What’s at Stake – November 2021

Jeffco school board election 2021

Laura Boggs is puppeteering your local school board election – again.

For those who are new to the Jeffco Schools scene, Laura Boggs is a former Jeffco School Board of Education Member who was censured – twice, for agreeing with a radio host that the then superintendent “should be shot” and for threatening to “tear this county apart.” Yes, that Laura Boggs:

She’s also known to have hidden behind an easel in a meeting trying to avoid being noticed, and even wrestled a high school classroom from a teacher’s control and then told the students that school is “stupid.” Yes, that Laura Boggs.

Unfortunately this very same effective manipulator Laura Boggs, “conservative” “reformer,” who, by the way, is really neither, has been identified as the mastermind behind the current opposition slate of Shelton, Miks, and Wilhite (SMW). People have been saying on social media they want proof; well, here’s the proof, clear as day.

This email screenshot is being spread all over social media in response to outrage that Varda, Parker, and Reed didn’t show to a Christians Who Care forum. More on that later. In this email, the forum organizer clearly identifies SMW as “her candidates.” Enough said. This alone should give everyone pause and raise your blood pressure, and hopefully, send you running to tell everyone you know who might be considering voting for “her candidates” to think again.

When the campaign took issue with Boggs being copied on the emails, this is how the forum organizer responded:

Further, Boggs has been an active part of the “grassroots” “independent” group that is promoting the opposition slate since the beginning, as seen in this Facebook discussion from January 2021.

Elections matter. We say this every election. And, seemingly, every election, Laura Boggs tries to come back. So what’s at stake this time? What’s different this time?

The short version: the (“conservative”) politicization of school boards on a national level as part of a national strategy. Laura Boggs and her Jeffco pals are trying to tap into this national strategy.

For example, from Fairfax, Virginia:

Note the last sentence.

Screen shot is from this longer thread: https://twitter.com/JuddLegum/status/1450081018040492038

The above quote comes from Fairfax County, VA—one of the largest school districts in the nation–where a so-called “grassroots” group calling itself Parents Defending Education is working for a Republican takeover of what should be nonpartisan school boards.

In one recent example, a parent told the Fairfax County school board that the high school library contained two books containing pedophilia—a claim that is completely untrue. As is often the case with such groups, Parents Defending Education isn’t particularly interested in facts, instead retweeting her public comment and repeating the allegation. Conservative school board candidates also continued to repeat the lie, arguing, “I believe that parents should be in charge of their kids’ education.”

Mind you, no such books exist in the school library.

In another story out of Southlake, TX, a school administrator told teachers that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom they should offer students books from an “opposing” perspective. Teachers were told this after a parent complained that a fourth grade teacher had a anti-racism book in her classroom (the book in question was This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell) and the school board voted to reprimand the teacher. We can’t make this stuff up.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/southlake-texas-holocaust-books-schools-rcna2965

The story also notes that a group of parents in that district have been fighting to block new diversity and inclusion programs in the school district there, as part of a broader national movement led by people opposed to lessons on racism, history, and LBGTQ issues—often referred to by the now-population catchphrase “critical race theory.”

Bringing it Home

And now, Laura Boggs and Friends are cutting-and-pasting onto your social media all over Jeffco…

Careful readers may have noticed that and several other similar phrases being thrown about on social media and news stories in Jeffco. We’ll post a few screenshots for those of you who, wisely, have avoided social media for a while. For example:

Or there’s this one:

And this one, in response to a post for Varda, Reed, and Parker on Nextdoor:

Hive mind? Just a steady stream of slogans from the same echo chamber?

Unfortunately, it’s part of this larger strategy to politicize school boards—one that has been alive and well in Jeffco for some time now.

Today, JCSBW just wants to focus on one of the issues: all the stuff found under the catchphrase “Critical Race Theory.”

That battle over Advanced Placement United States History from 2014? Here it is again, wrapped in shiny new packaging.

The claim is that (mostly white) children might feel badly about themselves if they learn about our country’s past. Last time around the fear was that our children might not become patriotic if they knew our country’s history (i.e., American Exceptionalism).

If the opposition is elected, we’re going to be right back to this same battle.

Some examples:

  • First, a recent Colorado Sun article highlights a curious pattern in which conservative candidates around Colorado are focused on the same issues.
  • That Parents Defending Education group we talked about above? It’s also actively involved in the Mesa County School Board race. Yes, that Mesa County, the one where County Clerk Tina Peters was recently banned from having any role in the November 2021 election.
  • Meanwhile, the Colorado Sun also reported that in Colorado Springs, Church Voter Guides published candidate responses to a series of questions, including queries about critical race theory, sex education and coronavirus protocols, and the El Paso County Republican Party sent a questionnaire to board candidates in that county that included questions about critical race theory, mask and vaccine mandates, and false allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 elections.

