The Hypothetical Dan McMinimee


Mr. McMinimee appears to have a full repertoire for evading questions and not committing to any particular path, presumably to not create obstacles to the ultimate political goals of the school board majority’s handlers. One of those tools he has employed more often lately is refusing to answer questions if he deems them to be “hypothetical.”

In recent conversations with teachers and the community, Mr. McMinimee has taken to setting ground rules. Some of the ground rules appear to be the usual, like behaving respectfully. Unfortunately, he is also increasingly using the manipulative “I’m not answering hypothetical questions” sleight-of-hand, and establishing that as one of his up-front ground rules.

Of course, he actually talks about hypothetical events all the time. Certainly, when he interviewed for the job he talked about hypothetical events. Certainly, he believes in the purchase of appropriate insurance for the district despite the fact that the insured events are hypothetical.

He is mandated to plan strategically, accounting for some hypotheticals.  We are sure that Mr. McMinimee plans his weekend despite some uncertainties in his plans. The “hypothetical” escape hatch might not be his most disingenuous answer, but it is perhaps the perfect example of his get-out-of-the-way-of-WNW leadership style. To be sure, there are limits to the reasonable hypothetical nature of questions, but real leadership is talking about things that really concern people and that aren’t just remote possibilities.

Yet when competent, veteran teachers ask about what life might be life after an association contract, there is some level of dismissal by Mr. McMinimee as such questions being too hypothetical. These are teachers whose long and distinguished careers are defined and undergirded by working conditions spelled out in their contract. Based on what happened in Douglas County, and WNW’s relationship with the Independence Institute and other reflexively anti-collective bargaining forces, questions about life after a teacher contract are far from hypothetical.

Mr. McMinimee bristles at the idea that there’s a lack of transparency, but his dodging uncomfortable questions with this cynical trick only deepens the mistrust. Once again, Mr. McMinimee’s shocking lack of real leadership promotes the idea that he was paid primarily to talk in circles, to shirk tough questions as deftly as possible, and to do the will of forces operating outside of Jeffco, all the while giving the appearance that he has some separation and independence from the board majority. At a meeting on Wednesday night, he answered that he sometimes stands up to some board members, but behind closed doors, of course.

True leaders give authentic and transparent answers to their employees’ questions, especially when those questions involve the conditions of their work and their livelihood. We will gladly give credit if things change. But for now, Mr. McMinimee’s weak dodges will only cement the idea that his primary goal isn’t really student achievement, but rather to get paid a comfortable salary while playing the part of a pawn. That’s not hypothetical.

Keep fighting JeffCo!





That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.

— Noam Chomsky

JCSBW readers, we’re happy to be back and back strong with a new plan to keep the posts rolling out.

And with that, it’s time for BOE Thursday Meeting Prep:

When: Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 5:30 pm.

Where: 5th Floor Board Room, Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden

(If you cannot attend, please watch the live video stream at: Also, please let Jeffco Schools and us know if you have trouble with the live stream. We know several people who have been unable to watch the stream. In some cases the stream pauses every 5 seconds, and in others there is video or audio, but never both.)

Overall Comments: There’s a lot going on at this special meeting. Two articulation area plans are on the agenda, as is an introduction to Interested based Bargaining (IBB), a discussion of alternative teacher licensure, employee negotiations, student based budgeting and even a classroom dashboard update. (Remember the classroom dashboard? It’s been a while since we’ve heard about it.) This is an important meeting that will expose more of WNW’s plans for the district.

Key Agenda Items

Agenda Item 2.01: Jefferson Articulation Area Plan (EL-11)

Type: Discussion, Information

PRESENTING STAFF: Terry Elliott, chief school effectiveness officer; Warren Blair, principal, Wheat Ridge 5-8; Celeste Sultze, principal, Edgewater Elementary; Rhonda Hatch-Rivera, principal, Lumberg Elementary; Heather Stewart, principal, Stevens Elementary; John D’Orazio, principal, Molholm Elementary; Michael James, principal, Jefferson High School

PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to be provided an update on the developments of the Jefferson Area Plan, for the articulation area schools in the 2015/2016 school year to support increased student achievement and opportunities.

