WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The Denver Post reports today, Douglas County's Dan McMinimee hired by the new conservative Jefferson County school board majority on a split 3-2 vote:
A badly divided Jefferson County Schools board on Tuesday night hired Daniel McMinimee as the next superintendent of the state's second-largest school district, as audience members howled in protest and hurled catcalls toward the dais.
The 3-2 vote to hire McMinimee, who serves as an assistant superintendent with the Douglas County School District, was preceded by loud interruptions from a crowd of several hundred. At one point, a large portion of the room stood up and began chanting "stand up for kids" and a woman was led out of the room by security workers after she spoke out of turn…
Things got off to a bumpy start Tuesday evening, with board members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper pleading with the majority — the three conservative members elected as a slate in November — to allow more than 45 minutes for public comment.
"We need to hear from our community before we vote," Fellman said to loud applause.
But a motion to lengthen the public comment period failed on a 3-2 vote.
UPDATE: A letter from the Jefferson County PTA calls out newly elected board member Julie Williams:
The school board, as you know, is supposed to be non-partisan. Board Policy GP-07 states: Board members should represent the interests of the citizens of the school district. This accountability to the whole district supersedes any conflicting loyalty to other advocacy interest groups, or citizens of a director district and membership on other boards or staffs.
It also says: Any member of the Board of Education may speak to the press, write articles or in other ways communicate with citizens. Board members must identify any personal opinions as such and may not state personal opinions as if they are positions of the Board of Education…
In addition to being blatantly partisan, Williams' post is offensive on many levels. It shows an unconcealed disrespect of and disregard for the general public that she was elected to serve…
As publicly elected officials of the Jeffco Board of Education, you are expected to make decisions with input from all stakeholders. To ignore state laws, school board policies, and public outcry in order to impose an agenda or simply do what you please is abuse of power.
This evening, the raging controversy over the agenda of the new Jefferson County Board of Education's conservative majority again takes center stage with a meeting to consider the sole finalist for the district superintendent position, Douglas County Schools assistant superintendent Dan McMinimee. McMinimee is up for the job after the resignation of the previous Jeffco Schools superintendent Cindy Stevenson, who quit citing an inability to work with the new majority.
As the Denver Post's John Aguilar reports, McMinimee is just the latest sign that the new right-wing majority is pushing Colorado's second-largest school district in an unwelcome direction:
Many teachers and parents eye [McMinimee] with suspicion, afraid that he might bring to Jeffco some of the controversial reforms that have taken root in the last few years under a decidedly right-leaning Douglas County school board.
"It sure looks like it's becoming Douglas County," said Erin Murphy, a teacher at Alameda International High School in Lakewood, who wonders if McMinimee is simply coming to Jefferson County to do the bidding of the school board's new conservative majority…
Courtney Smith, president of the Douglas County Federation, said McMinimee lost his way as the makeup of the board changed. She sat across the table from him during the ill-fated teacher contract negotiations of 2012, during which she said McMinimee didn't advocate sufficiently for teachers in front of the board.
"At one point, he was a principal in the district. He saw firsthand how incredible the work was that was being done with teachers and the district," Smith said. "And then to take part in the top-down initiatives that have harmed Douglas County. He was a part of that."
The new Jefferson County Board of Education majority was elected last year in the same election that saw the overwhelming defeat of Amendment 66–the ill-fated education tax hike proposal whose poor marketing helped far-right school board candidates on the same ballot. The new board members lack experience in education either as teachers or administrators, and since election last November have routinely stoked controversy with an avowedly radical "reform" agenda along the lines of Douglas County to the southeast.
The most partisan political and vocal member of the new board majority is Julie Williams. Williams is the sister-in-law of former Colorado Sen. Tim Neville, which in turn connects Williams with the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the broader hard-right wing of Colorado GOP politics. Last week, Williams posted to her Facebook wall about tonight's meeting with McMinimee, with a over-the-top call to action:
Sign up on line- Be ready at 8:00 or your voice might not be heard and we will be drowned out by the progressives! [Pols emphasis]
Go to the Jeffco Schools Website, click on the link for the Board of Education on the left side of the screen and you will see the link.
Remember- All eyes are on Jeffco and what we do will not only make a difference in Jeffco but the state and the nation! We need to continue to Stand Strong!
In addition to the above message, Williams originally posted this paragraph, since deleted:
Setting aside the embarrassment of a school board member publishing a message with so many grammar and spelling errors, this would appear to indicate that the new conservative majority has already made up their minds to vote for McMinimee–before tonight's hearing. That's a big problem, because board policy specifically says "board members may not state their personal opinions as if they are the positions of the Board of Education," and there hasn't been a vote yet. Also, why should Jefferson County parents support McMinimee to "make a difference" throughout "the state and nation?" Shouldn't everyone be focused on what's best for Jefferson County?
In a way, Williams has done stakeholders in Jefferson County a service–by betraying the intention of the new school board majority to plow ahead with an ideological agenda regardless of the needs of the community they were elected to serve. It would be a huge mistake to assume the voters who turned out in 2013 to elect this majority (and kill Amendment 66) are representative of Jefferson County as a whole. And if McMinimee's appointment is the fait accompli it looks like at this point, the next phase of this battle can't be far away. Given the intense drama this school board majority has caused in such a short period, a recall seems not a question of if–but when.