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!


 

10.26.15 WNW #LogicFail

LogicFailThe irony is impossible to miss. Jeffco School Board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams, aka WNW, claim to be “laser-focused” on student achievement…but only in certain cases. Ditto for fiscal responsibility, accountability, transparency, and respect. For example:

When it comes to offering free full-day kindergarten to low-income families at a cost of $600,000, they said it’s not a mandate and we can’t afford it.

When it comes to equalizing mill levy funds–a move that is is not mandated and that at a cost of $8.1 million is 13.5 times more than it would cost to expand free full-day kindergarten, WNW said “it’s only fair.”

#LogicFail

When approached with any district request, WNW demand to know how it will impact student achievement.

When WNW equalized funding for charter schools, they didn’t ask how it would improve student achievement.

When told how full-day kindergarten improves student achievement for at-risk families, WNW ignored multiple national studies that demonstrate achievement gains, including Jeffco results that clearly showed student gains when they controlled for days attended (which is what good scientific studies do).

#LogicFail

WNW claim that they are moving Jeffco forward because they improved student achievement results.

As proof, WNW cite Jeffco graduation rates from before they took office.

#LogicFail

When WNW wanted to make sure the DAC aligned more closely with state statutes than the former SPAC did, they rewrote membership so that it was in violation of state law.

When this was pointed out to them — after they tried to rush the approval through that night without revisions and eventually agreed to follow their own policies — Witt said “that’s why this ‘compromise’ makes sense.”

#LogicFail

WNW are bragging about the school they “built” without incurring debt. But wait–do you see a new school in Candelas? No? Neither do we. Perhaps they should try “are building?” And that’s without addressing the fact that the K-6 school WNW approved is neither as large as it should be, that it will require an addition, that the district’s recommendation was for a K-8 and that new schools are needed in two other locations plus an expansion to Sierra Elementary, or the fact that by taking $18 million from the operating budget, they’ve left nothing for addressing unexpected budget needs like security.

#LogicFail

WNW repeatedly say they want a new District Accountability Committee that doesn’t look like the former Strategic Planning Advisory Council and that is truly aligned with state laws. Then John Newkirk proposes a membership that violates state laws.

#LogicFail

And our favorite: when Witt held a closed-door press conference to announce he was asking the Independent Ethics Commission to investigate him regarding allegations that he violated the Colorado open meetings act. Note that the IEC has no jurisdiction over school boards, that they do not weigh in on open meetings laws, and that they exist to advise about future decisions — and that Witt somehow thought a closed-door press conference was the perfect antidote to allegations of closed-door meetings.

#LogicFail #LogicFail #LogicFail

You know what you need to do. Vote and get those ballots in by Nov. 3 — or better, yet, turn in them in tomorrow! The sooner you turn them in, the sooner both sides will stop calling you and knocking on your door.

Here’s what you do:

  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 successor candidate
  5. Vote yes to recall John Newkirk
  6. Vote for Susan Harmon as successor candidate
  7. Vote yes to recall Ken Witt
  8. Vote for Ron Mitchell as successor candidate
  9. Turn in your ballot by 7 pm on Tuesday, November 3. 

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

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.


 

 

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.


 

 

Advice to New School Board Members – From a Veteran, Jill Fellman

Once again Jeffco School Board Watch was able to get time a current school board member, this time Jill Fellman.  When asked about her time on the board and advice to future board members, her advice was to “listen.”

“LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN!!  Then, be willing to compromise and work together to improve education for all students.  Remember that every decision must be made while considering the needs of students, teachers, schools, and families.  Take the responsibility of being an elected official seriously.  Advocate for needs of Jefferson County schools with other elected officials in county, state and federal government positions. Be active in the community — even at those events that may have many attendees that may not agree with some of your positions — to demonstrate that you are willing to engage respectfully with all segments of our community to pursue the shared goal of what’s best for Jeffco kids.”

Ms. Fellman truly walked the talk with respect to getting out in the community.  Just a few days ago she was seen at Lakewood High School at a student produced play called “Fractured Light”.  This show about struggles students face outside the classroom was powerful.  As Ms. Fellman told us, “I love reading to students, visiting classrooms, talking to teachers, principals, and parents, hearing about the challenges and the joys of learning.  Attending art nights, athletic events, musical performances, watching our talented students engage in their learning bring me moments of great pride.”  She added that as a school board member you help create a structure and capability in the district to teach “the whole child,” which is not just about core knowledge, but life too.

Ms. Fellman came to the board with an interest in budgeting, and to that end has been treasurer the last two years.  Prior to that she was board secretary.  She has been successful in both roles, and helped guide the priorities at the meetings.  “When I first came to the board, there was a presentation on the budget EVERY meeting.  Don’t get me wrong – the school district budget is extremely important.  However, we only had a half-hour presentation on student achievement in four meetings.  That was changed so that EVERY meeting we had a presentation on student achievement while we got regular budget updates in writing.  The change in meeting structure better reflected our values and focus.”

She takes her role as treasurer seriously, and she is a member of the Audit Committee.  In addition, she attends meetings of the Colorado School Finance Project and learned everything she could about school finance.  Her advice to new members: “In an environment where board members’ goals and interests are respected, those members ought to be willing to encourage each other to serve in some positions where they can offer the most experience as well as others where they have an opportunity to grow.”

Her greatest disappointment is that we do not have a plan to deal with the tremendous amount of growth in NW Arvada or West Lakewood.  Assuming the predictions by expert demographers are even close to accurate, the district is looking at an increase of 5,000 – 8,000 students and we currently do not have seats for these students.  There are many schools that are at full capacity and adding students to these schools does not make sense.

“I understand the argument against using Certificates of Participation (COPs) to fund schools but, I strongly believe we MUST have schools for all students who live in Jefferson County and using COPs to finance schools in this situation is not only appropriate, it is also a smart, responsible business decision.  Taking advantage of COPs to build schools is the best solution to the overcrowding we are experiencing now and the extreme overcrowding we will see going forward, unless the board quickly adopts and implements a plan.”

It is worth repeating that listening to input from staff is critical too, as is acting upon their sage advice.  As Ms. Fellman told us, “We had a large number of community members write us emails offering ideas, and we had our staff experts provide us with multiple alternatives to address the growth issues (supported by our superintendent). Unfortunately, despite the continued efforts of two members to find compromise, the board did not listen to our community or our staff experts.  There are extremely few black and white issues that we face.  In fact, most are shades of gray, and in order to best serve our students we need to engage with all interested parties, and actively look for compromise solutions.”

As her four year term winds down, Ms. Fellman knows she will continue to be an advocate for ALL children, right up until the last day of her term.  She has literally spent a lifetime involved in Jeffco Schools.

“I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to grow up in Jeffco schools, teach here, work in the Jeffco Schools administration, and serve as a member of the Board of Education for 4 years. I have been part of Jeffco Schools for over 47 years.  I am sure to find new ways to continue to advocate for teaching and learning.  I cannot stop caring about this district!”

Hopefully our readers are looking at this critical board election with open eyes, and ears, and are seeking candidates for the next board who will “walk the talk” as Ms. Fellman has over her long career, listen to the community and their peers, and stand up for ALL students.

Stand-Up-Be-CountedNeed a quick refresher on the candidates? Check out this post about Ali Lasell (running for the District 3 seat currently occupied by Ms. Fellman), as well as Amanda Stevens (running for the seat occupied by outgoing board member Lesley Dahlkemper), and recall successor candidates Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell.

Remember: vote for Lasell and Stevens, vote yes to recall, and then vote for Rupert, Harmon and Mitchell.