BACKGROUND: Over the last few months, a group of dedicated school leaders have been talking, visioning, and researching strategies to enhance achievements and post-secondary options for our valued students in the Jefferson articulation area.  To address student achievement, student retention, program options and to improve state performance ratings for all schools, the Jefferson articulation principals developed an improvement plan framework focused on building stronger alignment of resources to address the environmental factors impacting the area’s K-12 student population.  The framework was designed to gather staff and community input in order to develop a Jefferson Area Plan with the first phase being implemented for the 2015-2016 school year.

An update on this plan was presented to the Board of Education at the January 15 regular business meeting.

Our Comments: The plan put forward here by the principals is a means of being pro-active in addressing the environmental factors that are impacting educational outcomes for students in the community. By moving forward with a plan, the principals are claiming ownership of the problem and solutions.

Including more teacher and parent input in this beginning process would present a stronger case to the Board and community that this is a feasible venture and needs to be considered in the planning. This plan needs to be owned by the community to definitely avoid a top-down decision from the Board that might fit another agenda.

Agenda Item 2.02: Negotiations: Interest Based Bargaining Overview (EL-4, 11)

Type: Discussion

PRESENTING STAFF: Dennis Dougherty, facilitator, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services; JCEA Bargaining Team member(s); Karen Jones, principal secretary, Columbine High School, CSEA Bargaining Team; Amy Weber, chief human resources officer

 PURPOSE:  For the Board of Education to receive the requested training on Interest Based Bargaining (IBB) as Jeffco begins negotiations with JCEA and CSEA.

BACKGROUND: Negotiations are typically conducted either through traditional bargaining or Interest Based Bargaining (IBB). For multiple years, Jeffco’s negotiating teams have used IBB. The facilitator who has worked with the JCEA negotiating teams for the past several years will provide an overview on IBB to the Board, and members of the negotiating team will share their insights as to the process.

Attachments: coming soon

Our Comments: Interest Based Bargaining is a joint approach to problem solving. By starting with an understanding of the issues and pinpointing the concerns that affect each side’s positions, IBB helps identify common views, goals, etc. of both sides.  It is defined as:

A negotiating strategy in which both sides start with declarations of their interests instead of putting forward proposals, and work to develop agreements that satisfy common interests and balance opposing interests. Interest-based bargaining is also called integrative or win-win bargaining. 

Interest-based bargaining goes by a host of names such as “consensus bargaining,” “problem-solving negotiations,” “win-win,” “mutual gains,” “collaborative bargaining,” “principled negotiations,” and others. Effective IBB includes:

  • Sharing relevant information is critical for effective solutions.
  • Focusing on issues, not personalities.
  • Focusing on the present and future, not the past.
  • Focusing on the interests underlying the issues.
  • Focusing on mutual interests, and helping to satisfy the other party’s interests as well as your own.
  • Options developed to satisfy those interests should be evaluated by objective criteria, rather than power or leverage.

The leadership style of the Board majority thus far has not demonstrated a leaning towards  “collaborative bargaining” as they have block voted on many issues not comfortable with the Board minority, teachers and/or community members. 

Whatever their interest in IBB, we suspect that WNW are hatching a plan to make the teachers look bad whatever choice(s) they make so that they can cut the contract. Their plans are likely orchestrated to wind up with that result no matter what approach JCEA takes.

If we’re right, then this is all window dressing.  All this despite the fact that there’s no data to support increased student achievement without the presence of a unified voice for teachers.” The reaction to the teachers’ discussion of the IBB process at this meeting will deliver a clear message of the Board majority’s intent for negotiations.

We will also note that JCEA and the BOE used IBB last year too, which begs several questions regarding why WNW are just now choosing to familiarize themselves with IBB.

 Agenda Item 2.03: Teacher Licensure Process: Alternative Programs (EL-11)

Type: Discussion

PRESENTING STAFF: Amy Weber, chief human resources officer; Karie Yenter, employment services manager

PURPOSE: The Board of Education requested a discussion on teacher licensure and alternative programs.

