John Newkirk, Jeffco BoE Secretary: Public Comment is too long, off topic, repetitive

(Pesky meddling citizens, who needs 'em? - Promoted by Colorado Pols)

From Jefferson County School Board Watch:

The new Jefferson County School Board Secretary, John Newkirk, would really rather not be bothered with those boring public comment sessions. I mean, who really wants to hear from all of those  parents, students, and teachers?

Much easier if we just go to a Douglas County style system, break the union, teach creationism and whatever other curriculum is approved by the Tea Party, and leave it at that. No need for long, boring, meetings where the public gets to weigh in on policies, and maybe (gasp!) influence them.

At last Saturday's school board meeting, Mr. Newkirk made the following comments, which were immediately transformed into a Facebook meme:

Past blog posts on Jefferson County School Board Watch (non Facebook version)

Jefferson County parents, students, teachers, and staff are still fighting to keep the excellent school district they have created. The fight continues.

Funding Schools With Expanded Gaming?

As the Denver Post's Yesenia Robles reports:

Organizers for an education group collecting signatures to place a question on the ballot asking to expand gaming at the Arapahoe Park horse racetrack say they have collected enough signatures.

According to a news release from the group, Coloradans for Better Schools, the group collected and submitted 136,342 signatures in support of the ballot measure…

That's a healthy pad of signatures over the required 86,000 to get this measure on the November ballot, so it's likely to make it. In addition to allowing casino games at Arapahoe Park, the measure would also expand gaming at racetracks in Pueblo and Mesa Counties. The measure is supported mostly by the owners of the Arapahoe Park track, and opposed by most of the rest of the gaming industry in Colorado due to the competitive pressure it would place on existing gaming towns.

Proponents forecast a return of as much as $100 million per year to K-12 education, though opponents dismiss that amount as unrealistic.

What say you, Polsters? Ordinarily we'd say a one-off gaming measure like this, based on experience, doesn't have much chance of succeeding. The existing gaming towns vigorously defend their monopoly, and spend lavishly to defeat any attempt to expand gaming beyond them. The only thing that raises a question in our minds is the experience of last year's elections, where a tax increase to fund education failed dismally, but taxes on retail marijuana passed overwhelmingly.

So maybe sin is the new model for raising revenue in this state? A poll follows.

(more…)

Corporate-Driven Education Reform Experiments Failing in Denver and Around the Country

I decided to add to my recent articles about the Colorado State Board of Education primary in Denver after reading an article today in Chalkbeat Colorado, a national non-profit education news agency. In the article "8 struggling schools opt in to Colorado's new turnaround network."  Ashley Jochim, research analyst at the Center on Reinventing Publication Education and one of the policy experts advising the states the following: 


                                                                                                                                                   Stacey Jocim, CRPE

"But Jochim said the resources will only be fruitful if principals are allowed to adopt the best ideas, even if they run counter to district policies – something that could be a challenge when it comes to personnel, budget, and curriculum. 

If Colorado stumbles, it won't be alone, Jochim said.

 "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right,"* she said.

*Bold added for emphasis.                                                                                       Link:  http://tinyurl.com/okb5gdp

 


Since the beginning of the now-Senator Michael Bennet's term as DPS superintendent, Denver Public Schools administration has pursued an aggressive approach to public schools that includes firing and displacing teachers, closing schools, and privatizing public schools by putting control in the hand of private companies that use public and private funds to run those schools. Bennet hired Mr. Boasberg to be the COO of DPS by attracting him away from his position as the VP of Corporate Affiairs at a multi-billion dollar corporation (a background much like Bennet's). In addition Boasberg chooses to reside and Boulder and will not send his own children to the District he oversees.  

 

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg                                Boasberg and Senator Michael Bennet

                              


What is Turnaround?

