Something you can do right now!

We are all madder than h*ll right now.  Today saw our Superintendent resign because of a deliberately hostile and abusive  work environment.  Over 260 people witnessed it happening.  Since then, over 1,200 of you have visited this site.  Probably even more of you visited the Facebook page of Transparency Jeffco (you need to have logged into Facebook).  Almost all us of furious.  Whether or not you liked everything Dr. Stevenson did, you DO NOT drive away a superintendent of her caliber.

So we are angry…but what can we do about it right now?

How about filling out a survey?

No, we are not kidding!

The JeffCo Schools Budget Survey is out and it is far more important than any other time.  The reason is that the WNW+Miller Board (“Witt-Newkirk-Williams”) will try to use the survey results to justify their bizarre vision of what they think JeffCo should look like.  Not filling out this survey will really help WNW+Miller and their hidden financial backers.

Remember, these people thrive on public indifference.  That is the only way their extreme views have a chance.  By  filling out the Survey with care and thought, you make it that much harder to justify their actions, goals, and beliefs.

So fill it out!  Get your friends and family in JeffCo to do the same. Here is the link again:  JeffCo Schools Budget Survey.

Do it as if the education of your kids, grandkids, neighborhood kids, and JeffCo’s kids depends on it…because it does.

22 thoughts on “Something you can do right now!

  1. I am sorry I don’t live in Jefferson County, but I have family that does. This really hits home in several ways: Education, especially adequately funding PUBLIC education is crucial to our survival as a country. Having leaders who know how to lead to that goal is important as is paying appropriately both the teachers and staff and the leaders (superintendents and principals). Taking public funds for PUBLIC education and funding privately-run schools will never be in the best interests of those who voted for you. Reducing funding for educators will lead to a less educated public and impact everyone’s success in the future.
    Also, private closed meetings of officials voted in by their constituents should not be tolerated. Secret meetings always lead one to suspect dark dealings as seems to have happened in this case.

    • Please provide proof of secret meetings.

      • We think she was referring to the multiple time Witt has tried to move controversial Board discussions into Executive Sessions from which the public is barred and no detailed minutes are published. There is plenty of evidence of that, including trying to force Executive Session at the General meeting on January 16th when refusing to approve a replacement for Alan Taggert, or the General meeting on February 6th when Witt tried to schedule a confrontational meeting with Cindy Stevenson as an Executive Session.

  2. She left on her own accord. She was not forced and was paid out for the rest of her outrageously high contract. Not to mention has accepted another position with another organization. If she truly believed in what she was doing, she would stay and fight her battle instead of leaving because she didn’t get her way! This Board was elected by the PARENTS to this district to make changes and clean house, which is exactly what they are doing. Stevenson spent irresponsibly and it is time for some new leadership that have the kids best interest in mind, not more layers of out- of-classroom beuracracy.

    • We beg to disagree.

      Stevenson tried to leave gracefully and finish out her contract. That is why she announced a few days after the election her intent to retire at the end of the school year. The NWN+Miller Board, instead of allowing her that time and learning from a nationally recognized Superintendent, badgered, back-stabbed, humiliated, and threatened her (review the Jan 16th board meeting video). Stevenson was hired to be a school superintendent, not a Navy SEAL. She found the environment too abusive and was not being allowed to do her job. The Board was getting ready to either overtly fire or rake her over the coals again in a very public fashion. So she jumped rather than wait to be pushed.

      And as far as her “outrageously high contract”, she earned less than half the hourly rate that NWN+Miller gave Brad Miller. If Mr. Miller were to work on District business 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year (unpaid two week vacation), he would make $450,000 a year! Cindy was making a bit over $200k for many more hours and know HOW to run a billion dollar school district.

      The new members of the board were elected on the promise to increase choice. Instead, all three initially voted against expanding the Deer Creek STEM program to the 6th grade – after they had voted four weeks earlier to send letters to parents, announcing it’s creation. The expansion was re-authorized by the two veteran members of the Board, Dalhlkemper and Fellman plus Julie Williams at the January 16th Board Meeting. Witt and Newkirk both voted against it. In short – the new members were taking away choice, not expanding it.

      As far as Stevenson spending irresponsibly, it was under Stevenson’s guidance that the District got through recession with it’s core programs intact and the Reserve fund never hitting bottom. It is the new Board members that are trying to drain down the Reserve fund to give money to their pet projects.

