Battle Over New Jeffco Schools Superintendent Escalates

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.

—–

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

‚ÄčThis 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:

williamsparagraph

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.

29 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

    I'll be first to volunteer.

  2. Andrew Carnegie says:

    To borrow the words of Barack Obama "You lost."

  3. Craig says:

    Ah, finally, the word recall.  Let's see who is for this now when they weren't for it over the gun thing.  I bet a lot of positions have changed.  Nevertheless, a recall held at a general election date would almost certainly result in these three new members being kicked out of office, and they know it.  I'm guessing now some of these guys won't be as in favor of a recall as they were for guns.  Hahahahahaha! The hypocrisy of politicians.

    • ModeratusModeratus says:

      Yes, recall against Democrats was a crime against humanity, but against conservative school board members? Go for it!

      Typical lib hypocrisy, I'm used to it.

    • I'm all in favor of a recall – for abuses of office. There is at least the appearance of violations of the open meeting law, cronyism, and abuse of the district's treasury. For these things, a recall is both justified and imperative.

      Much as this Board is looking to destroy as much of the JeffCo school system as they can on short notice, I would be reluctant to call for recall elections if they were following procedure and being fiscally responsible with the school's money.

      • BlueCat says:

        The abuses of office seem clear enough, making this a completely different matter than just disagreeing with an elected representative's votes and stands on issues. No hypocrisy is necessary to support recall for clear violations and, at the same time, to oppose it as a way of driving duly elected representatives from office prior to the next election because of disagreements with their votes.  It's apples and oranges. 

    • Arvadonian1Arvadonian1 says:

      No hypocricy here….I am opposed to recalls unless the target has done something illegal.  None of the three members of the board, who I did not vote for and with whom I disagree vigorously, stand accused of doing anything illegal.  I would oppose recalling them, just as I opposed recalling Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the recalls here in Colorado.  Recalls, are fundamentally anti-democratic and a waste of taxpayer money.  In short, the voters elected these folks, let them live with the consequences until the next election. 

      • Actually, they stand accused of violating open meetings laws, of abusing the power of their purse in paying an ideologically aligned (and politically intertwined) lawyer for services I'm sure I haven't seen adequately defined, and of other abuses.

        Now, depending on your definition of "illegal" – i.e. if you want to see an outright felony or misdemeanor rather than an administrative violation -  these might not be sufficient, but they're certainly abuses of office that would be valid grounds for recall in my book.

  4. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Quote in today's Post from former state representative Rob Witwer: "It's unfortunate the level of animosity has grown to the point that this man (McMinimee) isn't being given a fair opportunity to make his case to the community….."  I agree. 

    If Board member Wiliams behaved in an inappropriate fashion with her Facebook posts, then file a complaint with the state ethics commission instead of whining on a web site. 

    The complaint letter from the Jefferson County PTA is rather shallow. Where were they during the tenure of the former board and superintendent when the teachers union and supporters ran things? At least with the new board, altho the jury is still out in my opinion, maybe average taxpayers will get some consideration for opinions, from those who don't have kids in the JeffCo system. During the prior board, taxpayers were marks to be fleeced and nothing more.

    As for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, there is a connection, but brought up now only for its shock value, whatever that is. Any intelligent person knows that a gun organization that makes the NRA look like a bunch of flaming liberals can't be good.

    Regards,   C.H.B.

     

    • Colorado PolsColorado Pols says:

      You couldn't accuse the previous school board of lacking in transparency. That's the big difference here. The board is announcing decisions before the process even takes place.

      Also, it's not a partisan issue to be confused about the purpose of spending $40,000 to conduct a "national" search that results in ONE finalist for the job.

      • Miss Jane says:

        The one "finalist" who , so coincidentally, lives right next door.  Now that is transparent.  It would serve them right to face recall.  This will get expensive for Jefferson County, as it is for El Paso County with the sheriff's shenanigans. 