See the pattern yet?

If not, how about this from the Summit County School District where another so-called “grassroots” group claims to be concerned about budget issues, academics, and politics in schools.

One of the Summit County candidates is also very concerned about school library books (just like in Texas), and wants to see books with “left-leaning points of view” balanced with books from a conservative perspective. She also is concerned about social justice and gender identity being incorporated into coursework, claiming it’s “the job of parents” to teach those issues at home.” Not content with that viewpoint, she raised the bar, claiming that teachers think they have the right to “almost raise our kids for us.”

One version of this played out here in Jeffco night before last, at a candidate forum by a group calling itself “Christians Who Care” —a group that is loosely organized at best because JCSBW couldn’t find any information about the group at all. Much ado has been made on social media because the pro-public education candidates, Danielle Varda, Mary Parker, and Paula Reed pulled out of the forum at the last minute.

Why?

Let’s start with the questions that candidates were provided ahead of the forum (typed as written in the screenshot, with three bolded by JCSBW for emphasis):

  1. What are your qualifications for being a Board of Education candidate, and what do you see is the most important issue you would like to address?
  2. 55% of Jeffco’s 3rd graders are not at grade level reading. 74% of sixth graders are not at grade level math. Overall student achievement as declined as has student enrollment. In contrast, annual spending continues to increase. How do you explain these statistics and trends, and as a Board of Education member, how do you plan to address these issues?
  3. We are aware that the Union has endorsed certain Board of Education candidates. How does a Union endorsement or non-endorsement influence your decisions, when making critical education-related decisions?
  4. Several of the most highly contested issues in the educational systems in Jefferson County relate to mandated masking and vaccinations. As a Board of Education member, how would you address parents’ concerns? [JCSBW note: Neither Jeffco nor Colorado has a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students and any future mandate would be approved by the state legislature, not the school board.]
  5. As a member of the Board of Education, how would you address the increasing intrusion of government into educational systems wherein the rights and responsibilities of parents are eroded?
  6. From a Christian and parent perspective, how will you address the canceled culture/Woke mentality in schools with special attention to the political themes of Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory?

No wonder VRP declined to show to this forum. It was clearly a trap.

JCSBW apparently is not “woke” enough to understand what “woke indoctrination,” “woke curricula” or “woke mentality” are, much less “canceled culture,” but none of them are tied to grassroots movements.

Turns out that some of those questions come directly from Parents Defending Education. Their website includes encouraging parents to create social media pages to “document examples of woke indoctrination” and waging lawsuits against “woke” curricula. 

Now consider the questions in bold above. Coincidence? No.

There’s a lot at stake when it comes to protecting our Jeffco neighborhood, option, and charter schools.

JCSBW supports three candidates — Varda, Reed, and Parker — who will support all of our local schools and all our students.

If she gets her way, Laura Boggs won’t just be organizing candidates, she’ll be commanding them to “tear apart” the county again.

There’s more to come. In the meantime, remember to vote for Varda, Reed, and Parker. Ballots are due by 7 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 2!

Week of 4.17.2016 BOE Meeting Preview

The Jeffco School Board has a busy schedule in the next few days.

Two Special Meetings

On Monday, April 18, beginning at 5:30pm, the Board holds a Special Meeting in the Cabinet Room at the Lakewood City Council offices. School Board members, the Lakewood Mayor, and Lakewood City Councilors will use this time to discuss items of mutual interest.

On Tuesday, April 19, beginning at 5:30pm, the Board holds a similar Special Meeting – this time in the Lake House Room of the Westin in Westminster, to discuss items of mutual interest with the Mayor and City Councilors of Westminster.

Study/Dialogue Session

On Thursday, April 20, beginning at 5:30pm, the Board holds a Study/Dialogue Session at the Ed Center. The meeting begins with a presentation from Chief Communications Officer Diana Wilson regarding the April 29 Day Without Hate.

Next, the Board will hear from Superintendent Dan McMinimee, Chief Operating Officer Steve Bell, Executive Director of Facilities Tim Reed and members of the District’s Capital Asset Advisory Committee regarding the committee’s responsibilities, members, and activities.