For a background on Turnaround, Turnaround is a status that is granted through US Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan's landmark education policy, Race to the Top. Much of Race to the Top included money to backfill the budgets of states, districts, and schools who were suffering devastating cuts during the Great Recession. Another component was school turnarounds to be funded under the School Improvement Grants. In order to receive funding for Turnarounds, a school must be in the lowest 5% of rankings on high-stakes standardized tests like CSAPTCAP, and PARCC. The federal government promised $5 billion dollars over 5 years. It just happens to be that these schools are primarily. 

 

                                                                                                                                       US Secretary of Education,                                                                                                                                                          Arnie Duncan

There are 4 Turnaround models in the federal guidelines:

  1. Turnaround Model – Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50% of the school’s staff, adopt a new governance structure, and implement a research-based vertically aligned instructional program. 
  2. Restart Model – Transfer control of or close and reopen a school under a School Management Organization (SMO) or school operator that has been selected through a rigorous review process. 
  3. School Closure – Close the school and enroll students in other, higher-achieving schools. 
  4. Transformation Model – Develop teacher/principal effectiveness (including replacing the principal), implement comprehensive instructional reform, extend learning and teacher planning time, create a community-orientation, and provide operating flexibility and sustained support

Link:  http://tinyurl.com/prel32m

 

Translated into normal  English:  

  1. Turnaround ModelFire or displace at least half of the staff and the principal.
  2. Restart Model – Create a charter or give the existing school a privately-run and publicly-funded charter school.
  3. School Closure – No need to explain. See Chicago Public Schools or DC Public Schools.  
  4. Transformation - Fire the principal and invest. Only model that doesn't fire and displace effective teachers. 

DPS most commonly chooses the Turnaround model. This is not the case nationwide. Once again, I want to reiterate the quote that "We're not in a place where anyone has done [a turnaround network] right."


What does this mean for DPS?

According to this Colorado Department of Education website, DPS has used federal Turnaround grants at least 14 times over 3 years, receiving millions in federal money. 

Link:  http://www.cde.state.co.us/fedprograms/tieredinterventiongrantresources

  1. Montbello High School (Close)
  2. North High School
  3. Noel Middle School
  4. Philips (Close)
  5. Rishel (Close)
  6. Lake
  7. Skyland (Close)
  8. Greenlee 
  9. Gilpin 
  10. Trevista 
  11. Charles M. Schenk 
  12. Smith
  13. West
  14. Bruce Randolph

 

The list above does not include schools that went through a similar process called "Redesign". These schools did not qualify for the School Improvement Grants, happened prior to SIG, or are outside of the CDE reporting. This following list may be missing additional schools, but the redesign and closed schools that I can recall outside of the SIG grants are:

  1. Remington Elementary (Closed)
  2. Smedley Elementary (Closed)
  3. Horace Mann Middle School
  4. Del Pueblo Elementary (Closed)
  5. Wyman Elementary (Closed)
  6. Gilpin
  7. Polaris (Closed)
  8. Manual High School (Twice:  resulting in many students, predominantly of color, never graduating high school)
  9. Kunsmiller Middle School
  10. Grant Middle School
  11. Oakland Elementary (Twice:  turned into SOAR Oakland charter school and then closed again)
  12. McGlone Elementary
  13. Green Valley Ranch Elementary
  14. Centennial K-8
  15. Fairmont K-8
  16. Ashley Elementary
  17. Smiley Middle School (Closed)
  18. Kepner Middle School (Coming in 2015-2016)

 

Denver Public Schools currently has two Turnaround networks of schools managed by their own Instruction Superindent, Deputy Superintendent, and support staff. The current networks are the West Denver Network (WDN) and the Denver Summit Schools Network (DSSN). They are in process of establishing a new turnaround network including Cheltenham Elementary, Columbine Elementary, Fairview Elementary, and Valverde Elementary. This network is flagged for Redesign or Turnaround if improvement is not made soon.  

 

 

DPS has already redesigned or turned around 17 schools on its own and 14 more with the support federal money to aid their programs. This makes 31 schools in Denver where students were displaced, teachers and other staff were fired. 

 

What is the result?