    • JeffcoDemoJeffcoDemo says:

      And when you say "marks to be fleeced," you are referring to our community voting to invest in our children.  We know that even with the latest taxes we are below national averages and we are getting great value for our money.  We believe a strong school district not just helps "our" children, but helps the entire community, and our future.

      It is in everyone's interest, financially it means our property values rise and having a strong school district helps attract new businesses.  Yes, we are very interested in how our dollars are used, it's just that we are here for the long term and don't take the short sighted view of choking our school district.

      • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

        Props to JeffcoDemo. "Marks to be fleeced," indeed.

        Schools are not businesses. Investment in the education of children is not like buying equipment for an enterprise. CHB, kindly visit and preferably volunteer in some Jeffco classrooms before you next pompously declare that Jeffco taxpayers are not getting good value for their tax dollars.

        And consider who is going to be working and paying for your retirement – do you want those workers to be just enough educated to make change, or do you want creators and innovators?

        Insomniacally yours, mj

        • Conserv. Head Banger says:

          "paying for YOUR retirement….."  I'm actually the primary payer for MY retirement. Due to employment circumstances, my social security benefit, when I draw it, will be pretty minor. 

          See my other comment to JeffcoDemo. And so I have to volunteer in a JeffCo classroom before I can have an opinion; and because you disagree with my comment, I'm pompous? That's arrogant. I give about 1,000 volunteer hours, and thousands of dollars, per calendar year, to various local charities. JeffCo schools is not a selected recipient of my charitable dollars, but I choose to give to more needy educational charities.

      • Conserv. Head Banger says:

        "you are referring to our community voting to invest in our children….."  Yeah, I fell for that propaganda back in 2004 and voted for the tax increase that year. That's the last time I'll vote for a tax increasae for the school district.

        Next thing I know, a perfectly good middle school near my home; in need of some modest enlargement (Dunstan); gets completely gutted and a whole new building gets put up. Same thing happened with Golden High School. Spare me the pious platitudes of "investing in children." I'm all for that; but let's focus on the academics and not building edifices to bureaucrats. Let's prune out a bunch of assistant principals and other education bureaucrats while we're at it.

        "we are here for the long term….."  and you imply that anyone who disagrees with you is not? I've lived in JeffCo for 19 years and expect, depending on life expectancy, to be here another 20. I'll be paying taxes the entire time and want the money spent wisely. 

  5. Before we see a recall effort…

    I want to see the reported violations of the Open Meeting Act substantiated.

    I want to see the minority members on the Board say straight up that they've been excluded from decision-making processes and the stream of information coming in to the new Board members.

    I want to understand how $40,000 of "search committee" time for one of the largest districts in the state resulted in a single candidate – and an assistant superintendant from the much smaller (but curiously ideologically aligned) Douglas County at that.

    I want to know what is worth the new lawyer's monthly bills.

    In short – if someone wants to have a recall, each and every one of the topics above should be not only brought up, but thoroughly disclosed. And the results had better look like an abuse of office to any county resident not blinded by ideology. I'm pretty sure this stuff is out there, somewhere.

    I'm not a county resident, and I don't have a clue where to start – but I supect some private questioning of minority board members and a few open records requests would be a good start. This is also something that a croud-sourcing website might be good for – organize a timeline and suspicious activity until the devilish details pop to the surface.

    • R2Q5 says:

      Phoenix Rising… 

      It's my understanding that the minority board members have not said much because board policy prevents them from doing so– although both Dahlkemper and Fellman have begun cc' their emails to the board majority to the press.

      I think this is only going to get bigger and bigger as the threads get pulled. For example, it just came out today that McMinimee is on the board of directors of a for-profit charter school in Texas. Interesting?

      http://www.supportjeffcokids.org/mcminimee-as-charter-board-president-in-texas/

       

       

      • Reading the complaint, it seems that Board policy simply prohibits them from presenting their opinions in a way that could be construed as representing the Board (or, in the case of the PTA's complaint against Williams, a majority).