The Board then moves on to a presentation from Bell and Reed regarding the 2016 Facilities Master Plan. Note: recommendations – which will be implemented over a 5-7-year timeline – include transitioning 50 District elementary schools from K-6 to K-5 and 11 7-8 middle schools to 6-8 grade configurations, closing some schools, and changing some boundaries. There’s also talk of consolidating 10 underutilized and/or older schools into 5 new facilities, and removing 81 temporary classrooms. See more details on page 7 here, and more information about timing on page 30 here. One of the District’s biggest challenges is inconsistent enrollment – in some areas, enrollment is growing significantly, while many other remain stable or are shrinking.

There will be Community Forums to discuss the Facilities Master Plan:

Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 4.56.25 PM

Next, Chief Student Success Officer Kevin Carroll, Director of Special Education Dr. Polly Ortiz Lutz, and Director of Health Services Linda Buzard will discuss an external review of the District’s Special Education Services.

The Board finishes the night with discussions about the coming year’s BOE meeting schedule and a Legislative Update.

 

Can’t attend Thursday’s meeting in person? Follow along via Live Streaming.

Jeffco Celebrations

Jeffco School Board Watch is thrilled to see that Green Mountain High School Principal Colleen Owens has been named Colorado’s Principal of the Year by the Colorado Association of School Executives (CASE).

JeffCo Proud!

10.25.15 One reader responds to the Denver Post

election_ballot_box_2We received a message from a recall supporter who had a letter published in the Denver Post in response to their Oct. 14 editorial against the recall effort. Because the Post required him to keep the letter to about 150 words and eliminate the chart and percentages in his original letter, we’re reprinting the full letter as he originally submitted it.

His letter speaks to the board majority’s failure to adequately address teacher compensation, the exodus of our Jeffco teachers, and why we need to recall Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams. We hope you will share it.

I was disappointed by your recent Editorial (Oct. 13th) suggesting that the Jeffco School Board recall effort should be rejected. But I was not surprised. While I have great respect for this paper and its dedicated employees, I have found its coverage of the new board majority to be very one-sided.

To focus on just one example: your editorial questioned why teachers would be upset by the recent pay plan, but neglected to mention that teachers only received a 1% average raise. This is well below market and was particularly painful for Jeffco teachers who gave up raises for years to help the District during the downturn and were promised they would be fairly compensated when the economy recovered. The new board majority broke that promise. I put together a chart outlining the raise that a teacher with a Master’s Degree and seven years of experience received from other districts versus Jeffco in 2015:

School District 2014/15 (Yr 6) Salary 2015/16 (Yr 7) Salary % Raise
Cherry Creek $51,680 $56,503 9.3%
Littleton $49,369 $52,751 6.9%
Aurora $50,373 $53,961 7.1%
Boulder $59,043 $61,909 4.9%
Average of 4 Districts $52,616 $56,281 7.0%
Jeffco $46,646 $47,112 1.0%
Percentage that the Average of Other Districts is Higher Than Jeffco 12.8% Higher 19.5% Higher 6.0% Higher

No wonder Jeffco teachers are upset and many are leaving the District! To make matters worse, the District sent an email to parents touting the “raise” without telling anyone how under market the raises were. That was very misleading. And if the Board majority continues these extremely small raises for the next several years, the effect on teacher pay and teacher retention could be devastating.

I am the son of a former teacher and husband of a current Jeffco teacher, and strongly believe that most teachers are heroes in our community, giving everything they have for their students. Thus, rather than being the enemy, Jeffco teachers deserve to be treated with respect and to be fairly compensated as they were promised during the recession.  Unfortunately, I think’s it’s very clear the current board majority feels differently and thus needs to be recalled.

John Mulhern lives in Arvada with his wife and three children who attend Jeffco schools.

We can’t say it enough: Please vote for Ali Lasell in District 3 and Amanda Stevens in District 4. Then vote YES to recall Julie Williams, John Newkirk and Ken Witt, and choose successor candidates Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell.

Don’t know where to find a 24-hour ballot drop box? Look here.

24 hour Drive-up Ballot locations- Jefferson County, Colorado

Elections Locations for Voting and Ballots – 24 hour Drop-off locations

A list of other ballot drop-off locations is here.

And for early voting and polling center locations you can look here.


 

 

Reminder for Sharing: “Clean Slate” Candidate Summaries

We know that many people are still asking who to vote *for* after voting “YES” to recall WNW, so we are republishing this as a reminder for you to share with your friends.

5-candidates-1024x612

Your ballots have arrived! If you haven’t had time to learn more about the five Clean Slate candidates that we are endorsing, here’s a quick summary about Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell. You can also click on their names to read more about them on their websites.

Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens are running for the District 3 and 4 seats that were already up for election this year. The other three — Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell — are successor candidates for the recall seats.

DISTRICT 3

Seat currently held by outgoing board member Jill Fellman

Ali Lasell

Ali Lasell is a parent of two Jeffco students and is active in PTA and School Accountability Committee at Maple Grove Elementary. She also spent 25 years as a teacher and has earned a Principal’s license.

She believes in:

  • Quality education for all students, including the option for full-day kindergarten
  • Strong fiscal accountability, with long range planning and collaboration with parents, community leaders and teachers
  • Everyone deserves to be heard: listening and respecting diverse ideas and beliefs to strengthen Jeffco Schools
  • Reducing the amount of time spent preparing or taking tests rather than engaging students in learning. Tests should be solely for student growth and data collected should provide timely feedback to students, families and educators.
  • Supports school choice and also keeping neighborhood school strong for students who can’t take advantage of school choice

DISTRICT 4

Seat currently held by outgoing board member Lesley Dahlkemper

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens was a Jeffco Schools student and now is the parent to two Jeffco students. She chairs the School Accountability Committee at her children’s school, and spent several years working as a teacher before become a parent.

– She believes in:

  • Excellence in education, transparency and accountability in decision-making, and cooperation to effectively and efficiently prepare students and manage schools.
  • That each student deserves high academic standards, effective and well-supported teachers and quality curricular and extra-curricular opportunities
  • That each student deserves a safe, positive school climate that treats children as whole people with intellectual, social and emotional needs and gifts
  • That all students deserve an education that develops engagement, strong work habits, teamwork, goal-attainment and problem-solving skills in schools equipped with the technology and tools to build 21st century proficiencies
  • That it’s time for politics to take a back seat to student success.

Successor Candidates

DISTRICT 1

seat currently held by Julie Williams

Brad Rupert

Brad Rupert is a Jeffco parent and step-grandparent, as well as the former president of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce and the current president of the Arvada Kiwanis Club. He has also spent many years working for non-profits like Habitat for Humanity and the Arvada Food Bank.

He’s running for school board because:

  • He’s worried about the district losing quality teachers
  • Political agendas have no place on a school board
  • Jeffco’s focus should be on providing an excellent education to every student every day
  • If elected, he would dispense with the board attorney position created by WNW and would address concerns about the current teacher contract

DISTRICT 2

Seat currently held by John Newkirk

Susan Harmon

Susan Harmon is a parent of two Jeffco students who serves on her children’s PTA board, chairs the school accountability committee and volunteers in multiple ways at the school and in the greater Jeffco community.

She’s running for school board to:

  • Reconcile the district with teachers and the community
  • Restore respect and listen to all voices
  • Address inequities with the current pay-for-performance model instituted by WNW. She supports the idea of pay-for-performance but says issues need to be worked through effectively.

DISTRICT 5

seat currently held by Ken Witt

Ron Mitchell

Ron Mitchell is a Jeffco graduate who returned to the district to work as a teacher. He served as Principal of Alameda High School for ten years and at Columbine for eight, and has continued to support Jeffco in numerous ways since his retirement. He is also a Jeffco parent and grandparent.

He is running for school board because:

  • The ideological behavior and poor leadership of the board has affected each Jeffco Schools
  • Jeffco teachers are leaving due to the board majority’s disrespect, which is negatively impacting our children’s learning experience
  • He is committed to listening to the community, keeping great teachers and putting education ahead of politics
  • He wants to restore common sense, community values, transparency and financial accountability to the Jeffco School Board

Remember to vote!

Please vote as soon as you get your ballot. This election is too important to sit out.

The first item on the ballot is the regular Jeffco School Board election for the District 3 and 4 seats. Vote for Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens!

Then vote YES to recall Julie Williams, John Newkirk and Ken Witt, and then vote for successor candidates Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon and Ron Mitchell.

Our children and the future of Jeffco Schools depends on you.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

 

 

 

10.15.15 Jeffco WNW Recall Fact Check (Part 4)

It’s time for our Jeffco Recall fact check, Part 4! As you know, there’s no shortage of topics, but this should provide a useful boost for conversations with your neighbors, family, and colleagues.

Transparency

Hiding-Money-From-the-GovernmentKen Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams like to claim that they’ve made board operations “more transparent” because the board meetings are now streamed—or at least the parts of the meetings that include all five board members.

