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.

10 thoughts on “9/22 Monday Post:

  1. Well Julie, maybe your next task is to change the mascot at Columbine High from Rebels to Good Citizens. After watching you in action on your curriculum committee approach you could start a school mascot committee. I wish you the same success. Go Rebels!

  2. I have supported you until now. For you to characterize Denver Post editorial writers as “ardent conservatives,” nothing could be further from the truth and you have lost all credibility with me. You just inadvertently revealed yourself to be a far-left activist, if you really think the Post is ardently conservative. I will support your cause but I won’t trust anything I read on this message board from now on.

    • We regret that you feel that way. However, the Denver Post is known as a conservative paper, especially their editorial board. On the other hand, the Colorado Independent is a strongly liberal or progressive news media source. The Nation is conservative. Salon and The Atlantic, trend liberal.

      Since JeffCo School Board Watch is made up of liberals, conservatives, moderates, independents, and others, we work hard not to take ideological sides. In part, we do this by noting the political orientation, whenever possible, of a source we are citing. The point we were trying to make in that reference was that Julie Williams proposal is so extreme that not only do liberal/progressive sources find it chilling, so do conservative ones.

      As far as being a far-left activist, we do have a few. We have about the same number of staunch right-wing conservatives. That is the point. The WNM+Williams quasi-triumvirate is making decisions that greatly concerns people of almost every political stripe.

  3. You couldn’t be more wrong about the Post.

    • Perhaps it is a matter of perspective. In either case, rest assured that JeffCo School Board Watch is made up of people from every political stripe. The only agenda we have is the best interest of children and their schools.

  4. Drove down Alameda around 1:30 today and at Green Mnt. High the street was lined with school kids waving signs in support of their teachers and their education. As a child of the 60’s it warms my heart to see the youth take positive action for their own future. As mentioned many times previously, these kids are in very good company in the history of this country.

  5. Mr. Meyer,

    As to whether the Denver Post’s Editorial Board is Conservative or Liberal, I believe that you are the one who is mistaken.

    All one has to do is look upon its works and see the slant that it has taken.

    In just the last two minutes, I have found two articles depicting its Conservative slant. One article is an endorsement or Dougco Schools repudiation of the new food service rules brought about by the efforts of Mrs. Obama and others.

    The second article parrots the new tactic of the Religious Right to say, basically, that anything that doesn’t allow it to promote its agenda how, where and when it wants to is somehow religious persecution. As if ANYONE in the Religious Right would have a freaking CLUE what that is really like.

    Have we burned any of the Heretics at the stake yet? I am pretty sure that’d be a “No.”

    Vincent Carroll, the Chief of the Editorial Board, has been in the game since before 1982 and is well known for his Conservative bias.

    Against all of that, how can you say, with a straight face, that the Denver Post’s Editorial Board is Liberal or even has, however remotely, a liberal lean?

    The Chief of the Editorial B

  6. We should mention again how important our children are while we continue to demoralize and under pay our teachers. Just in case anyone forgot how much we really value our kids.

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