 

The Achievement Gap Is Growing.

Denver Public Schools consists of 77% minority students. 58% of those students are Latino, and 14% Black. As the District administration continues to fail to address the achievement gap, it continues to fail the majority of Denver students. Furthermore, these schools all predominantly serve or served students of color. Two of Denver's iconic schools that successfully served African American students, Montbello and Manual High Schools, have been tinkered with with little success. DPS eventually shut down Montbello and is trying to decide what to do with Manual. Similar Turnarounds and closures are happening at Latino schools like West High School and Kepner Middle School. Tom Boasberg has even admitted that while the achievement gap is shrinking statewide, it is getting worse in Denver, 

"While we're seeing significant gains across all demographic groups, we are not seeing our gaps close and this is very concerning," Boasberg said. "As we move forward, clearly we need to improve the effectiveness of our efforts to close the achievement gaps."

Citation:  "Latino students in Colroado Slowly closing gaps on achievement tests." Denver Post

 

​​Articles:

 

Massive Layoffs and Firings of Effective Teachers.

The vast majority of these schools implemented a process that either shuttered the school or required the staff to reapply for their jobs despite positive performance evaluations. The district is then able to displace or layoff teachers without any cause when they had been performing effectively. 

Articles

 

Fewer Teachers of Color in Denver Schools

  • It is a well-known fact that Denver Public Schools is losing more teachers of color than they are attracting. ​According to Colorado Public Radio reported Jenny Brundin in an article in February 2014, only 4% of teachers in Denver are black while 14% of the student body is black. The gap worsens with Latinos with a 17% Latino teachers and 58% Latino students. Link – "Race Matters in the Classroom:  Why are all of my teachers white?http://www.cpr.org/news/story/race-matters-classroom-why-are-all-my-teachers-white

Articles:

 

Major Funding for Politicians (Democrats for Education Reform) and Republicans Who Support this Model. 

 

2009

2011

​​2013

 

Maybe this will help explain why the NEA's body of over 8,000 education employee delegates vote in support of a request to ask US Secretary of State Arnie Duncan to resign. School boards are getting more and more funding from national corporate and special interests that are working to privatize public education and bust teacher and other public employee unions (one of the strongest checks on corporations and Republicans). 

We are now seeing this in Douglas County, Jefferson County, Big Thompson School District, and District 12 as well. It is time to get educated and get organized to preserve one of the major pillars of American prosperity. 

Where does your state legislator stand on women’s issues?

 Women's Lobby of Colorado Legislative Scorecard.  See how your legislators are rated.

It's a ten page document, and posting pdfs is a pain, so you can look it up yourself. But you may find some surprises.

My SD3 candidate, and current HD46 rep, Leroy Garcia, has 100%.

My Senator, George Rivera, has 64%, which was higher than I thought he would have.

My current HD47 rep, Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff, is rated 36%. I guess that's what happens when one's market brand is being "business friendly".

By the way, "women's issues" are not just reproductive rights issues – economy, healthcare, education, and opportunity are also women's issues. Sorry, Laura Carno, larger magazine size on full auto guns didn't make the list.

 

 

Koch-sponsored “GenOpp” wants you to know about Udall’s “War on Youth”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

You remember Creepy Uncle Sam, who symbolized all that was unknown and scary about the Affordable Care Act. Sam had a fun few weeks to try to frighten consumers out of signing up on the health exchanges. Uncle Sam was everywhere  – on your favorite cable news shows  and web pages. Then, as suddenly as he had popped in, he disappeared, after the ACA signup deadline was over.

Generation Opportunity, or GenOpp, the organization which sponsored the Uncle Sam ads, is still going strong, and working harder than ever to lure young people away from the Democratic fold. GenOpp's media arm is called FreetheFuture, and it is mostly funded by the Koch brothers, via GenOpp, through the Freedom Partners LLC, which has funneled five million dollars into it during 2013, according to an expose by Viveca Novak on OpenSecrets.org.

