Julie Williams Sadly Leading the Parade of Lies, Again

Yesterday morning, a most disturbing allegation started playing over the airwaves in the Denver metro area. You can read more about those allegations here:

Jeffco Recall Gets Very Ugly, Very Fast

This morning, the right-wing Independence Institute released a new video spot featuring embattled Jefferson County school board member Julie Williams. In today’s video, Williams makes a tearful accusation involving her son Randy, who is identified in the video as a “special needs student.”

The summary version is that Julie Williams, whom we all know as one of the members of the Jeffco BOE embroiled in a bitter recall battle, has gone on television recounting a conversation that she claims she had with her special-needs son (her words, not ours) that may have left him “scarred forever.” According to Williams, her son claimed that he was forced to carry a recall sign in a parade that he also claims to have led. Commercials are short, so Williams does not produce any evidence that this actually happened.

What Williams fails to mention is that Jeffco Schools investigated her claim about this very issue last fall and found no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this claim.

You can read the full details of the Jeffco Schools investigation here. The short version is that Williams asked Jeffco to investigate, originally giving them the date of Sept. 8, and later suggesting that perhaps it had been Sept. 18 or 22. District personnel looked at 240 hours of video footage from Standley Lake High School (SLHS) on all three dates and found no evidence of any kind of protest or parade.

SLHS was closed on Sept. 19, 2014 — which is the day that SLHS students protested along Wadsworth Boulevard. However, classes were cancelled before students arrived and students did not walk out of school. Williams presumably did not drive her son to school on the 19th, knowing that school was closed.

Total taxpayer cost for that investigation? $3,780.14.

To recap:

  1. Williams’ older son was not asked to carry a sign or lead a protest or parade of any sort at SLHS.
  2. Nearly $4,000 was spent to determine that Williams’ son did not carry a sign or lead a protest at SLHS.
  3. WNW are scared and trying any stunt they can in hopes that you’ll believe their lies.
  4. Williams and her allies have provided no other alternative information or evidence about what parade this was that she and her son are referring to, how he came to be at the helm of this parade, or who was supervising him during this time and allowed this to happen. She doesn’t mention the costly investigation that she prompted that found nothing. Not a single person has corroborated the story, and not a single photograph has been produced…because it didn’t happen.

It is time to RECALL Witt, Newkirk and Williams.

Vote YES on the recall. Then vote for a Clean Slate who will respect the community, and bring true transparency and accountability to the Jeffco School Board.

Vote for Jeffco School Board candidates Ali Lasell in District 2, Amanda Stevens in District 3.

Then vote yes to recall Julie Williams and choose Brad Rupert as successor candidate.

Then vote yes to recall John Newkirk and choose Susan Harmon as successor candidate.

Then vote yes to recall Ken Witt and choose Ron Mitchell as successor candidate.

And please spread the word.


 

 

Story #3 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Williams Suggests Whitewashing Social Strife from AP U.S. History; Civil Disobedience Ensues

The Mask Came Off. The People Woke Up.

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Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #3:

What Happened: We trust that our readers are as familiar with this story as any other, as it dominated local news for a full week, captured heavy national attention, and even attracted significant international attention. A quick summary is helpful though, especially as WNW try to distort what really happened. The focal point is the exact language that Julie Williams used in her initial curriculum review proposal:

“Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”

Note that this language does not say “materials should present a balanced view of U.S. History;” it does not use any terms suggesting a mix of the good news and bad news about the history of our country. Instead, it uses simple terms that can easily be read by anyone as censoring negative aspects of U.S. History. When WNW later said that they were just seeking something more balanced than what was in the books, perhaps that was true, but that’s not the interpretation of the language that many smart people — yes, including students — derived from reading the proposal.

Fueling the fire were Williams’ bizarre follow-up comments. First there was the admission that she actually didn’t read the class framework before putting forth the proposed language. We don’t need to comment on that…

Second was an assertion that important figures in U.S. history were excluded from the course. How she could have understood that without reading the framework is head-scratcher. Worse, it’s simply without merit. The framework didn’t include every name of every important person…because it’s a framework. It’s like looking at a table of contents and objecting that a specific person isn’t listed in the TOC, even though they’re discussed in the book. Anyone teaching AP U.S. History should teach about the Founding Fathers and MLK, and our guess is that every last one does. But that doesn’t mean that those individuals are listed in detail everywhere.

