9/8: WNM+Williams – Breaking Trust, Breaking Faith, Breaking the Rules

broken-trustAt the Board Meeting last Thursday (9/4), Witt, Newkirk, Miller plus the blind support from Julie Williams, showed us just what we can expect out of Board meetings now that McMinimee has begun to exert control over the District and WNM have decided that they can rely on the blind following by Julie Williams.  The Reformista Train has been assembled and is beginning to rumble down the tracks.

(Side note: it seems only appropriate that we change our acronym, since Miller now is more obviously acting as a peer of Witt and Newkirk, whereas Williams is acting as the bewildered, but loyal tag-along.  She apparently takes betrayal and neglect by Witt and Miller as a minor thing.)

At almost every point in the meeting, WNM+Williams is ignoring the Board’s rules, their own previous promises, logic, reason, and democratic principles.  In short, they are not doing things the “American Way”.

In doing so, they are breaking their own rules.  By breaking those rules they are now  side-stepping public notification of pending Board actions, blind-siding Board members not part of their clique (i.e., Fellman and Dahlkemper), and are poisoning the well of public trust for democratic government.

For example, let us look at the specific description of the first two items on last Thursday’s agenda.  Below is the exact, verbatim Agenda Item Details for items 1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation and 1.03 Board Attorney Work. Pay careful attention to Type of item each one is supposed to be:

1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation
Meeting      Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting

Category    Study/Dialogue Session 5:30 pm
Subject       Proposed Model on Compensation
Type            Discussion, Information

estimated time: 5:30 p.m. (estimated duration: 30 minutes)

PRESENTING STAFF:
Amy Weber, Chief Human Resources Officer

Lorie Gillis, Chief Financial Officer
Jim Branum, District Legal Counsel

PURPOSE:
To further discuss Board of Education requested information regarding funding of the teacher compensation proposal presented to the Board at its meeting on August 28, 2014.

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1.02 Board Attorney Work
Meeting      Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting
Category    Study/Dialogue Session 5:30 pm
Subject       Board Attorney Work
Type            Discussion

estimated time: 6:00 p.m. (estimated duration: 20 minutes)

PRESENTING STAFF:
Brad A. Miller, board attorney

Dan M. McMinimee, superintendent

PURPOSE:
For the Board of Education to discuss the scope of work for the board attorney and past eight months of work with the Board of Education.

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In 1.02, the “Type” field shows “Discussion, Information”.  In 1.03, the “Type” field shows only “Discussion”.

Now look at items 7.01 and 7.02 under the Discussion section of the Agenda:

7.01 Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) Resolutions and Delegate Selection
Meeting              Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting

Category            Discussion Agenda
Subject               Colorado Association of School Boards Resolutions and Delegate Selection (GP-1)
Type                    Action, Discussion
Recommended Action    to appoint a member to represent Jeffco Schools Board of Education at the CASB Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly in September and the CASB Annual Conference in December.

estimated time: 8:35 p.m. (estimated duration: 30 minutes)

PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. The Board of Education will review the resolutions directing the efforts of the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) during the 2015 legislative session and provide guidance to the Board’s delegate to the Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly on September 26-27, 2014.
  2. The Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) holds its annual Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly in September in preparation for legislative work in Colorado on public education.
  3. At the Delegate Assembly, positions are taken on resolutions which effect state school districts.  As the largest k-12 school district in the state, the work of CASB may impact the district’s work.

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7.02 Monitoring: EL-6, Financial Administration
Meeting              Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting
Category            Discussion Agenda
Subject               Monitoring: EL-6, Financial Administration
Type                    Action
Recommended Action    to approve the monitoring report on Board executive limitation policy, EL-6, Financial Administration.
Goals                  EL-6, Financial Administration

estimated time: 9:05 p.m. (estimated duration: 5 minutes)

PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. An important component of the Board of Education’s governance model isGP-6, Annual Work Plan exhibit and  GP-6, Annual Work Plan policy which provide a schedule for monitoring the work of the superintendent.
  2. The monitoring report on Board executive limitation policy,EL-6, Financial Administration, is scheduled for review four times a year: September, November, February and June.
  3. The monitoring report is brought forward to approve the superintendent’s reasonable interpretation of the executive limitation.

——————————————–

Did you notice the difference?  Items on which the Board is expected to take an action, have as Agenda Type “Action” followed by a Recommended Action and a list of Pertinent Facts. Further, these items occur after public comment has been made on agenda items.  So the any action the Board takes is after they have heard from the public on it. But both of the items in the “Study/Dialogue” section show only “Discussion” or “Discussion, Information” with no “Recommended Action” and no list of “Pertinent Facts” and are held before public comment. Why?  Because no action was supposed to be taken on this items!

But it was.  In the first case, Witt used an almost “oh, by the way” maneuver at the 8/25 meeting (see our post) to get his and Miller’s ‘compensation plan’ into the minutes, officially making it the first meeting in which it is mentioned.  Then in this meeting, he and Miller list it under the “Study/Dialogue” portion, which technically means that no action on the subject was to be taken in that meeting.  But now this is the second meeting in which it is brought up.  So with Julie Williams slavishly following Witt, WNW voted to cram a new compensation program down the throats of the District, the Teachers, and the Taxpayers.

