Recall 101

ICMYI and BBPD (Back By Popular Demand)…we have gotten strong reviews on our Recall 101 page from a couple weeks ago, so we are republishing as we head into the weekend and yet more people are sitting down with their ballots.

DSCN0244There’s a tab at the top of our website homepage so you can access it easily and share this concise rationale with your still-unsure family and pals. Thanks to our readers for the suggestion!

We’re also sharing the following well-organized description of the main reasons behind the recall, if you prefer to share this piece instead or as well:

Your Voice: Top Four Reasons to Recall Jeffco School Board Majority

There are four major reasons to vote to recall Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk. For the sake of our children and their educational futures we must restore local control, transparency, fiscal responsibility, and respect for parents, educators, and the community. #4 Restore Local Control Local control exists for a reason.

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!


 

 

 

 

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.


 

Story #1 From 2013-2015 Poll Results: WNW Hire Colorado Springs Attorney Brad Miller to Really Run Jeffco Schools

Even more than crowds of students lining the streets, this might be the defining image of the WNW regime:

Brad miller invoice

Two weeks ago, 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.

This was listed as the top story, selected by more than 60% of our readers. In previous posts in our countdown, we have first stated “What Happened” and then talked about “Why It Matters.” For this final post, we are reversing the order of those entries because we think it’s so important to consider why it matters:

Why It Matters: The questions raised by the WNW’s relationship with Mr. Miller get to the heart of not only the issues that keep getting recited by recall supporters, but to the heart of democratic governance and the nature of education itself.

  1. Should school districts be essentially run by attorneys?
  2. If you believe that it’s OK for attorneys to essentially run a school district, then do you think that it’s OK if that attorney lives an hour and a half away and has almost no connection to the district?
  3. Although attorney-client privilege is an important concept, do you appreciate that almost all of Mr. Miller’s invoices look like that, especially for a public institution?
  4. WNW campaigned on transparency; Brad Miller’s work cannot be described as even remotely transparent. Do you think that Mr. Miller’s work, or live streaming of board meetings, is more important for transparency?
  5. We’re told that Mr. Miller represents “the board” but Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper rarely know what he is doing. Do you think that that’s transparent and good governance?
  6.  School districts need attorneys, but what are the appropriate limitations of their roles?
  7. Traditionally, school districts have been run by people who have deep experience in the day-to-day workings of the educational system. Our school board majority doesn’t have that, our Superintendent was a gym teacher for a brief time before becoming and administrator, and they are led around by an attorney who is working for a number of school districts across the state, coaching them on skating fine lines. Is this all related to an anti-intellectual rebellion against experts in their fields?
  8. Do we want our elected officials to occasionally seek counsel from attorneys about legal questions, or do we want our elected officials to put attorneys in the drivers seat, speeding toward some agenda, redacting all the important steps taken along the way?

 

The work of Brad Miller, and not just his appointment, spark fundamental questions about what we want society to be. It is about who is in charge of our schools, our kids, our community. We believe that if this were the sole issue causing problems, it would be enough to justify a recall. We also believe that if all of the voters fully understood this sole issue and the image above, a recall would pass without any of the other issues in play. The number 1 reason we must recall WNW isn’t to get them out of office, or even McMinimee out of the Superintendent’s chair. It’s ultimately to get Brad Miller away from the controls of our school district.

What Happened: We’ve already covered the hiring of Brad Miller as part of an earlier story on surprise votes, poor governance, and lack of information sharing on the part of Ken Witt. So, the circumstances of his contract approval are bad enough.  See a little more information about that here:

The Board’s Personal Attorney – updated 2/6/14

Mr. Miller now is also the personal attorney to the Thompson School Board in Loveland. This was despite large public protests. The Denver Post has an article here where Miller denies he is a “charter school crusader”.

Mr. Miller and his colleagues have gone on to work for more than a year and a half now with a murky scope. Most worrisome, that redacted legal bill at the top of this post? We didn’t pick out the bill with the most redactions. We picked out a representative bill! This is what the public sees, but it’s also what Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper see. More than a year of billings for Mr. Miller and his colleagues, and what do we see? This, regularly.

It is not a stretch to say that Brad Miller is really in charge of Jeffco Schools. Yes, Ken Witt and Dan McMinimee execute decisions formally, and the PR help contracted by the district works overtime to try to keep giving them all a clean sheen, but anyone watching closely and attending board meetings can tell that the shots are called by Mr. Miller on all of the important matters. Mr. Miller’s vast experience at union-busting and public school busting across Colorado gives him a lot of input into just how WNW should tread the line on ignoring teachers.


 

Radio Jeffco: Interview With Beloved Former Arvada West Teacher Shannon MacKenzie

Incredibly strong story by Radio Jeffco.

Click on the link below to actually listen to the voice of a beloved and highly effective Jeffco teacher (Shannon MacKenzie, English teacher at Arvada West) that left because of the board majority. Her stories embody so much of why this recall is necessary. Please share broadly.

Shannon MacKenzie

Podcasts

Our mission is to share the voices of Jeffco residents concerned about outsiders trying to take control of our schools and community.