BALLOT UPDATE: No Complacency!

There were fresh reports on ballot numbers cast in Jeffco today. Here’s the deal. For the first time in the last two weeks, GOP ballots returned now outnumber Democrat ballots returned, of course with a lot of Unaffiliated ballots in the mix too.

ballot

Now, we are certainly not all Democrats here. We’re a mix of affiliations (yes, we have Republican writers too), and we respect much of what the Republican party has to offer. But let’s face it: in this situation, this party split is one barometer of the possible election results. After all, the WNW campaigns are asking people to report to the Jeffco GOP headquarters to make calls to voters, evidencing further enmeshment of the GOP with a nonpartisan race.

Why these ballot results aren’t as bad as it sounds: Often, Republican voters vote early, and Democrats vote later. The fact that the “D” ballots have been ahead is cause for optimism in this case, because that is usually not the case soon after ballots drop. Furthermore, we strongly assume that more Republicans will vote for the recall than Democrats will vote against, and we also assume that Unaffiliated voters will be at least 50/50 for the recall. So, a slight GOP lead isn’t all bad news.

Why this isn’t good: It’s currently heading in the wrong direction. If the GOP ballot lead keeps growing over the next few days, that would be troubling. If the trend continues like this…

What it all means: As projected, this could very well be so very close, that every vote that you fight for truly may make a difference. You may be tired or want to be complacent, but please don’t relax yet! Remember this summer when we said this recall will be a marathon and not a sprint? We’re in those final, painful miles — but we need to finish the race.

In the final analysis, it’s as simple as this: spend some time calling this weekend, please! See the link below for more details, with links on how to help. People really do respond to calls about the election, and need guidance, in the days before the election! You can still make a difference in this most important election!

How You Can Really Help With 8 Days Left

By all accounts this school board election will be very close, but there are still plenty of undecided voters, and voters who just need a little extra prompting to turn in their vote, and you really can help!

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

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.

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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!


 

 

 

 

School Board Ballot Day & You: 300 Words, 2 Years, and 2 Million Page Views

Today, the first November 2015 Jeffco ballots are being mailed out.

In two years, we’ve had approximately 2 million views on our website and Facebook pages, which averages out to 6 views for every voter in Jeffco. We are grateful that so many have spent time to research what’s going on, but all of it will be for naught if the election keeps WNW in power.

We know that the differences are stark, but not everyone does:

WNW + Merritts + Johnson are financed almost entirely from sources outside Jeffco, like the Koch Brothers. The “Clean Slate” of Rupert, Lasell, Stevens, Harmon, and Mitchell, is not.

When considering what’s best for Jeffco, WNW + Merritts + Johnson look to those financiers and attorneys like Brad Miller who have been have specially trained to fight public schools. The Clean Slate is an independent group actually listening to Jeffco stakeholders that value public education.

WNW + Merritts + Johnson cynically claim that “kids are first” but are concerned with political posturing, appealing to a narrow ideology, and “who has the microphone.” The Clean Slate is a pragmatic group of skilled professionals that do not march together on all of the issues and do not come with a preordained agenda.

WNW + Merritts + Johnson habitually blame teachers and call themselves “transparent,” and then meet behind closed doors and stake out their next broadside on teachers. The Clean Slate includes two former teachers and a former principal, and they all actively seek input from all Jeffco stakeholders.

If you haven’t yet shared your thoughts with many others, we ask you think about what you might do this upcoming week. Your opinion matters to others more than you think. There are still undecided and even uninformed voters, probably including some of your friends. Many want to know more about what’s going on, but don’t know who to ask. You can make a difference. The future of public education, in Jeffco and possibly across the nation, is at stake.

Clean Slate

Ron Mitchell, Ali Lasell, Susan Harmon, Brad Rupert, and Amanda Stevens

Keep fighting, JeffCo! 

Election day is Nov. 3. Vote!


 

Story #8 from 2013-2015 Poll Results: Koch Brothers and Other Major Outside Funding Flood Jeffco for WNW

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.

Note that if we had run the poll this week, we certainly would have included Witt’s bizarre and appalling press conference that even his media allies can’t restrain themselves from criticizing and joking about. Safe to say that his presser will be on everyone’s mind for a while.

We are amidst counting down the Top 10, as voted on by more than 400 people. Today is Story #8:

Koch

What Happened: To summarize what we posted a few weeks ago, in 2013, WNW sent approximately 6 mailers out across much of Jefferson County. Jeffco Students First also sent out “The Jeffco Observer.” According to multiple professional estimates, the mailers alone would have cost *at least* $200,000 dollars for design, printing, and postage. The Observer, designed largely to support WNW, cost a lot too.

These communications were paid for by sources outside of their official campaign reporting, by third-party organizations that were nonetheless formed specifically to aid WNW. This is what’s often called “dark money.” WNW’s campaigns also raised some money.

Clear as day on mailers was “Americans for Prosperity”: The Koch Brothers’ political advertising and activism machine. As for other donors? It appears that WNW’s biggest fundraiser took place in Arapahoe County, and the guest list was packed with wealthy donors from outside of Jeffco.

Meanwhile, Tonya Aultman-Bettridge, Jeff Lamontagne, and Gordon “Spud” van de Water each raised in the $35,000-$60,000 range for their official campaigns. Those numbers were indeed higher than the “official” reporting for WNW’s campaigns, but A LOT LESS than the money that was spent on all of the mailers via the “dark money.” Why is that “dark money?” Because most or all of it came from the Koch Brothers/Americans for Prosperity, or the other wealthy donors from outside Jeffco, and THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND THAT.

It’s like comparing two families’ spending on food for a month, and saying that one spends a lot more after just comparing their grocery bills, neglecting the fact that the other family that’s spending less on groceries is only doing so because someone is paying for them to eat out at restaurants all the time. In the end, which family spent more?