(more…)

Val Flores, Long-Time Educator, Rolls the Corporate Reformers With Grassroots in the D Primary for State Board of Ed

Despite the popular belief that money and endorsements win most campaigns, long-time educator and underdog, Val Flores, proved this wrong yesterday and won the Democratic primary for the State Board of Education District 1 seat. The 17.86% margin victory came last night despite a long list of Democratic establishment candidates and national money from Walton Family Foundation-funded non-profit, Education Reform Now. 

Primary Results:

Valentina 'Val' Flores         58.93%              22,412

Taggart Hansen                 41.07%             15,621

                                       Votes Cast         38,033

Source:  http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/CO/51557/134987/en/summary.html#

 

June 16 Secretary of State Report:  Total Raised by Candidates

Val Flores                  $16,936.00 

Taggert Hansen          $27,740.52

 

List of Taggert Hansen's Endorsers

  • Mayor Michael Hancock
  • Denver Post
  • Sen. Michael Johnston
  • State BOE District 1, Elaine Gantz-Berman
  • ​Barbara O'Brien
  • Mike Johnson
  • Happy Haynes
  • Teresa Pena
  • Gully Sanford
  • Dr. Sharon Bailey
  • Regis Groff
  • Michael Carrigan
  • ​Angela Williams
  • Lois Court
  • Beth McCann
  • Rosemary Rodriguez
  • Landri Taylor
  • Anne Rowe
  • Peter Groff
  • Mary Seawell
  • ​Bruce Hoyt

On top of that, Hansen had $70,000 kicked into the soft side by Democrats for Education Reform and ground support from corporate reformers Stand for Children. See more in my previous post at - http://coloradopols.com/diary/59638/taggert-hansen-and-dfer-puppets-to-wal-marts-campaign-to-privatize-public-educaiton-and-bust-unions

 

So why did Val win?

  • Was it because she is Latino?
  • Was it because she was a long time teacher?
  • Was it the Ph.D?
  • Was it the solid group of grassroots volunteers that propelled her through the county assembly and never stopped?
  • Was it the message?

By the title and my questions, I am sure you know what I think. Val had the right profile and the right experience. She also got financial support for teachers unions, but just enough to compete. Most importantly, however, she had a hardcore team of volunteers - something that DFER/astroturf candidates didn't have. On top of that, her message had appeal with Democratic primary goers.

What was Val's message?

Support excellence in teaching.  I’ve taught most of my life helping future teachers prepare for the classroom.  Every student deserves a quality teacher and every teacher deserves the support and respect of the community.  Young teachers need longer mentoring periods, including internships with experienced master teachers and in school teaching supervisors to ensure that they learn best practices and can apply these skills to the classroom. We need to continually use a range of evaluating support systems in the classroom and quickly provide teachers with feedback on how they can improve their skills and become effective teachers.  Research shows that keeping experienced teachers in the classroom is a far better and more economical practice, saving money in the long run.  Replacing experienced teachers is irresponsible, costly and harmful to our students.  The latest research studies show that it takes three to five years for most teachers to reach their stride in this profession.  We need to stop the ceaseless firing and opportunistic removal of experienced teachers in the Denver Public Schools and other districts across Colorado.  Ensuring every student has quality, experienced teachers is the first step to closing the achievement gap.

I oppose the corporatization and privatization of our public education system and high stakes testing.  These practices benefit vendors and major corporations – not our students.  We must ensure classroom time is quality learning time which gives every student the best chance possible to succeed.  We must put a stop to the radical privatization Douglas County has started and ensure other districts across the state do not follow suit.

Finally, we must support our free public schools and make sure that this beacon of democracy is not sold to the highest bidder on Wall Street.  Every child should have the right to attend their neighborhood public school."

It looks like the corporate education reformers are showing their cracks in Denver. While having a strong message on what is needed to improve public education, Val also effectively messaged what we don't want. Polling of the Democratic base in Denver has consistently shown that they oppose corporate influence in public education and they are resistant to high stakes testing. I just don't think that candidates have been so willing to explicitly state this until now. 