BACKGROUND: Teachers working in Jeffco’s neighborhood and alternative education schools must be licensed by the state to be hired as teachers. Additionally, they must be highly qualified in their content area.  Teachers working at our charter schools are not required to hold a teaching license, provided that the district submits licensure waivers. They are, however, required to hold a bachelor’s degree and meet content requirements.  All special education teachers and providers serving all our schools, including charters, must hold a state license. There are no waivers for these categories of staff.  Colorado provides a mechanism for teachers to obtain a license through alternative licensure pathways.

Attachments: Alternative Teacher Licensure Feb 19

Our Comments: The fact that this is on this meeting’s agenda suggests that WNW are already looking into alternatives to replace the hoards of teachers likely to flee after they cut ties with the union. As they’ve made repeatedly clear, they place more trust in untested individuals who have been doing anything other than teaching than they do in the trained and experienced professionals who have dedicated years of their life to being excellent teachers.

Agenda Item 2.04: Student Based Budgeting Update (EL-11)

Type: Information

PRESENTING STAFF: Kathleen Askelson, chief financial officer and Terry Elliott, chief school effectiveness officer

PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to receive an update on the 2015/2016 budget development process for school sites.

BACKGROUND: The Board of Education received an overview of the Student Based Budgeting (SBB) process initiative implemented by former CFO Lorie Gillis for the 2015/2016 school year.  The Board requested an update on SBB following the submission of budgets from the participating schools.  The discussion will provide details on the process and insights from the initial review of submitted school budgets.

Attachments: Coming soon.

Our Comments: District staff are already talking about the “second iteration” of SBB when addressing schools (or at least when talking to the schools who were about to have their school psychologist or social worker dropped to half time), so it should be interesting to see what issues they are already addressing in the first iteration.

We would also like to hear them address why items such as instructional coaches—who were supposed to be paid for through the 2012 3A mill levy override funds, are now an option schools can choose to fund (or not) in SBB.

Agenda Item 2.05: Classroom Dashboard Update (EL-11)

Type: Information

PRESENTING STAFF: Dr. Syna Morgan, chief academic officer; Brett Miller, chief information officer; Mary Beth Bazzanella, director, Educational Technology; Curtis Lee, director, Data Quality/Education Technology

PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to receive an update on the status of the Classroom Dashboard project. 

BACKGROUND: The Board of Education requested an update on the status of the Classroom Dashboard project. The presentation will provide information on the work completed to date and next steps.

Attachments: 0219 Classroom Dashboard BOE Update.pdf

Our Comments: It’s been a while since we’ve heard about the Classroom Dashboard. As a reminder, the previous board voted to cut ties with inBloom in November 2013, and the plan was that the district would move ahead with an in-house version of the dashboard—a move that would be more costly and take more time, but which was thought to alleviate many of the concerns about data privacy and security. 

Nelson Garcia of 9News recently did a story on the dashboard — a $600,000 project. When he contacted Jeffco, officials refused to answer any of his questions. We think Nelson’s wording was deliberate. Typically, journalists will state that a person or organization “did not respond to questions” if they were unable to get a response, but save “refused to answer questions” for situations in which a person specifically said they were not going to answer questions.

Is the district moving ahead? Are WNW trying to bury the project so it never sees the light of day?

Agenda Item 2.06: Alameda Facilities Plan Update (EL-11)

Type: Information

PRESENTING STAFF: Terry Elliott, chief school effectiveness officer; Susie Van Scoyk, principal, Alameda International High School; Jennifer Kirksey, principal, O’Connell Middle School; Samantha Salazar, principal, Stein Elementary School

PURPOSE: To provide the Board of Education an overview and update on the developments of the proposed solution to the facilities needs in the Alameda articulation area.

BACKGROUND: In order to meet the growing enrollment pressures in the Alameda articulation area, which have been reviewed by the Board, a proposal was developed by staff to create an additional elementary campus.  This move would utilize the current Alameda International High School campus to become a 7-12 campus with three wings (7-8, 9-10, 11-12) enabling the creation of a new elementary school on the site of the current O’Connell Middle School.  This would alleviate the over capacity issues at Stein, Deane and Lasley elementary schools and provide additional room for future growth in the area.

