People who tried to comment throughout the show fell into one of three groups. The first, our young heroes from part 1 of our story. Second, parents of current and recently graduated students with researched presentations, champions of our Jeffco schools. And third, the graying constituents with somewhat rambling and repeated talking points, the well-meaning, but misled pawns of WNW.
Our Jeffco champions talking points mostly boiled down to concerns about the proposed astroturf charters. The same concerns the district review teams had of the charters that were before the board for a vote.
The first, Alexandria School of Innovation. As we previously reported there were major concerns surrounding the board structure, rumors of the founders’ previous mismanagement and a charter that forbid board members to question the Executive Director in public (keep in mind the founder has been submitting Yourhub articles and signing e-mails as the proposed school leader).
One champion corroborated these fears and more. He was hired by the founders’ previous STEM school board to remove them from the school for mismanagement, a task he hoped to avoid by repairing the damage. Below is a clip of what he discovered and why the founders were ultimately removed:
Another champion, however, took a different approach. This speaker did the diligent research that ASI had not, by investigating the need for a STEM school in the proposed charter area. The map below, alone, answered the question.
But this champion of public schools went farther, highlighting the incredible programs Jeffco public schools have to offer. Perhaps, the BOE would benefit from hiring her, rather than a high priced PR firm, to show how our schools are succeeding. However, that isn’t the story WNW wants told. They prefer the fictional tale of failing schools, that do not adjust to various learning styles and needs.
Our third key champion, a charter advocate, could not even support Golden View Classical Academy. She questioned the lengthy list of waivers they had requested. Waivers on workplace violence, bullying, discrimination and MORE (In fact, the most the district rep had EVER seen). Quite frankly, nothing we can write could substitute for the eloquent presentation she prepared. Therefore, we are opting to post her speech:
We are a diverse group of parents who support choice options in Jeffco, including charter schools. But Golden View is a school unlike any other charter in Jeffco in many respects.
Golden View will partner with both Hillsdale College and Colorado Christian University. The partnership with Hillsdale, a private conservative Christian college is integral to Golden View.
Hillsdale is the PRIMARY model for the school
It will be responsible for curriculum development and train every teacher annually.
1. These partnerships may violate the Colorado Constitution. Golden View and Hillsdale have a mission to be a “trustee of the Judeo-Christian faith”. There are many faiths in Judaism and Christianity. Which sectarian “faith” is this mission referring to? In a letter to you this week, Congressman Jared Polis also expresses this concern.
[To the board] If parents show evidence of a Christian undertone at Golden View, how will you respond?
2. Will Golden View be a conservative political indoctrination school? Hillsdale is known for its extreme conservative political activism. There are numerous conservative political associations with the founder of this school and our board majority. This school will teach American Exceptionalism and will implement a political education.
[To the board:] If parents show evidence of political indoctrination in this school, what will you do?
3. The mission of Golden View includes “instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue.” What does Golden View consider immoral? Hillsdale has an explicit policy against homosexuality and refused Federal funds so that it does not have to comply with Federal civil rights laws. With the Golden View framework, vision, mission and philosophy pulled straight from Hillsdale, the principal and teachers likely culled and/or trained from their ranks, this raises serious concerns. A position that homosexuality is wrong does not belong as a philosophy of a public school. A school that discriminates is wrong.
Golden View wants to be exempt from when, how and what is taught about Human Sexuality. They want to be exempt from District policies on unlawful discrimination and equal opportunity in hiring. They want to be exempt from the District Policy preventing discrimination against students based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. Why is Golden View asking for these exemptions?
[To the board:] What will you do if Golden View teaches the morals of a specific faith? What happens if a homosexual child is expelled? When hiring teachers, whom do they want to discriminate against?
4. Golden View wants a self-perpetuating board. In Jeffco charters are parent-run schools. Why do they fear parents?
5. Golden View supporters first and foremost say that they will replicate high-performing Ridgeview and D’Evelyn. But the application states that Hillsdale is the primary model for this school. Ridgeview and D’Evelyn are not Hillsdale schools. D’Evelyn is not even a classical school. Other Hillsdale schools have made similar claims to obtain their charters. Yet none of them are stellar performers like Ridgeview. This is simply hype and marketing.
Ridgeview and D’Evelyn have selective student populations that score higher on tests. They have very few poor and special education children. No wonder these schools have high scores. Mr. McMinimee states that new charters should mirror the demographics of the articulation area. Congressman Polis also mentions this concern.
[To the board:] What will you do to ensure Golden View does not enroll a highly selective student population to obtain higher test scores?
We suggest you reject this charter application. The partnership with Hillsdale is very concerning. No wonder the Hillsdale partnership is not in the main talking points for Golden View supporters tonight.
And we would be remiss not to mention two very unique champions of the night.
One, a Chatfield High teacher. A teacher who came merely to give moral support to his students. After watching his students marched from the room he put up one last fight. When Ashlyn’s (remember the wonderful young woman’s story from 2 days ago) name was called this teacher decided to approach the podium with her speech in hand.
Before he could give the speech the mic was pushed away by security and the teacher attempted to return to his seat. However, security would not allow him to remain in the room. Upon his departure we heard a statement we fear we will hear more from our valiant teachers, ‘I don’t know how much longer I will be teaching in Jeffco.’
The other unique champion, was a Westminster councilman. A man brave enough to stand up for what is RIGHT rather than what would benefit him. If you have been following our tale, then perhaps you remember that WNW voted to cede valuable land to the city. Land that Jeffco has possessed for years.
Councilman Baker implored the BOE to fight the THEFT of this land. He spoke of the guise of urban renewal that had been used to abscond the land. (We ask how is this FISCALLY responsible? Not to mention what precedent it might set for other cities to do the same to Jeffco.)