The facts:

  • During their first year, WNW repeatedly declared how much they wanted to stream meetings and then repeatedly chose to meet in local high schools where streaming was impossible.
    • When those high school auditoriums filled up, sometimes an overflow room was established so attendees could at least listen to the board meeting, but after a while they stopped doing that too. That’s not transparent.
    • WNW didn’t stream the meeting in which former Superintendent Cindy Stevenson announced she would be leaving the district even earlier than her intended resignation date—which means you have to look at audience videos to see Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman asking WNW about the transition plan and not getting a response. Yep, more closed-door conversations taking place between WNW while Dahlkemper and Fellman were shut out.
  • The streaming has been spotty for a lot of Jeffco taxpayers who’ve tried to use it—sometimes refusing to stream, sometimes streaming only for mere seconds before seizing up, then streaming 5 more seconds seizing up again, etc.
  • Play-by-play tweets from district staff have disappeared, so there’s no information for the times when the streaming goes down or doesn’t have sound, as was the case recently.
  • Even Witt’s little media stunt last week was behind closed doors — literally. Only invited press were allowed in. That alone speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

And let’s not forget the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) violations.

Colorado Ethics Watch called out WNW for violating the CORA requirement that the district have a written policy regarding email retention, which they pointed out was in violation of a 1996 CORA amendment that mandates the board “adopt a policy for retaining, archiving and destroying emails and other digital records.”

The school board’s refusal to adopt an email retention policy in the face of such clear mandatory language in a state statute is a flagrant, and apparently willful, violation of CORA.”

— Ethics Watch Senior Counsel Peg Perl in a July 29, 2015 letter to Jeffco Schools

Also check out this story from Colorado FOIC, and Nic Garcia’s Chalkbeat stories, in which he documents missing emails that were not provided in response to his CORA request, and where he documents board attorney Brad Miller advising the board to simply delete emails.

We’re talking about broken laws — again. If someone tells you WNW increased transparency because they stream meetings, ask them about the deleted emails and the board lawyer hired behind closed doors who advised them to write a policy stating that emails could be immediately deleted and therefore not subject to CORA requests.

We’ve mentioned violations of Colorado’s sunshine laws before, but here’s Chalkbeat reporter Nic Garcia explaining Colorado open meetings laws and “spoke: meetings in case you missed it:

The state’s open meeting law allows board members to discuss the school district’s business one-on-one.

However, it forbids three elected officials or a quorum, whichever is greater, from meeting without proper notification.

Further, transparency activists and case law from around the country suggest it is illegal for elected officials, like school board members, to work around the law by coordinating “spoke” meetings.

A “spoke” meeting, also known as a “walking quorum,” is when one elected official meets with other members of the board on the same subject to coordinate a vote or policy stance.

One example of a “spoke” meeting is Witt contacted Newkirk and Williams and told them to interview Brad Miller and the other board lawyer candidate long before he told Dahlkemper and Fellman and you the public. Newkirk said he interviewed Miller during a convention that took place Dec. 5 through 8 — a week before the regular board meeting. Dahlkemper and Fellman weren’t told until Dec. 10. The agenda item itself wasn’t added until the 10th.

Bottom line: WNW aren’t transparent and never have been.

One of the largest issues around this recall is not necessarily what’s been done, but how it’s been done.

— Nic Garcia in an interview with Ryan Warner on CPR’s Colorado Matters

EXACTLY.

The way issues have been pushed through without careful planning, without conversation and without collaboration is unacceptable.

Do you want last-minute surprises + board majority who ignores portions of the CORA law + a board lawyer who advises them to simply delete their emails + a board member who advised her supporters to email her privately to skirt CORA requests + more than one violation of open meetings laws? No! That combination equals one thing: RECALL.

Here’s what you need to do:

Vote!

  1. Vote for Ali Lasell in District 3
  2. Vote for Amanda Stevens in District 4
  3. Vote YES to recall Julie Williams
  4. Vote for Brad Rupert as District 1 successor candidate
  5. Vote YES to recall John Newkirk
  6. Vote for Susan Harmon as District 2 successor candidate
  7. Vote YES to recall Ken Witt
  8. Vote forRon Mitchell as District 5 successor candidate

WALK!

Go to JeffcoUnited.org to sign up to walk this weekend. We need to get the word out to the 70 percent of Jeffco voters who do not have children in schools, and we need to remind everyone to vote!

DONATE!

It’s not too late. You can donate to any of the candidate’s individual campaigns, or to Jeffco United Forward to benefit all five.

It’s time to get out the vote! Ballots start arriving this week. You may have already received yours. When you have it, vote and return it. We can’t afford apathy this year.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!