 

They also might be influence by pieces in the news over the last few years about:

Takeovers of other boards of education like JeffCo, DougCo, Adams 12, Big Thompson, and others.

What JeffCo School Board Is Doing Is Shameful http://www.denverpost.com/opinion/ci_25367409/what-jeffco-school-board-is-doing-is-shameful

Plaintiffs:  Dougco voucher program thwarts constitution http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/05/30/plaintiffs-dougco-voucher-program-thwarts-constitution/#.U6tUhfldWSo

Mass firings of teachers in Denver.

Colorado Teachers Challenge Mass Firings http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/02/03/65049.htm

Denver Public School teachers speak out against losing jobs http://www.denverpost.com/ci_23264782/denver-public-schools-teachers-speak-out-against-losing

The removal experienced teachers from the classroom in Denver.

Teachers Fight Back Against Denver Public Schools in Court http://www.westword.com/2014-04-10/news/teacher-lawsuit-against-dps/

Black Teachers Fired - http://www.blackagendareport.com/category/education-public-education/black-teachers-fired

The persistent achievement gap that is not being addressed by corporate reform.

At Denver flagship high school shocking achievment gaps http://co.chalkbeat.org/2014/04/08/at-denvers-flagship-high-school-shocking-achievement-gaps-and-small-steps-forward/

DPS: Segregation Now, Segregation Forever? http://blog.ednewscolorado.org/2011/05/16/dps-segregation-now-segregation-forever

 

There are many more things to say, but I think you all are more than ready to add some comments. Thanks for taking the time to read my post. 

 

Taggert Hansen and DFER – Puppets to Wal-Mart’s Campaign to Privatize Public Education and Bust Unions

It seems that ColoradoPols is consistently lacking real background behind education reform unless it is affecting the the typical D vs. R. dynamic. So I figured I would try out a post. In Denver Public Schools and urban districts around the country, there is effectively no two-party system. What we have is a low turnout primary process to elect who will walk into the office in the fall and very contentious school board elections.

What is now consistent, is that office holders who are affiliated Democrats are becoming more and more willing to turn over public funds to privately managed Charter Management Organizations, fire and displace teachers who have been rated as effective, ignore the requests of parents and community members, and bust teachers unions. Why is this happening? They want to get elected, and they don't have the real information.

Well, in order to get elected, money helps a whole lot. The folks who are attacking public education have a whole lot of it. Think of all of the Democrats for Education Reform (DEFRs) in Colorado and the country who fit this mold:

  • Senator Michael Bennet
  • State Senator Michael Johnston
  • Former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor, Michelle Rhee
  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Immanuel
  • DPS Board of Education, Happy Haynes, Barbara O'Brien, Anne Rowe, Rosemary Rodriguez, Michael Johnson, and Landri Taylor. 
  • Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan

Wow! This is a pretty powerful group. It must be that they really know what is best for education. Or maybe that they have tons of secret money coming from billionaires, right wingers, and Wall Street/hedge fund managers. If you look at their policies, they are all that different from George W. Bush, Chris Christie, and other big name Republicans. Let's meet the newest person who is supported by this big money in the current Democratic primary for the State Board of Education District 1, Taggert Hansen. 

Taggert Hansen

Taggert Hansen

Bio from his website:

"After college, I taught sixth grade as a public school teacher in the second largest district in California. As a teacher (of two years through Teach For America – added by writer), I learned the importance of creating a community of shared vision for educating children and empowering them to learn, and the importance of partnerships between teachers, parents and administrators.  I learned that some of my “trouble students” were in fact some of the brightest in the class with enormous potential – it’s just that no one had looked beyond the label and encouraged them to excel and dream of achieving greatness."  Citation: http://tagghansen.nationbuilder.com/

VS. 

Valentina Flores, Ph.D

Valentina Flores, Ph.D.

