The Jefferson County School Board has been in a bit of upheaval since three hard-right Republicans were elected last fall. The new board, led by President Ken Witt, began breaking laws and writing out big checks from their first day on the job. Witt and friends have even made it a point to avoid answering media questions.
So it was no surprise to hear that, by a 3-2 vote last weekend, the Republicans on the school board rammed through a single candidate to become the next Jefferson County Schools Superintendent. Not a narrow list of candidates. Not even two candidates. Just Dan McMinimee. The board paid a recruiting firm $40,000 to conduct a nationwide search, and — SURPRISE!!! — the Republicans on the board chose an assistant superintendent from Douglas County (which has been the centerpiece of a battle to promote vouchers even while the district was performing well). As John Aguilar wrote earlier this week for the Denver Post:
"I was very disappointed to hear this decision," said Jonna Levine, a parent of a former student still active in school organizations and activities. "I was hoping we would find somebody from someplace other than Douglas County. But I think it's the direction where this board has been headed all along."
The long-time hallmark of Jeffco education, Levine said, was strong collaboration among administration, teachers, parents and the community. She said this new board has been less collaborative and transparent.
McMinimee said Saturday night that over the next two weeks he'll be meeting with several Jefferson County groups.
"I hope they ask the tough questions," McMinimee said. [Pols emphasis] "I'm excited to work with the parents, teachers, staff and community to continue the great work they've been doing and to build on that."
Jefferson County Schools superintendent finalist Dan McMinimee faced a decidedly tough crowd Thursday, as dozens of people came to an open house at Wheat Ridge High School to set eyes for the first time on the man who more than likely will take the reins of the state's second-largest school district.
Parents and teachers in this deeply divided district challenged McMinimee, who on Saturday was named by the board as the sole contender for the superintendent post, on a number of topics ranging from charter schools to teacher pay to community unity…
…Things got off to a rough start at the meet and greet when McMinimee announced that he would take questions on a one-on-one basis only, prompting some in the crowd to ask how that bolstered transparency. He later sat down at a table and answered questions in front of everyone. [Pols emphasis]
Yes, we would imagine things would get off to a rough start if you begin a meeting with people already skeptical of your position by declaring your desire to be less accessible from the first question. This is a terrible way for Dan McMinimee to make his introduction to Jefferson County teachers and parents. We've no doubt that McMinimee was likely encouraged by certain board members to be as elusive as possible, but even if he wasn't — this stunt makes it look like he's just a puppet of the right-wing school board. If that indeed proves to be the case, McMinimee will likely have a job only as long as the makeup of the school board remains the same.