Then they did it again.  Witt & Miller listed the Miller contract for “Discussion” and then broke the Board’s own rules again by pushing in an unscheduled, inappropriate motion to extend Miller’s contract for 12 months.

And they did so before hearing a single word from the public on these actions!

In short, WNM+Williams mugged Dahlkemper, Fellman, the JCEA, and the JeffCo community and taxpayers.

What puzzles us most is:  Why are they doing this?

We do not mean why are they pushing through their highly partisan and political agenda. We expected nothing less. What has been puzzling us is why are they playing dirty political games in order to do it?

They do not have to!  They have the majority.  They could follow every rule to a “t”, allowing Dahlkemper and Fellman a full and respectful time period in which to raise their objections, and still vote their agenda through.  They could have simply said back in the Spring, “We have already decided on McMinimee from DougCo as our next Superintendent” instead of going through the charade (and expense) of a ‘national’ search. They could have proposed Witt & Miller’s compensation plan, allowed for full discussion, and then voted to approve it in the October regular meeting.  They could accomplish everything they have set out to accomplish in an above-board, honest, and open fashion.

But they choose not to.

Why?

We do not have an answer.  We do have some speculations, but they feel incomplete. Perhaps, some of us at the Watch have said, they cannot really believe that they are a majority, and so still act like a minority, sneaking their items through.  Others argue that their actions indicate that they fear how the public might react if the full extent of their destructive goals were known. A small number wonder if they have a dual goal:  not only destroy the school district, but also destroy the publics’ trust in its’ governing institutions (this is sometimes referred to as a ‘scorched earth’ strategy) thus preventing any real rebuilding of the District.

Whatever the reason, one effect is already apparent. Most observers of the Board would now trust a used car salesman sight unseen before they would trust Ken Witt, John Newkirk, or Brad Miller.  They might trust the word of Julie Williams, but only so long as Witt is not around to crack the whip on her.

A quick summation of the actual actions is below:

Agenda Item/Type

1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation / Discussion, Information
Contrary to Robert’s Rules of Order and the Board’s own policies, an unscheduled motion to adopt this model was made and passed over the vehement objections of Dahlkemper and Fellman.  In our estimation, if this model is put into force, District legal costs will go up, the average District teaching experience will go down.  Trust in the District leadership by the average teacher, already incredibly low, will drop further.  McMinimee is already showing his true colors by not fighting this tooth and nail to protect his best teachers.  The best and most experienced teachers will leave, fleeing to Districts that know how to value them (this is already occurring – see Support Jeffco Kids post on this).

1.03 Board Attorney Work / Discussion
After Miller and McMinimee consumed the vast majority of the alloted 20 minutes, mainly complaining how ‘unfair’ the observations and comments have been on how he was contracted, why he was contracted, and his actions taken while under contract.  At this point, Harry Truman’s adage, “If you can’t stand the heat…” started running through our heads.  

Newkirk, showing himself to be in command of inappropriate and inaccurate remarks, while not in command of rational thought, logic, reasoning, and accuracy by stating that since both Dahlkemper and Fellmans’ husbands are attorneys, they (Dahlkemper & Fellman) get free legal advice, so it is only appropriate that Witt, Williams, and himself get taxpayer-funded advice(?).  This really offended Fellman, who pointed out that her husband works on local government law, not education law.  Newkirk, sticking his other foot in it, said that Witt told him that Fellman’s husband was heavily involved in the Lobato case, which Fellman hotly denied.  All of that was, of course, another effort by Newkirk at misdirection.  (Is Witt feeding these dumb attacks to Newkirk?  If so, is it only Williams nose Witt has a ring in?)

At the end of it, again, contrary to Robert’s Rules of Order and the Board’s own policies, an unscheduled motion to extend Miller’s contract for 12 months was made and passed over the strong objections of Dahlkemper and Fellman.  

Initially, our opinion was this was a very needless action on the part of WNM+Williams…unless they fear that they are going to lose control of the board in the next year (are they hearing the word ‘recall’ in their darker moments?).  Upon further thought, we now believe that WNM+Williams will use this action to try to shut down any further efforts on Dahlkemper and Fellman’s part to keep raising the issue.  We hope and trust that this effort fails.  In the meantime, Miller has already sucked up over $60,000 of taxpayer money already.  Now he gets a least another $90,000.

The next two items we thought worth following were

5.06 Charter School Application – Alexandria School of Innovation

and

5.07 Charter School Application – Golden View Classical Academy

Since these were on the Consent Agenda, there was no discussion, and indeed, not much that could be done either way.  Anyone can submit an application.  Both now enter the evaluation process.  Both applications have serious flaws (see our post), including in how the Boards limit inclusion of parents and are structured to make sure that the originating organizations never lose control of them.  In the past, JeffCo staff have cited this last issue as something that needs to be fixed before the application is approved. How this will fare under McMinimee with WNM+Williams pulling his strings remains to be seen, but we are not hopeful.