      It is the new board members who are fascinated with fadish and trademarked “systems” and are wanting to adopt them wholesale without hesitation. It was under Stevenson that promising new ideas and techniques would be carefully tested and monitored at select schools for actual results (instead of sales promises). Programs that worked would be tweaked to get even better and then be rolled out to the District as a whole.

      It was Stevenson and the old Board that opposed sending $400,000 to a Charter school that mismanaged itself into serious financial trouble. Thanks to the “clean house” efforts of WNW+Miller, the District nows has almost a million dollars spent or at risk with four Charter schools the District’s audit firm flagged as being in trouble.

      In short – the NWN+Miller board has showed itself to be arrogant, close-minded, capricious, and secretive. It cares little or nothing for our kids. It cares only about trying to make the District over into it’s own bizarre dysfunctional vision of education.

      • Clear, concise and to the point. Well said jcsbw!

      • Just wow. Get your facts straight. Witt and Newkirk opposed the STEM program at Deer Creek because Stevenson approved it – without board approval or community input. There is a process for these things, and she ignored it. Backstabbed? Are you kidding me? She announced her resignation at their very first board meeting, then took another job. The facts are now out that she confessed to requesting the executive session on February 8 to negotiate an early release from her contract.

        • Our facts are straight. Please review the video posted at Transparency Jeffco on Facebook. The STEM expansion to 6th grade was a ‘planned’ expansion that had been in the works for months. Witt was taped saying the excess capacity at could be used for a Charter School. But he approved the mailing out of the STEM letters to the parents. At the next General meeting, he killed the STEM expansion because “it would limit the choices of GT students”, a statement which Cindy Stevenson immediately said was not the case. Also, there had been community input. The majority were in favor of it. A few were opposed. This was evident at the Jan 16th meeting by how many parents (and kids) spoke in favor of it vs. those opposed.

          There have been a LOT of accusations that Cindy Stevenson simply wanted to leave early. Based on the evidence of the mistrust, misuse, and abuse she was subjected to in the public meetings, it would be hard to blame her. However, those allegations do not take into account the mysterious scheduling over the course of a month by Witt of review of key policies related solely to relationship between the Superintendent and the Board, culminating in a surprise addition to the Feb 8th study session of an Executive Session concerning Cindy Stevenson. We believe it was a situation where she jumped before she was pushed.

  3. Is anyone trying to organize a recall? I would like to help.

  4. I’d simply like to add one more comment in reply to the false statement that these new board members were elected by the parents to “clean house” in our fine school district. Elections don’t just involve parents – they include all voters (US History 101). And I firmly believe these 3 were elected primarily because they ran on an “oppose Amendment 66 tax increase” platform (a critical piece of putting our state’s education system back in truly working order that voters shortsightedly rejected). Put simply, the fine people of this county had no idea what hidden agendas these 3 actually had. I’m a parent of a Jeffco student and I didn’t even know for sure! Every organization can gain from new perspectives and fresh dialog, but secret agendas, closed door meetings, hiring a lawyer for the board alone as a first action – these are NOT actions to improve a district, but to undermine it!

    • There is no hidden agenda. They are concerned parents who answered the call to get involved with the board to improve transparency and fiscal responsibility. Nothing subservise about that. Anyone can run, and the one with the most votes wins. In this case, these candidates won by OVERWHELMING majorities.

      • 1) Someone pushed over $250,000 into the JeffCo School Board Election, financing a very expensive mailing campaign to targeted voters, claiming to be strictly an ‘issue mailer’ yet mysteriously always ‘accidentally’ including visible ads for WNW.
        2) In December both the JeffCo and Thompson School Boards (out of Loveland) propose hiring Brad Miller as each Board’s personal attorney. The Thompson Board which met first, two days before the JeffCo meeting. The Thompson Board President Kerrigan announced that Brad Miller was already the Attorney for the JeffCo board. This was two days before the meeting where Witt brought up the proposal of hiring of Brad Miller. Somehow, Kerrigan knew Miller was hired by the JeffCo Board before the non-WNW JeffCo board members even knew hiring an Attorney was on the agenda.
        3) The WNW+Miller Board refused the motion to discuss Miller’s contract, even though it is (at a minimum) $90,000 per year.
        4) The WNW+Miller Board approved a $400,000 loan to a troubled Charter school that is in financial trouble due to their own mishandling of funds (no oversight by the District is permitted).
        5) Reports are surfacing of routine job hirings being put on hold.
        6) The WNW+Miller Board attempted to stop the rebuilding of the Reserve fund by diverting $7 million, 1/3 of which was to go to District Charter Schools.
        7) The WNW+Miller Board’s minions are now stooping to photographing license plates and covertly taping open meetings of those opposed to WNW+Miller’s policies and actions. (see our post “Intimidation at Community Forum”).
        8) The ‘overwhelming majority’ in fact was only about 20% of registered voters. They won mainly by forfeit…a mistake that will not be made again.