Attachments: coming soon.

Our Comments: This is primarily an attempt to address overcrowding at Stein without bothering with such pesky things as a school expansion or building new schools. Significant concerns regarding keeping 7th and 8th graders safe were expressed when this topic was discussed at the January meeting.

Agenda Item 2.07: Employee Negotiations (EL-4, -11)

Type: Discussion

PRESENTING STAFF: Jim Branum, attorney, Caplan and Earnest; Amy Weber, chief human resources officer; Craig Hess, chief legal counsel and executive director of Employee Relations; Steve Bell, chief operating officer

PURPOSE: The Board will continue discussions with the district negotiating team.

BACKGROUND: On January 15, the Board of Education adopted the resolution requesting the commencement of good faith negotiations for a successor agreement with the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) and optional proposals with the Classified School Employees Association (CSEA).  Under Colorado law, school board discussions regarding employee contracts must be conducted in open session (except under specific circumstances).

Attachments: 2015 115 Att A reso Good Faith Negotiations.pdf

Our Comments: Preliminary discussions about negotiations have been anything but cordial so far. WNW have questioned interested based bargaining (see above), are insisting that the meetings be streamed and recorded (without editing…apparently they suspect that the streaming issues reported by others are subtle attempts to edit the stream as opposed to an actual tech problem?), and oddly, given their concern about then number of employed people who cannot attend negotiations during the day (including teachers!), voted for a mix of days, evenings, and weekends.

WNW are also strongly leaning toward jettisoning Facilitator Dennis Dougherty of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services because Dougherty has stated he will not agree to stream or record the negotiations. If they move forward with this plan, a facilitator will cost Jeffco taxpayers as much as $800-$1,200 per day, for upwards of $20,000 depending on how many days the negotiations take.

Predictably, Williams’ response to the cost was that the expense would be worthwhile. (That was her response to the budget survey too. Expenses considered worthwhile by WNW: a $90,000 per year BOE lawyer, a $10,000 budget survey that many people are unhappy with, and $20,000 for contract negotiations that will accomplish nothing unless WNW agree to negotiation in good faith—unlike last year.)

Agenda Item 2.09: Board Retreat

Type: Discussion


PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to discuss its retreat scheduled for February 28.
BACKGROUND: The Board has set aside the morning of February 28 to hear from individuals regarding school configuration and innovation in k-12 education.

Our Comments: The retreat was originally Julie Williams’ suggestion, because she wanted to know what education innovations in the 21st century looked like before approving $80 million in Certificates of Participation to build traditional schools in rapidly-growing parts of Jeffco.

 At the BOE’s Feb. 5 meeting, we learned that Steve House, who’s running to be the Colorado Republican Party Chair, will be one of the individuals talking about innovation in K-12 education. Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper questioned the choice, asking what experience had had in education. House’s experience includes a failed bid for the 2014 gubernatorial election and a long career involving IT, sales and healthcare technology. He is currently a healthcare consultant, according to Linkedin.

We don’t see any evidence of experience with K-12 at all, and questions by Fellman and Dahlkemper also failed to explain why a single minute of the retreat should be devoted to this speaker. Of note: he is a 2010 graduate of the Leadership Program of the Rockies.

When Dahlkemper asked Witt, “Who is the educator on this list,” Witt’s response was, “These are perspectives on education.” The other WNW speaker is Tony Lewis, the executive director of the Donnell-Kay Foundation, a supporter of school reform and school privatization efforts. After a long discussion, it was suggested that two others might be included to balance the discussion. Scott Fast and a representative from Job Creators Network were added to the retreat agenda. Perhaps Thursday’s discussion will shed more light on their motivations for choosing House and Lewis.

Let’s Keep Fighting, JeffCo!



Board Mtg 1/30/14 – Summary

Below is a review of the Jan 30th Special Board meeting held at the Education Center in Golden (near Denver West off of I-70).

The first part of the meeting was held in Executive Session (no public viewing) and covered the status of negotiations with the different employee associations.  At 6:30 p.m., the public part of the meeting was convened.  Overall, there appeared to be a strong interest in anything charter school related. Continue reading