Recently, the College Board, the company behind AP classes like AP U.S. History, added some of the individuals that Williams complained about into the framework. That is not a vindication of Williams or of some other Tea Party activists who made the same claim around the country. It was political appeasement that’s tantamount to adding a few specifics to a Table of Contents.

Of course, everyone knows the rest of the story, with a few teacher sickouts and student walkouts from every corner of Jeffco. More information about that sequence is contained in our Story #10, which was the whole new story created by Witt and Newkirk calling the students “ignorant” “pawns” after the walkouts. [In fact, we’d note that the votes received for these two stories put together would have made it the #1 story, but the split in votes means that they both appear in our Top 10 from our reader poll anyway.]

2013-2015 Poll Results: School Board Story #10: Witt and Newkirk Call Jeffco Students “Ignorant” and “Pawns”

Last week, we put forth a poll asking you to select the Top 10 most disturbing stories out of the 30 that we selected from the current Jeffco School Board majority’s tenure. We presented many that didn’t make the cut; and they were troubling enough.

Why It Mattered: Two reasons: 1) the mask came off; and 2) the people woke up.

Prior to Williams’ proposal, there was still a holding out among many in the community that discontent with the school board was only related to teacher pay, and that teachers were just complaining. Insiders knew differently, but sometimes it takes an event like this for people to see the true colors of their elected officials. This wasn’t just a matter of poor wording on Williams’ part. Do you believe that if there hadn’t been community outrage, that Witt and Newkirk would have had any problem passing the language just as it was? We believe that they were all just fine with that language, and only scrapped it because of the community and national outrage. What this proposal did was give us a glimpse into who this board majority is; they are not just your pleasant locals cheerily looking for ways to be more transparent and determined to give parents a little extra choice. No, they are puppets in a national effort to try to take over school boards, privatize the districts they’re sworn to protect, and in the mean time usher in a new era of extremist indoctrination so that the next generation will align not just with healthy conservative principles like fiscal responsibility and law and order, but also with conservative ideology like a view of American Exceptionalism that somehow sees God’s light as shining solely on our country and justifying any mistakes that we’ve made. This proposal told us a lot about WNW and what they were trying to hide. For that we thank Julie Williams for not being very reflective and a loose cannon.

Second, this incident woke people up. There is a time in this fight to take back Jeffco Schools from outsiders that was pre-AP U.S. History proposal, and then there’s the time since this proposal. The difference has been stark. Before Williams’ proposal, a relatively small but energetic cadre of people were closely following the school board’s shenanigans. Since that proposal, we have a whole lot more sentinels and watchdogs throughout the county. Board meetings have been packed, and traffic on our site and many others has been double or triple what it was before. WNW had been executing the Dougco and Koch Brothers education “reform” playbook to perfection, in their minds. That playbook undoubtedly says to keep things just quiet enough to be able to deflect most criticism. This incident made a whole lot of people think “that’s not who we voted for!” and they’ve been watching much more closely ever since.

Analysis: Julie Williams “Vindicated” By College Board? Not Even Close!

It needs no long introduction: last fall, Julie Williams proposed the following for Jeffco Schools’ curriculum, specifically with respect to Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH):

“Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”

PomonaProtest

Student walkouts followed, public outrage came right alongside, the chaos made international news, and Williams’ supporters still think it was all orchestrated by JCEA because Ken Witt called the students “pawns” and couldn’t imagine that students would actually react with outrage if they weren’t coached into it. Now, the College Board, the creators of AP courses, have made some clarifications that Williams’ supporters are hailing as vindication for her.

Don’t be fooled by the spin!

Let’s analyze. Of course, after hearing of Williams’ proposal, nearly everyone (including students!) immediately realized that the history of this country is impossible to tell without referencing civil disorder and social strife repeatedly. It is also evident that any thorough history of the United States brings forth many positive moments that we can all be proud of, and there needn’t be a big effort to artificially push more such moments onto our youth who need to understand all aspects of our history without a political agenda.