It’s simple: WNW easily outspent their opponents in 2013. In their usual sneaky tactics, WNW’s allies are just looking only at the official campaign contributions in order to convince you that they were outspent, to further the idea that their elections were driven by a “grassroots” effort.  That’s both laughable and sad. As you can see, WNW really weren’t outspent, and that’s a major reason we’re in this mess.

Why It Matters: We think that everyone intuitively understands why this matters. Political research indicates that more than 90% of elections are decided by those who spend more money. Of course, some of that is because the candidates have real grassroots support among the people that know them, but the Kochs and others wouldn’t be doing this unless they knew that it was usually successful. In local elections, although people joke about putting mailers straight in the trash, they do work because they’re often the only exposure many busy voters have to candidates. Send a good mailer, get a vote.

The juxtaposition is shocking. Not that long ago, winning school board candidates in Jeffco commonly raised $10,000 – $20,000 for some yard signs and brochures, and perhaps a mailer to a cross-section of voters. The sudden transformation from the $10,000 range to $1,000,000+ should cause anyone alarm. That kind of jump in spending, especially on a nonpartisan election, should raise huge red flags about the political nature of the fight. It should also raise your hackles.

It is a disturbing trend that anyone can spend unlimited amounts, mostly hidden, wherever there want, on any local race in the country. Somehow it seems even more painful in Jeffco. Maybe that’s because we’re from Jeffco, and we pride ourselves in the rich history of independence and spirited debate among locals here. This is Colorado; this is Jeffco; we are independent and don’t take well to outsiders with an agenda trying to buy elections and supporting candidates that they don’t even know.

It also matters because it looks as if they’re on an even bigger spending spree to support WNW in 2015. Look for “Americans for Prosperity” on that TV ad, door hanger, or mailer…and then vote for Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell, who have vastly more local support in every way.


 

Reflections from an Outgoing School Board Member

school-crossingRecently we were able to snag some communication time with outgoing Jeffco School Board member and former board president Lesley Dahlkemper.  We wanted to get a clear view from a current board member about what was working and what was not working on the school board.  Future board members, regardless of their political stripes, can learn valuable insights from a veteran.  As a voter, please consider her wins and losses as you contemplate the types of members you’d like to see on the board in the future.

Ms. Dahlkemper’s top two accomplishments were around budgeting and community engagement.  She came in during a time of very tight budget constraints.  “The board collaborated with community members, parents, district leaders, educators and the employee associations to make decisions that kept difficult budget cuts away from classrooms,” she said. “This work was tied with walking door-to-door and phone banking with other parents and community members to pass a modest bond package that addressed immediate needs to keep students ‘safe, warm and dry’ as well as a mill levy package to maintain Outdoor Lab, band, class sizes, and other services, which were at risk.”  It was a strong, collaborative community effort.  It was also bipartisan, and both and both Democratic and Republican parents worked on the effort.

With respect to community engagement, she said, “As board president, I worked with my board colleagues and the Colorado Association of School Boards to draft the policy. An excerpt from the policy states: ‘The board believes that engaging our community is essential to preserving a strong system of public education. The board’s policies and decisions should reflect community values, good educational practice and available financial resources.’ Jeffco is one of only a handful of school  boards with such a policy.”

Unfortunately, community engagement takes more than just listening.  It takes courage to act according to the wishes of the public.  Ms. Dahlkemper explained “My greatest disappointment [over the last two years] was several failed motions during multiple board meetings to fund full-day kindergarten for schools with students on the cusp of free- and reduced-lunch.”

The board was presented with data, many times, about this critical need and impact it makes on children.  During her first two years, the former board did approve full-day kindergarten funding for more than one dozen at risk schools, but the current board repeatedly turned down her motions on a 3-2 vote in the last two years.

Not only should the board listen and act according to the public wishes to the degree they can with budget constraints, they should also listen to each other. Jeffco Schools has had a rich tradition of board members with diverse views who have worked together in the best interests of all children.

In the past, they listened closely to our community to identify priorities.  They followed board policies that required them to study a proposal and ask questions – with a vote always occurring at the second meeting.  “It’s been disheartening to see surprise after surprise introduced at the board table,” she said. “These surprises range from hiring a school board attorney prior to knowing his hourly rate and scope of work to a recent resolution gutting months of work by parent and district leaders designed to better align the district accountability committee to state law to a new compensation system that was never fully vetted with Ms. Fellman, me or employees – as policy requires.”

The message from this outgoing member could not be more clear:  “Listen to the community – including those with whom you agree and disagree. Study the issues. Ask lots of questions. Find common ground and build from there. Communicate clearly – and in a variety of ways – to the public about the board’s rationale for its decisions. Work closely with other board members to come up with meaningful, innovative solutions to complex challenges. Always remember that your decisions affect 85,000 children and the quality of Jeffco’s schools. These decisions have implications for us all regardless of whether we have children enrolled in a Jeffco school. Great schools and great communities go hand-in-hand. It is a privilege to serve on the Jeffco school board.”

As for staying engaged in education, don’t worry.  Besides her full time job in education, Ms. Dahlkemper is involved in her daughter’s school – both its PTA and school accountability committees. As any parent of a tween knows, being a supportive, present parent is key at this time in her daughter’s life.  She will have much more time to do this effectively.

On the fun side, she’ll spend her Sundays reading the New York Times and Denver Post cover to cover in lieu of Board Docs. Most of all she says, “I’m eager to spend more time with my daughter, Grace, and my husband, Mike. It seems like just yesterday we were taking Grace to Rooney Ranch Elementary School for her first day of kindergarten. In two short years, she will be in high school.  In six years, she will graduate from high school. Time is fleeting. I want to be fully present for her and for Mike.”