        So minority Board members certainly could state their public opinion (as themselves, disclaiming speaking for the Board as a whole) stating that they were kept in the dark over the search for a replacement superintendent. They could give their opinions over the use of the legal resource that was hired, and how much they've seen for the district's money. So long as it is clear that they are speaking for themselves, and they don't violate any Executive committee disclosure rules, which neither of the above should do.

  6. dwyer says:

    @JeffCo citizens

    At least you don't live in Denver.  The totally "progressive" school board is once again experimenting with Manual.  Popular outcry evidently will delay the "plan" for a year….but still….given a choice between vouchers and experimental plans, without parental consent……which would you choose????

    Here is a link to the latest "fruitbasket upset" plan:

    http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/05/23/dps-puts-east-manual-plans-on-hold/#.U4VEHxZff6U

    • mamajama55mamajama55 says:

      dwyer, I haven't been following the current DPS board shenanigans. They just closed Montbello High School. Like Manual, it was a school with a rich history, very integral to its community, with strong alumni support.

      Manual basically got "gentrified" out of existence – as yuppies without high school age kids moved in, they pushed out the poorer families who had raised their kids and who supported the school.

      Montbello got NCLB'd out of existence – scores didn't come up fast enough to satisfy. It didn't help that there was a murder there one year, a principal in a sex scandal, and two freshmen killed in car accidents in two years.

      I've taught at both schools, under new principals who were trying the latest greatest social experiments at the schools.

      I'd like to see reformers thoughtfully look at the strengths of schools which they want to "reform" -  community support and history, in the cases of Montbello and Manual. And then, try to preserve and build on those strengths, instead of doing the "every 3 year break-it-and-rebuild-it-from-scratch" dance.

      I'm an East Angel, as are most of my extended family members, and I don't want to see that richly-traditioned school broken by well-intentioned reformers and multijillion dollar curriculum and textbook and professional-development hawkers, either.

      Before you ask, dwyer, my extended family members who are still involved with East will probably have something to say about these plans.

      • dwyer says:

        @mj55.

        When did you teach at Manual?  There have been problems at Manual for over twenty years and they became the "justificiation" for "reform" after "reform", that IMHO were just experiments that used minority kids with no power for guinea pigs.  The most tragic was the Gates plan that divyed up the school into three smaller schools and the the district stood by and watched the schools collapse and then abruptly closed the school in February of 2006 (I think that was the year) with absolutely no preplanning on what the kids were to do. 

        If enrollment is down because of gentrification…..it is the final blow to a twenty year history of failed experiments and it is a credit to the Manuel community that they hung on for so long.

         My experience as a non-denver highschool graduate is that the first question newcomers are asked is "where did you go to high school?"  And, the strongest alumni groups are the East High Angels and the Manuel Thunderbolts…….North High has a group of strong supporters, but many of them are neighborhood activists, not alumni.  

  7. Colorado SusieColorado Susie says:

    With the hiring of McMinimee, DougCo has lost 100% of its upper admin since Liz Fagen took over as super. 19 prinicpals have left this year, bringing the total to 70% turnover since she took charge. Not sure of the teacher count yet. 

    Sinking ship. Folks who can are leaving. Don't blame them a bit- they have families and mortgages. 

    Yes, the JeffCo majority won, just like the DougCo majority. They did it with lots of bucks from Americans for Prosperity, and appealing to those low information voters who just vote for the conservatives they're told to vote for. Can't tell you the number of mailers and door hangers we saw in the DougCo election.  

    Of course, DougCo district found guilty of campaign violations. Nothing like using your highly paid communicatons staff, money from outsiders and a bought and paid for "report" to talk to voters. 

    JeffCo, this is only the beginning. 

     

     

  8. mamajama55mamajama55 says:

    Should Supe Mini-me get the highest  Supt. salary in the state?

    So far, 86% of voters on a Denver Post poll say NO. 

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