Only in her later explanations of her proposal did Williams proclaim the importance to her of “American Exceptionalism,” a stance that for her and many others goes far beyond pride in America’s best moments and finest attributes to an almost mystical, unquestioning reverence of our country being imbued with a providence that no other nation has received from the Almighty. Others believe that, but it is safe to say that there are many proud patriots who don’t quite jive with that version of American Exceptionalism.
The point is, her original proposal was the source of community outrage. Later on, she mentioned her belief in American Exceptionalism.

This past week, the College Board announced that, responding to critics, it will include mention of American Exceptionalism as guidance within its framework. Superficially this might seem like “vindication” for Williams, but remember that so much in her camp seems to revolve around the superficial; if it sounds like she might be vindicated, then she must be! Here’s why the College Board’s action has no vindicating quality for Williams:

-First, remember that Williams admitted that she never read the framework, and so didn’t understand how the course was structured. She still might not. Yet the APUSH course framework (guidelines) were originally left vague in order to allow teachers more flexibility, to encourage critical thinking as opposed to the memorization of names and dates. In the framework, some lesser known people and events were highlighted and highly recommended that students learn about them. However, that didn’t mean in any way that others like the Founding Fathers should be forgotten. Instead, the College Board set forth guidelines about what should be taught and then it was up to the instructor to flesh that out.

-The College Board did not feel the need to spell out and highlight “American Exceptionalism,” as they figured that was one concept, among many others, that could be noted and explored as part of the course. Think of all the other “isms” that have grabbed hold of segments of our population, and sometimes large segments that have defined us: capitalism, socialism, imperialism, segregationism, Darwinism, fascism, Totalitarianism, feminism, Catholicism. You get the picture. All of these elements would be at least mentioned, if not explored in depth in a year-long APUSH course. The fact that most of them were left out of the intentionally vague guidelines is not a sign that they are not worth teaching; the College Board just left the specifics up to the professional teachers and expected them to hit the major themes that related to the broader guidelines.

-Williams’ motivation was likely not purely a curriculum concern for Jeffco students, but instead a parroted talking point that some of her ilk raised in Texas. The Texas legislature, for one, had begun discussing abolishing APUSH for political points. The compromise made by the College Board in their recent revision simply expressly states what they figured was obvious, in order to appease the political motivations of Texas legislators and others. Basically, they changed wording because of money: the College Board is a business, and so many kids in Texas and other states with similar electorates take the test.

-The bottom line is that APUSH has not been fundamentally altered. “American Exceptionalism” has been added to the framework, though not of the type that Julie Williams probably ascribes to. It presents it as one worldview among many held by some in the United States: it does not promote it.

So, we have the College Board making modifications, only to make some elements explicit that were already implied. The changes are small scale and don’t add anything new other than to state the obvious for met. It adds clarification, not something new. Finally, the changes have nothing to do with Williams’ original proposal to “not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife…” which is censorship indeed.

If you’re still susceptible to believing the Williams spin versus this analysis, there’s no squaring it with the fact that the College Board actually wrote a letter in support of the Jeffco students’ concerns last fall. The College Board, in issuing their new clarifications this year, haven’t retracted their support of the students, nor has their leadership changed dramatically. Their clarifications are superficial and political only, as opposed to the substantive support they gave the students.

Just imagine another political leader not reading the course framework of a high school calculus course, but still attacking it for not including appropriate instruction for future engineers…and then in her explanation specified that the times tables should be included in the course materials because no calculus student could be successful without knowing basic multiplication. Later, she claims victory when the textbook maker, to remain in business in the face of a bunch of Texan legislators who hadn’t read the framework either, put a times table reference in the pocket of the book.

That’s not vindication, other than in ideological fantasies and the resulting propaganda pieces.

Analysis: Are Sensational Board Majority Stories Distracting From, or Highlighting, the Dismantling of Jeffco Public Schools?