And finally we had the board pawns of our story. This group consisted in large part of Jeffco voters who no longer had children in the schools. In fact, far enough removed from those days that their exposure to what goes on inside today’s classrooms is questionable.
The board pawns seemed much less prepared as their speeches often began about the need for choices (with no actual explanation of WHY they were needed) and then veered into statements about reading. Some veered off into stories about the good old days and that kids should be reading by the third grade (at which point we question their exposure to schools today, since even our Kindergarten classes send home leveled reading books).
One defended GVCA stating that some people WANT to go to Hillsdale College. (We do not argue with that. The argument is with religion in PUBLIC schools.) Another championed charters because they are willing to adjust to a kid’s needs. (Perhaps this speaker should ask a public school teacher about the practice of differentiation. Or perhaps the speaker could benefit from visiting the myriad of options that exist.)
What was also noteworthy as you watch the video is some of the ‘board pawn’ groups look large in number. But as you continue to watch it appears the show had difficulty in casting, so the extras are used repeatedly throughout the night.
(Since everyone is supposed to only speak once, does getting up with the same group 4 times constitute a board violation? Of course, board violations seem to not apply if you are pro-WNW. Although speaking for another student was STRICTLY enforced, Witt and Miller allowed pro-WNW Individuals, signed up as such, to speak as groups when the recycled extras joined them on stage. So which rules are we following at the next meeting Mr. Witt?)
One board pawn speech did at least list off reasons why they want more charters. The reasons could be a post alone and are indeed good ones: smaller class size, ability to move ahead, encourage parental support.
(Narrator: All of these are indeed factors that affect student achievement so let’s look at them. Smaller class sizes are why Jeffco passed 3A/3B, however, WNW has stated they are not bound to that promise. Why are they not willing to give these same advantages to our public schools?
Differentiation does exist within our public schools. Some schools practice it better than others, but it isn’t unique to charter schools.
Parental support – yes charters usually have more parental support. Why? In part because charters siphon the families with the means and time to provide transportation and support. Look at the FRL percentages on charter for further proof. That said, I have yet to be in a public school that DISCOURAGED parental support. I’ve never had a teacher say please don’t help us. Quite the opposite. What we do have are schools with a population that is unable to provide that extra support. Read our post on the National Public Education and Real Reform on how we improve upon this situation.)
Of course the closing speaker perhaps topped the list for performing as a board pawn, while casting our villain in a true light. As we reach the close of public comment Miller announced a last minute addition to the show. Someone who said she had technical issues signing up texted him personally and so he was adding her to the list.
(So what rules are we following now Mr. Witt? Oh the new rule, if you have the board attorney’s personal mobile number you can be added to public comment. Can you point us to that policy?)
Of course this brought on more audience participation as a member of the audience complained that she had asked to be added at a previous meeting when she had technical difficulties with the system. And WITT DENIED her request. What was Witt’s response to the audience member?
“IF YOU ARE HONEST”. Yes, in the spotlight and on stage Mr. Witt accused a parent of lying about technical difficulties.
Dahlkemper, like the crowd, was appalled and asked him if he had just accused her of lying. Witt SAID NO. (Really??!! REALLY!?!? That sound like my teenager talking to his younger sibling. I didn’t call him a liar. I just said he wasn’t honest.) Of course as parents and teachers the crowd knows that type of double speak. So when he said no shouts were heard throughout the room of “YES.” Yes you called her a liar.
There were also shouts of RULES. But again we see rules are only important when convenient. When Witt and Miller wish to shut down the opposition, there are rules. Or when they wish to shutdown the students, the rules are STRICTLY enforced. (To see the entire Public Comment section click here: Jefferson County (JeffCo) Board of Education, Regular Meeting, Public Comment, 11/06/2014 )
As we close the scene of public comment Boardwatch is left with a question. WILL MR. MILLER be providing his mobile number to every member of the district in case we have technical difficulties?
But that is just one question that public comment left me personally wondering. The bigger question is –
Who does this board serve?
There were truly three main groups at the board meeting. Who did this board serve?
Was it the students? Students whose voices Witt refused to hear. Yes, sometimes adults know what is best for their kids, especially in the younger years. But kids are not easily fooled. They know if they have a good and happy teacher. They know if they have a school that is thriving. Is there simply an attitude of arrogance within WNW that they believe they always know more than the students?
Was it the parents? Keep in mind very few parents showed up to speak on behalf of these charters. Most were against the charters and against the review committee. Read the board correspondence. The JEFFCO RECORD setting correspondence from parents. If anyone wants what is TRULY best for students, it is the parents.
Was it the voters? 70% of voters do not have kids in school. WNW talk about PARENTS having choice. But they seem to listen the most to the older voters with no children in school. Voters who have nothing at stake and still view schools as they were 20+ years ago.
It cannot be the community. Conflict in the school system can affect home values. Poor education can affect the future of businesses. And the dismantling of neighborhood schools, such as in Dougco or North Los Angeles, dismantles the whole concept of community.
Who does this board serve?
Who should it serve? There is obviously no one answer. But one thing seems to be clear. WNW is not listening to anyone outside of their own extreme political supporters. Supporters, that based on the recent public comment and Tea Party event in Evergreen, are an aging group that no longer has real involvement in today’s public schools.
Board members were once viewed as public servants. Quite frankly, with comments like ‘if you’re honest’ it is difficult to believe that Witt would ever humble himself to the act of being a servant. If there is any part of the ‘good old days’ we could go back to, maybe this is it. If WNW could view themselves as servants of the schools/students rather than dictators of an extreme a political and social agenda then students would not be protesting, parents not complaining, teachers not leaving, and our future not darkening.
So we leave this part of the story with a question for Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk, and Ms. Williams:
Who does this board serve!?
Because it is not JeffCo.