"First and foremost, I am an educator who has worked in education for 43 years.  With a background as a public school teacher, an education policy analyst, a curriculum development and implementation professional, and professor at several universities, I am uniquely qualified to bring my 43 years of experience to the Colorado State Board of Education." Citation:  http://valflores.com/val/

It may seem that a 41 year educator and Latina might be a more obvious choice for the position, but WAIT . . . . . there's more in her website bio.

"I oppose big money and corporatization in our public education system.  I oppose high stakes testing that takes away valuable classroom learning time.  I opcpose a “reform” model that is slowly privatizing our public education system.  We cannot allow free public education to be traded on NASDAQ and sold to the highest bidder." 

 

Ah ha! 

Is that why outside money is coming in to buy the State Board of Education race just like the DPS, JeffCo and DougCo school board races? Check this out. Suddenly a new 501 (c)4 organization called Raising Colorado shows up dropping mail for Taggert Hansen. Where did this come from? It was opened by Jennifer Walmer, DFER CO Director and former DPS Chief of Staff, and is funded by Education Reform Now, the (c)3 charitable non-profit from New York, that is funded by the Walmart Foundation (Walton Family Foundation – http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/about/2013-grant-report​). So that's the soft side. 

http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/SearchPages/CommitteeDetail.aspx?OrgID=28253

 

What about Taggert's direct campaign donors? (Source - http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/SearchPages/FilingDetail.aspx?FilingID=174825​)  Here are a couple:

  • Stand for Children (opposed Senators Andy Kerr and Evie Hudak and Representatives Kagan and Pettersen in 2012) in support of Republicans who oppose school funding and support union busting. They are at it again. Check out their endorsements including anti-tax right wingers – http://stand.org/colorado/2014-education-champions.  Also support by the Walton Family Foundation - http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/2012-education-reform-grants-by-investment-region.
  • Leadership for Education Equity - A D.C. based non-profit with a board that includes Matt Kramer, President of Teach for America (Funded by Walton – http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/grantees/teach-for-america) and Arthur Rock (Hedge fund manager who played heavily in DPS school board in 2013).​

It is hard to explain how far Walmart's reach has gone since with the advent of Citizens United and the abuse of the non-profit system to hide their money. No questions about it, it is time for the Democratic base to decide what being a Democrat means.

 

 

Why Is Conservative Jeffco School Board Spending So Much Money?

Dan McMinimee

There’s nothing small about the contact for new Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee.

Parents and educators across Jefferson County have been in an uproar since a conservative takeover of the School Board last fall resulted in an immediate run of questionable decisions and overspending. Board President Ken Witt and conservative members John Newkirk and Julie Williams have been making backroom deals and approving unnecessary expenditures since before their first official meeting in December 2013.

The controversy created by the conservative Board escalated this Spring when Dan McMinimee, an assistant superintendent at Douglas County Schools, inexplicably emerged as the only finalist from a "nationwide" search that cost taxpayers $40,000. The alarming lack of transparency spooked Jeffco parents and teachers, and that questionable decision making by the Board only got worse from their. As the Denver Post reports, the Board approved an unexplainably-high salary for McMinimee last night (on a 3-2 vote) before giving a final stamp of approval for their hand-picked Superintendent:

Jefferson County School board members voted after a contentious debate late Thursday night to approve a contract that, with benefits, makes incoming Superintendent Dan McMinimee one of the highest-paid school leaders in Colorado.

The state's second-largest school district would pay McMinimee an annual base salary of $220,000, offer him up to $40,000 in performance pay and reimburse him up to $20,000 for his personal contributions toward retirement benefits.

A previous draft of the contract would have given McMinimee a $280,000 base salary but not provide performance pay or reimbursements for retirement benefits…

McMinimee, an assistant superintendent in the Douglas County School District, was hired in May by a split board vote. Board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman voted against his selection.

On Thursday, community members called for a contract with a salary that more closely resembles that of the district's past leader, Cindy Stevenson, who made $205,500 a year. Others asked the school board to revisit the superintendent search and bring in more finalists.