The board majority’s actions keep producing headlines that capture the attention of the general public, and not just those in the school district or others that follow their actions closely. To insiders, it’s a daily occurrence: the board majority or the district’s new top staff make inexplicable mistakes that are alarming, or say or do things that further the idea that their end game is ultimately to privatize the public school system. We suspect that the board majority’s privatization goal stays mostly under the radar.

Still, some of their bizarre actions have captured a wider audience, garnering media attention because they either sit at the intersection of one of our nation’s cultural wars, or because the action would have direct and immediate impacts on a lot of families. Who can forget this sampling of these headline-grabbers?

-Last fall, Julie Williams proposes a committee to review the AP U.S. History course out of concerns that the course is not patriotic enough and emphasizes social conflict and civil disobedience. This is followed by mass student walkouts during which Ken Witt calls the students “pawns.”

-This winter, John Newkirk and Dan McMinimee attend and speak at a community forum hosted by the Evergreen Tea Party and co-hosted by the “American Freedom Party,” an avowed white supremacist party that does have a foothold in Colorado and a presence in Jeffco. Although labeled a mistake, questions remain about how such a mistake could possibly have been made and why no one caught it.

-This spring, John Newkirk proposes jettisoning large portions of a district plan to address underperforming schools in the Jefferson articulation area in favor of moving two other schools without adequate research, vetting, or analysis, and for reasons that were not clear. Sustained outrage over a lack of thought or planning around the proposal causes the board to scrap the idea, and even the members of the community group that had originally proposed the alternative rescinded their support of the plan.

-Last week, Julie Williams shares a message on her Facebook page that promotes far-right views about the “Day of Silence,” including the suggestion that parents keep their kids home from school because the Day of Silence “teach[es] children to support and embrace the unnatural and unhealthy homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda.” Mass media and social media again catch fire over these comments. She later apologizes, saying she hadn’t read the post before reposting it and calling it a mistake. Nevertheless, see above (the white supremacist group). That’s a lot of accidents in a few months.

This is just a sampling. To be sure, these are important issues that deserve scrutiny. They offer a window into the board majority’s lack of competency and naked political motivations. They also each ultimately have real, practical effects on our students, teachers, and the community.

Nevertheless, we wonder: are these stories making the general public more watchful?

Or are these tabloid stories intended to distract the general public from the more general, policy-oriented steps that the board is taking to seemingly to dismantle the schools in order to make way for a private system?

After all, as many “insiders” realize, the board is not behaving very conservatively. It approves loans to poorly performing charters, often doesn’t follow its own governance policies, and its key staff appears to be hired more for political reasons than for their merit. Even more concerning, staff morale appears to be at an all-time low. Many of our most talented teachers are leaving at a record clip, while the board majority continues to fight with student groups on another front.

Everything is run through a legal filter that lacks transparency, and the board majority seems to think that the teachers’ association serves only nefarious purposes, rather than working for reasonable working conditions so that our teachers can concentrate on teaching. They put off building new public schools despite the exhortations of long-time key staff and local business leaders about a coming train wreck. Thinking that they have a mandate (and almost unlimited outside funding), the majority keeps doing whatever they want, claiming to listen to the community when in fact it appears to be the same few inside supporters appearing at public comment, and a whole lot of money backing them from places like Texas and Colorado Springs.

The general public knows the shocking headlines, but do they really understand what’s happening to our district over the long-term? If they do understand, will it be enough to withstand the avalanche of Koch and related money coming for this fall’s elections?

One could argue that the sensational headlines put the general public on notice and create an air of distrust. While many voters are still entirely disengaged with what’s happening with our school board, more and more people have heard one or more of these troubling tales. If an uninformed and uninvolved voter hears one of these stories, unfortunately it may be easy to dismiss as an isolated incident. On the other hand, when the stories start adding up, it creates an atmosphere of distrust for the board majority, and then suddenly the majority’s other decisions don’t seem as trustworthy to the general public either. That’s a lot to overcome.