        Nobody pours a quarter of million dollars into a School Board election and then makes it up as they go. Someone has an agenda that they are not sharing with the general public. Two School Board 70 miles apart both finding a need for and hiring the same attorney at the same time over the same objections also points at some plan long prepared. And the so-called ‘fiscal discipline’ they were to bring is beginning to look like an opening of the candy store doors for the Charter schools.

        When you see this much smoke, something must be burning….

  5. The teacher’s union is the single biggest impediment to quality education. Why are they so afraid of choice and competition? Parents pay for schools, and parents should have some say in their child’s education. We need more schools like D’Evelyn, fewer nasty union bureaucrats like Stevenson. She cared not a whit about the kids, and she will not be missed.

    • Shawn,

      We disagree with your statement on so many levels, it’s hard to know where to begin.

      1) The biggest impediment to Education is a gross lack of funding. Money may not solve every problem, but the lack of money makes any problem a lot worse.
      2) Why do you think choice and competition will make education better? Markets work well for some things and poorly for others. Market systems create winners and losers. Do we want to say that ‘x’ number of kids will ‘lose’ and that’s okay? What is the price to those kids? And to society that now has to deal with them? The solution is not ‘competition’ but improving all schools.
      3) Yes. Parents pay for schools, but so do non-parents. So does everyone in our society, through both direct and indirect taxes. And you do have a say in your child’s education. You have that say every time you talk to a teacher, help a school activity, remind your child to do his or her homework, participate in a school fund-raiser, pay your taxes, and vote. I am really not sure why you feel you do not have a say….
      4) Saying we need more schools like D’Evelyn is like saying we need more Chipotle restuarants. Chipotle does serve good food, but is it for everyone? Anyone who has been around lot of kids in a learning environment quickly realizes the truth – different kids learn differently. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to education. Some kids will thrive at D’Evelyn. Others would get nothing out it, but grow fantastically in a STEM-oriented program. Still others are made for IB. A good District will have several approaches.
      5) Cindy Stevenson was not a ‘union bureaucrat’. She was MANAGEMENT. We have no direct experience with her being nasty. But even those who did not care for her never doubted her love for JeffCo’s kids, and your statement is unkind, undeserving, and unbecoming of you. And even her critics in the District miss her already.

      • Answers to your questions whoever you are:
        1) Lack of funding is not an issue here. Washington DC has the highest per-student funding in the country, and the worst outcomes. Most other countries spend less per students and have better outcomes. The teacher’s union spreads the lie that CO is 49th in spending. That’s per-capita spending, which is no reflection on what’s actually spent in the schools. In fact, last time I checked, we were 26th in per-student spending (that figure is a couple of years old, but I’m sure it hasn’t changed dramatically). That’s right where we should be. If that’s not enough, then start cutting administration. Or how about bringing some realistic budgeting considerations to PERA?

        2) You seem to be implying that I want some kids to lose out on an education. Not true. Let’s stick to the issue. Yes, I believe competition and choice are good for students, teachers, and schools. CHOICE: parents should have the option of sending their kids to schools that suit them. Maybe you want your kid to go to a school that’s heavier on the liberal arts, while I my kid excels in the sciences. Are you opposed to such a choice? Ironically, the union’s one-size-fits-all, no-choice, no-competition model ends up hurting inner-city kids the most because they are left with even fewer options than those of us in the suburbs. To use your line of argument: are you saying those kids don’t deserve a chance? Of course you aren’t, so why not embrace choice. COMPETITION: I can cite a hundred examples of competition improving outcomes in a hundred different settings. I don’t know why schools should be any different. Perhaps you can explain to me why you think competition between schools, competition between students, and even competition between teachers would NOT lead to better outcomes. Competition makes people better. Plus, it’s fun. We’re not talking about Hunger Games here, but good-natured, healthy competition. The drive to compete is part of human nature. Does human nature somehow not apply to people when they enter a school zone?

        Let’s be blunt: the teachers’ union aversion to competition between schools stems from the ideology that the worst employees should be treated exactly the same as the best. Maybe you find that to be a comforting ideology; I find it a sad and empty way to go through life. I love to see people excel and succeed, or move on to another environment where they can excel and succeed. Maybe we’ll just have to disagree on ideology, but I’d still like my kid (and yours) to get the best education possible.