It is important to understand just how odd McMinimee's contract looks in comparison to that of former Superintendent Cindy Stevenson, who not only had substantially more experience but also held a PhD in Education (McMinimee has a Masters degree). It's not like the Board was negotiating from a position of weakness, either; if you are going to hire someone with fewer qualifications than the previous Superintendent, shouldn't you at least save a little money in the process?

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.

​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:

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Jeffco board to hear limited public comment before vote on superintendent finalist

Jeffco board to hear limited public comment before vote on superintendent finalist (via Chalkbeat Colorado)

 

The Jefferson County community will have 45 minutes to share their feelings on Dan McMinimee, the sole finalist for the open superintendent position, before the district’s Board of Education takes a final vote on the matter next Tuesday, Chalkbeat…

 

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Study Shows Colorado Schools Fail Those From Poorly-educated Backgrounds

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A new study from Harvard takes a look at the math and science scores of various states and compares them to those of other countries. It also breaks down the results by the educational background of school childrens' parents. And what it says about Colorado is what we've all known for a while: that Colorado doesn't do well by its disadvantaged children.

Overall, Colorado does pretty well. We're between Ireland and New Zealand in overall Math proficiency (with Ireland ranked 14th and New Zealand ranked 15th among countries), and we're 7th place among the states. (The USA comes in overall at 27th place.)

However, when children are separated by the level of education of their parents and those from the least educated backgrounds are evaluated, Colorado drops significantly to 33rd among the states, between the Czech Republic and Greece (28th – 29th among the 34 OECD states participating in comparative testing). (The USA rises to 20th place in comparison).

The trend continues looking at those of moderate education (Colorado is in 10th place among the states) and high levels of education (where Colorado ranks 4th among the states).

http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG14-01_NotJust.pdf

As I said, this is what we've known for a long time: Colorado's disadvantaged students – often those in rural areas and those in poverty in the cities – are not given the same advantages that those in well off areas with high concentrations of educated people. This is the root of the Lobato lawsuit and our state's current education funding crisis – that the state's funding formula places exceptional and disproportionate burdens on those children in less well off areas.

Jeffco Parents Push for Answers in Superintendent “Search”

As John Aguilar of the Denver Post reports:

Dozens of community members are demanding to know contract details for the next Jefferson County Schools superintendent before the board convenes for a special meeting Tuesday to decide whether to hire Daniel McMinimee to helm the 85,000-student school district.

In a cascade of e-mails sent to school board members and others this week, parents and teachers are requesting that they not only get to see a draft of the contract but get the chance to speak publicly at next week's meeting.

Concern has been growing in Jefferson County since a Republican takeover of the School Board last fall that began with a series of open meetings violations and unexplained expenditures. Parents and community members have grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of transparency, particularly with the recent announcement that McMinimee, an assistant superintendent in Douglas County, was the only finalist for the vacant superintendent position despite paying out $40,000 for a firm to conduct a "national search." Board President Ken Witt has made little effort to pretend to listen to the community, and some of the decisions he championed in December are fueling anxiety with McMinimee's pending hire:

Board member Lesley Dahlkemper started the e-mail chain late Monday by saying she did not want to vote on a contract "without seeing it first." That's what happened in December, she said, when the board's conservative majority — made up of Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams — approved hiring Colorado Springs-based Miller Sparks LLC as the board's legal counsel...

Dahlkemper also said it is critical that the community get a chance to address the board formally about McMinimee and the details of his contract. The position is advertised as paying $280,000 a year.

That's right, folks. The Jeffco School Board came up with ONE finalist for a position that pays $280,000 a year. Sure thing.