An opposite argument can also be made. Because the media hasn’t been covering plummeting teacher morale or the board’s financial irresponsibility, voters with little connection to the schools might think of the board as bumbling, but generally headed in the right direction. Does the average voter really care that the board rejected the findings of a neutral federal fact-finder, no matter how important that decision was to our community? Do the majority of voters strongly oppose tying pay to performance? (Do they even kow how pay for performance works?) Are they concerned about the treatment of public comment time at board meetings?

Some are aware, but we think that many are not. Does all the coverage of the sensational stories make the general public think that there’s not more going on, because the attention is diverted? Do voters not see that the board majority is being coached to dismantle the schools slowly, and mostly non-sensationally? Or are they already too saturated with the sensational stories rapidly cascading out of the district to realize there is a deeper story?

Whatever the case may be, we don’t think that Jeffco voters will be pleased to wake up with a decayed school system and most of their best teachers gone. We don’t think that businesses will be happy, once the real estate boom has slowed, to learn that people don’t want to settle down or do business in Jeffco because the school system is not highly regarded. We do not want to be associated with incompetent and partisan leadership. We don’t think that Jeffco wants their schools to be modeled in cookie-cutter fashion after the schools in Dougco. Jeffco is independent; Jeffco was fooled in 2013 but won’t be fooled with the disastrous results that occur with the implementation of unproven philosophies crudely rammed home.

The truth is, we don’t know if the stories that raise the eyebrows of the general public distract from, or shine light upon, the real issues.

In our minds, this questioning does underscore two strategies that need to be in place more moving forward.

First, we need to tie the policy shenanigans more to headlines. We need to tell stories of the individual human cost of what’s happening. We need to see more significant actions that are visible and dramatic reminders of what is happening.

It is easy to think of policy disagreements as only having incremental impact, but we need to translate policy impacts into a steady stream of headlines that feature personal stories, or stories of mass disenchantment. The public forms its opinions primarily from mass media still, and the mass media covers the sensational stories. Fact-finders and changing pay scales do not make for sustained headlines. Personal stories of excellent teachers leaving Jeffco, student action, or mass teacher departures for more supportive environments, get the media’s attention.

Finally, as we were reminded just this week, it will take money to tell these stories. We are not affiliated with JCEA or any other organization, so we don’t know what their plans are for this fall’s critical elections. We do know that the board majority’s allies at the Independence Institute called for $300,000 in donations to fight the imagined “’Leftists’ iron grip” in Jeffco. Candidates this fall will have to stave off Independence Institute money in addition to huge money that will be coming in from other outside sources, but well-hidden, just as it did in 2013.

For Jeffco to keep fighting effectively, it will take generating more media attention through the sharing of real stories or clever activism, and for all parties to fund reasonable and competent candidates this fall so that those stories can be shared.


 

Students With Power

A few months ago, WNW crossed a new line by suggesting that our district’s AP US History curriculum should change. Essentially, WNW insinuated that our students are not to be trusted with learning about some of America’s most influential leaders because they could be labeled as dissenters. Many of us had a bad taste in our mouths as we realized that what WNW would like to see is graduates who are followers and don’t question or challenge status quo, and who don’t look for opportunities to advocate to make our country a better place.

Thank goodness our amazing students know they deserve a top notch education. Thank goodness our students realize that they have loud, essential, and thoughtful voices. I am proud to be a parent in a district where our students organized a justified protest. I could imagine many of our country’s greatest leaders– from Jane Adams to Dr. Martin Luther King — tipping their hats to our students.

Last week, Chalkbeat hosted an event called Rising Up: Voices from Colorado’s Emerging Student Protest Movement for student activists from four Colorado school districts. JCSBW would like to thank our Jeffco reps from the Jeffco Student Network for Change. They did a phenomenal job demonstrating that the students of Jefferson County have been given a useful and powerful education.

Last weekend, the group also organized a public meeting with the Jeffco School Board to discuss concerns.

As a parent who refuses to be anything other than hopeful for the future of our students and our school district, the power for change clearly lies in the hands of our students.

I would like to encourage our students to keep their momentum going and offer any help our students need to be informed and influential. I would like to challenge WNW to look our students in the face and ask their opinion before trying to pull their education out from under them.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!