Note:  Every single existing charter school in JeffCo needs to be very concerned about this. If these two applications, which have governing boards that cannot be run by the parents, are approved, then existing charter schools may try to change their Board member selection process.  This would functionally eliminate parental influence over a charter school’s activities, curriculum, agenda, teacher selection, and management.

This corporatization of charter schools threatens not only severe disruption of traditional school districts, but imperils the entire concept of public education and democracy.  When parents and taxpayers have no say in what schools are approved (or disapproved), what teachers are hired and under what conditions, what management style is used, what disciplinary actions can be taken, what textbooks are used, and what is actually taught, then we no longer have a public school system and we will have lost another key part of our democracy.

We strongly encourage current charter school parents to thoroughly think through the ramifications of these new types of ‘charter’ schools.  In our opinion, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

6.01 2015/2016 Budget Development Process

1) School Accountability Committees are supposed to have more say in what an individual schools budget priorities are.  That has been on the road map for sometime.

2) WNM+Williams really did not like last years community survey on budget priorities, and so promptly ignored the results.  This year, the District says a third party tool will be used.  Our projection is that WNW will probably not like the results of any truly non-biased survey and will continue to find fault with the results and ignore them.

3) Lori Gillis is very excited by the idea of Student Based Budgeting.  Apparently, JeffCo ha been looking into this for the last three years.  Training of principals begins next month.  There was no real explanation of ‘locked’ versus ‘unlocked’ resources, or what kind of dollars are assigned to various needs or categories.  As our previous post put it, “The devil is in the detail” and we want to see all the detail as soon as possible.

7.01 Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) Resolutions and Delegate Selection

First, Jill Fellman is currently JeffCo’s delegate to CASB.  Since this was a holdover from pre-WNW days, no one expected that to last much longer.  WNM+Williams voted to make Newkirk the new delegate, but they may run into a snag.  The same snag may be blocking the resolutions they wanted to present at CASB…since the registration time for the conference delegates and resolutions may already be past.  (Isn’t that what the Board Secretary’s position is supposed to track, Mr. Newkirk?  Did Mr. Miller fail to warn you?)

None this may make much of a difference since Witt already said he did not see much value in JeffCo being a part of CASB.  Many observers feel this is preparatory to a WNM+Williams adopting another DougCo stance and functionally pull out of CASB.

7.03 Committee to Study Common Core, PARCC and AP History

This was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting at Williams request.  She wants a committee to examine the PARCC test, Common Core compliant curriculum, and AP U.S. History texts for historical distortions (can you say ‘un-American influences’?).  Surprisingly, Williams went along with Witt on tabling this issue until the next meeting.

We find ourselves in an odd place.  We are horrified at Williams efforts in this vein, as it smacks of censorship and an effort to ‘cleanse’ our students history textbooks of anything even remotely critical of the United States in general, or Williams’ personal American mythology in specifics.  On the other hand, to watch Witt once again have her on a leash and give Williams a tug, functionally saying “Down, girl!”, may even be more repulsive.

Williams obeyed Witt yet again.  And once again, lost face in front of her supporters. We are left to wonder how long will she allow that to go on….

The next scheduled Board meeting is September 18th.  The agenda has not yet been posted, but the Board Work Calendar (which WNM+Williams is only following about 60% of the time) should include Community Engagement with the JeffCo Diversity Council (there is that word that Witt hates!) and Facilities Planning.  As soon as the agenda is published we will work to get a post out on it.

In the meantime, don’t let WNM+Williams get you down.  In the long run they can only win if we don’t…

Keep Fighting, Jeffco!

2 thoughts on “9/8: WNM+Williams – Breaking Trust, Breaking Faith, Breaking the Rules

  1. This was, by far, the worst meeting yet in terms of how the three of them behaved. What really alarms me is that I’ve seen their supporters speak to the board in the past about the AP History text. They want a text, with a forward from Rush Limbaugh that removes references to slavery and other important elements of REAL and ACCURATE American history, to replace current AP history texts. This is most likely where Williams and the board majority is going. Teaching our kids Re-Written history to suit a particular political agenda should scare us all.

  2. The I’ll do it if I want too is sadly on the track. Teachers in essence have no contract. The board majority and upper levels of the administration shows no respect and understanding of the long history of cooperation and collaboration that is a trade mark of the Jefferson County schools. As I see the board majority encourage corporate charter schools, ignore the fact finders report, and violate their own rules and the contract, I am sickened by what it is doing to our school district and the 84000 students. What has taken decades to achieve is being destroyed by a wrecking ball mentality in one year and these mean spirited terrorists have at least three more years to do their dirty work. In the mean time those who can find other opportunities or retire rightfully go else where. What is left behind is a sad state of affairs. Fortunately, my career in Jeffco and my five children who went all the way through Jeffco schools are just a memory of what was. Although, Jeffco schools were not always right we always tried to listen, collaborate, and work together. I fear for my grandchildren who will not have the same opportunity. What a sad state of affairs. We must fight on together.

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