        3) Yes, I have some say in my child’s education, and frankly, her Jeffco teachers so far have all been wonderful. The reason I feel I have limited say is because we have to enter a lottery with literally THOUSANDS of other families for the unlikely chance of getting our daughter on a track to D’Evelyn. It seems that the teacher’s union is opposed to creating more schools like D’Evelyn, thanks to the belief that competition isn’t useful in schools.

        4) Agreed, a good district will have several approaches. Overall, I would call Jeffco a better-than-average district. Jeffco beats the heck out of DPS. But the teacher’s union is not interested in serving parents or students. Their first priority is the teachers’ union, and fighting for unrealistic, unfunded, gold-plated benefits like PERA. See comment number three. Parents obviously want more schools like D’Evelyn. We don’t want all schools to be like D’Evelyn, but what’s wrong with trying to meet the market demand? Why are you resistant to that?

        5) I’m sure Cindy Stevenson is a lovely person as long as you agree with her. If you question her, be prepared to be dismissed and treated rudely. No, she was not an employee of the teachers’ union, but she was most certainly in their pocket, and she did their bidding at every turn. You will probably deny that. Fine. She’s gone, so it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the voting public is CLEARLY looking to steer away from union influence. We didn’t say we want it gone, we just said we want things to be different. Change is a good thing, right? NWN are not the enemy, they were voted in by your friends and neighbors who (I assume) pay your salary. Please be willing to listen.

  6. Last try to remain on topic –
    1) Please cite a case where reducing funding solved a school problem. This was our argument.
    2) Did not mean to imply you wanted kids to lose out. Simply pointed out that in a competitive system, someone has to or it is not competitive. This is inherent in the definition of ‘compete’.
    3) You assume facts you have not provided. Some teachers may not like D’Evelyn and some teachers may. This is normal.
    4) Your desire for everyone to have all the spaces they want at all the schools they want flies in the face of your desire for a ‘competitve’ system. The only way every one could get into their first choice school is if there is enormous overcapacity of student spaces…which would require excess classrooms, excess teachers, excess administrators, all of which conflicts with your argument that more money does not fix problems, because all of that would require a lot more money. Which means we are back to you not likely the predictable affects of the ‘competitive’ system you keep insisting on.
    5) Again, you make assertions without any reference to facts. NWN+Miller were not voted in by our friends, and to the best of our knowledge, by few of our neighbors, but perhaps we move in different circles. Nonetheless, many people have posted that they did vote for NWN, but not for what they are now doing.

    Finally, you, our friends, and our neighbors do not pay our salaries. Again, you have made another incorrect assumption.

    • 1) “Please cite a case where reducing funding solved a school problem.” Straw man argument. There are economic realities at play. PERA is an unfunded liability. Jeffco is administration-heavy. It’s not a question of cutting budgets to improve schools. It’s a question of limited resources. We taxpayers could provide a billion dollars a week and Jeffco would still cry poverty. Those of us in the private sector must live within budgets; government entities must start doing the same instead of demanding more, more, more.

      2) You and I have different understandings of competition. I doubt I will ever persuade you that it can benefit all. I guess we’ll have to disagree.

      3) Of course some parents don’t want their kids at D’Evelyn. Good thing, ‘cause there’s only one. And I did provide evidence. We are in a lottery – a LOTTERY, for goodness sake – with thousands of other families competing for a meager few spots at that school. Why won’t you concede the point that there is a market demand for more schools like that?

      4) I read your paragraph several times, and I don’t know what you’re asking. I’m asking for more schools like D’Evelyn. Actually, scratch that. I want a voucher system. That would answer every one of the concerns you stated. I’m guessing the idea of vouchers doesn’t sit well with you.

      5) Fine. Your friends didn’t vote for NWN. I was trying to illustrate the point that we are a community, and they were fairly and democratically elected. I get that you don’t like them, and now I understand that you don’t associate with people who do. I won’t look for you at the block party.

      Regarding your last paragraph, sorry I made the assumption about your paycheck. Perhaps you’d care to identify yourself and your dog in this fight? Here’s mine: I’m a parent and a business owner in Lakewood. My bias is that 1) I have a kid in the Jeffco school system, and 2) between my home and my business, I pay a boatload in property taxes. I think that gives me a stake in the system. Who are you, and what’s your bias?