Sen. Michael Johnston Stirs Controversy At Harvard

UPDATE: Sen. Michael Johnston responds magnanimously via Facebook:

I was honored to be invited as the convocation speaker at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I am even more excited to keep that commitment. In this moment, perhaps more than ever before, American education needs to foster open dialogue between people who share values but differ on strategies, and my speech will focus on our efforts to find that common ground. I have always found I learn the most from those who disagree with me, and because learning is more about listening than talking, I have also asked Harvard to setup an additional space and time for open dialogue so that I can hear from and learn from students on all sides of the issues. That spirited back and forth was what I loved about Harvard, and is one more reason that I am eager to return.

—–

Sen. Michael Johnston (D).

Sen. Michael Johnston (D).

Bloomberg's Dan Hart reports via the Denver Post:

Students, faculty and alumni of Harvard's Graduate School of Education are protesting the school's choice of a Colorado lawmaker as commencement speaker because of his stance on education reform that relies on so-called test-based accountability.

State Sen. Michael Johnston, a Democrat representing northeast Denver, was chosen last month by Dean James Ryan to speak. The school is being asked to rescind Johnston's invitation and to create a more transparent and inclusive process for choosing future commencement speakers…

The Washington Post explains what has students and alumni at the Harvard Graduate School of Education so upset with Sen. Michael Johnston:

Johnston, a former Teach For America corps member in Mississippi and a high school principal in Colorado, received a masters degree in education at the graduate school and was a co-founder of the reform organization New Leaders for New Schools.  He became an informal education adviser to then-Sen. Barack Obama during the 2008 election campaign.

As a state senator in Colorado, Johnston has pushed legislation to promote corporate school reform and was behind a 2010 law mandating that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation come from student standardized test scores (through a method known as the value-added method] that has been sharply criticized by assessment experts…

From the statement signed by students and alumni opposing Sen. Johnston:

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Photos: Jeffco Teachers, Students “Occupy Wadsworth”

jeffcokid1Photo via Twitter

FOX 31 reported Friday evening, as controversy over the radical agenda of the new conservative Jefferson County Board of Education continues to grow:

Teachers, parents and students lined several intersections along Wadsworth Boulevard, to show support for Jefferson County teachers and students, while also voicing frustration with the conservative, 3-2 school board majority.

“There is miscommunication happening and there is not transparency,” said Sarah Freza, a Jeffco parent and middle school teacher.

Many said there was not transparency when negotiations with teachers stalled, the long-time superintendent resigned, and a nationwide search for a replacement led to one finalist.

9NEWS:

This is part of a effort called "Boots on the Boulevard" where protesters stand at major intersections along Wadsworth from 104th Avenue on the north end to Chatfield Avenue on the south end. They are upset with recently elected board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams who make up the majority.

"Right now, we feel very kicked to the side," [teacher Sarah] Jenkins said.

She is worried about teacher pay and respect for teachers. Protesters have also have concerns that Witt, Newkirk, and Williams have made cuts to full day kindergarten while adding funds to charter schools…

Protesters are also upset with the selection of a solo finalist for superintendent, Dan McMinimee, who is the current assistant superintendent of Douglas County. In Douglas County, a conservative controlled school board [has] launched a series of school reforms including a market-based pay for performance program for teachers and an effort to launch school vouchers.

For those not familiar with the local geography, Wadsworth Boulevard is the principal north-south artery of suburban Jefferson County, running directly through the county's heavily populated cities of Westminster, Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, and Littleton. From our observation, the "Boots on the Boulevard" demonstration involved literally hundreds of teachers, parents, and students, at major intersections running the whole length of Wadsworth in the middle of rush hour. The level of visibility Jeffco teachers achieved Friday afternoon is greater than just about any earned media coverage could ever net them. It's reasonable to assume that much of the voting public in Jefferson County is unaware something controversial is happening with their new school board, or even that there is a new school board.

A whole lot of voters got the message Friday afternoon. More photos after the jump.

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Jeffco School Board About As Transparent as Mud

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.

Dan McMinimee

Dan McMinimee. His last name will be on spelling tests.

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."

Well, that leads us nicely into another Aguilar story updated this morning. As the Denver Post reports:

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.