Others have told us they hesitate to ‘friend’ us for the same reasons.
If that is the case for you, we do understand. You can still receive notices of our posts by registering directly on our blog site: www.jeffcoschoolboardwatch.org. The notices of new posts will come directly to you in an email. Our list is private and your information will not be shared without your explicit consent.
Please note that our Facebook link is open to the public, but as we prepared this post, we realized that people who had ‘friended’ us, potentially have had that status made public through us. This may not matter for parents and community members, but can matter greatly to employees of JeffCo. So we have changed our setting on the viewing of Friends so that only we can see them. So long as you do not make your ‘friend’ list public, you should be safe from that standpoint.
Staying safely in touch! That is one way we enable ourselves to…