      • 1) Actually, no. It is not straw man. If we had started our case with it, then maybe it could have been thought as one, but even then it would have a more of false comparison. Instead, you used the straw-man fallacy when you cited Washington D.C. schools (with inadequate references). Our argument is this – the biggest impediment to school improvement is low school funding. Low funding means poorly paid teachers, sadly maintained buildings, slow roll-out of technological tools, and an increasing scramble to make ends meet. You countered with your straw-man argument (for those of you who do not know what we mean by that, go here.) using Washington (although an argument could be made it was really a dicto simpliciter fallacy.) Our argument remains – lack of funding is a major issue with schools. In fact, even charter schools complain about it!

        2) If you can show us how to compete without winners and losers and yet it still be competition, well…. Still we understand your principle, that the market will punish poor performers and reward high performers. That is true in many circumstances. But it is also destructive of people and societies in others. We have never understood how a school that is poorly performing is supposed to get better if you take money away from it. That is akin to trying to ‘help’ a child who failed a pull-up test because she is weak and malnourished by reducing the amount of food she gets. Huh? How does that make sense?

        3) Please go back and read our response. First, while there is a lottery, many kids who do get in then give up their spot to go to another school. The actual wait list once the school year starts is actually much lower. Many parents enter several school lotteries in order to have 2nd or 3rd choices. D’Evelyn maybe the first choice for some, but not for all who apply. The real measurement of how popular a school is, is how many students are still on the wait list after school registration. In the case of D’Evelyn, it is about half the size of the school. So if the District could increase D’Evelyn’s capacity by 50%, there would be little or no wait list.

        A better idea than build unwanted D’Evelyn’s everywhere would be to come up with a better lottery-type system.

        4) A voucher system! Now we get to it! If you get your dearest wish, we think you will find it not the panacea you believe. The average cost of a good private school (and there are many private schools that are anything but good) is about $16,000 to $20,000 per year. JeffCo spends about $8,000 per year per student. And puts about as many kids into Ivy League schools as the private ones. Are you ready to pony up the $8,000 – $12,000 more you need to get your child into the Colorado Academy? And how many top notch private schools are there? With the excess capacity that would be needed? Not hardly.

        In the end, you would find that the vaunted ‘voucher system’ is really nothing more than a tax-break for the very wealthy who are already sending their kids to those schools. And it’s implementation by depriving public schools of desperately needed funds would create an economic class-oriented education system very similar to Great Britain and France.

        5) We believe in community. We are community. We are willing to work with them. WNW+Miller are not reciprocating. They are acting with arrogance that borders on hubris. We are from all backgrounds, all income levels, all political parties. We throw the block parties. And attend them, so look around.

        We do want to thank you for actually engaging in a debate instead of simply doing another argumentum ad nauseam which is what too many of your compatriots do. We hope that both sides have learned something and perhaps one day can sit at a table and work out a good compromise. But WNW+Miller will need to start an honest, provable effort first. They have burned too many bridges at this point.

        Our dog in this fight? Our children.

        Who are we? We are residents of Jefferson County. Many of us have children in JeffCo schools or have had in the past. We are tax payers, business people, professionals, stay-at-home moms, single-parents, and concerned grandparents. Our bias is simple:

        Don’t Screw With Our Kids!

  7. OK, well “we” are taking a rather hostile tone, so I’m out of here. Good luck with your union.

    • It is amazing how many people think that if you oppose WNW+MIller you must be ‘union’. The fact is that the vast majority of people coming to this site are not in the JCEA. Most are simply parents who are getting very worried about their children’s schools. They are worried because of the lack of transparency WNW+Miller is exhibiting and their growing tendency to issue cryptic comments. It is all very well to say you want to improve District scores. It is when you refuse to say how that will be done that people grow suspicious.

      • The “concerned parent” has a point in that I think many parents would like to see more opportunity with D’Evelyn-like schools. But that doesn’t mean get rid of the union or start a voucher system. Those remedies are just the same old right-wing “free-market fits all” spiel. There’s no mystery why some schools, states, countries do better in education: their students, teachers, and parents work harder. Frankly, my kids should have more homework. So hopefully the union will support an expansion of the D’Evelyn-style system. If not, the union IS part of the problem.

        On the other hand, big money backing for the three new Republicans on the board is disconcerting, given that at least some of their backers with the big money are vocal supporters of voucher systems. How the heck did we end up with pro-voucher people on a public school board? It’s like electing pro-dictatorship candidates to Congress. Let’s get ’em out…now.

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