Longmont Public Charter School Has A Hater Side

Attorney Barry Arrington.

Attorney Barry Arrington.

The Colorado Independent’s Tessa Cheek reports on a growing controversy in Longmont surrounding a charter school, Twin Peaks Charter Academy, and the decision by the school’s principal to prevent the valedictorian of this year’s graduating class from delivering an address that included a statement he is gay. The story has received a great deal of press coverage both in Colorado and nationally, and attracted the scrutiny of Rep. Jared Polis, himself openly gay.

In the Independent’s latest story yesterday, we see that the more Polis looks into this charter school, the less there is to appreciate about their politics:

Embattled Twin Peaks Charter Academy will keep its lawyer, Barry Arrington, despite a request from Congressman Jared Polis that Arrington, who has an anti-gay track record, be fired.

“Mr. Arrington is a highly qualified attorney and is not being removed as counsel from Twin Peaks Charter Academy,” the school’s spokeswoman Tracy Weise told The Colorado Independent in an email. “Mr. Polis has no jurisdiction, and is completely overstepping his bounds to even suggest that he has the right, to make recommendations on how Twin Peaks Charter Academy is managed.”

Arrington raised eyebrows this week in a back-and-forth with Polis, who has been critical of the school’s decision not to let valedictorian Evan Young give a graduation speech in which he came out as gay. Polis has asked for a third-party investigation of the school’s decision and overall inclusiveness, ideally conducted by a LGBTQ-rights group.

Rep. Jared Polis.

Rep. Jared Polis.

As it turns out, Twin Peaks’ attorney Barry Arrington is himself rather…opinionated when it comes to gay people–which makes a lot of sense in light of the way the school treated its gay valedictorian:

For his part, Arrington has written publicly about the necessity of heterosexuality as a function of intelligent design. [Pols emphasis] He also represented defendants, including Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, charged with using a gay couple’s engagement photo for a political attack ad without their knowledge or permission. Arrington is also the former president of the Rocky Mountain Family Council, the mission of which is, “to promote God’s design for parents and children by supporting families…”

“Mr. Arrington has a long history of working for anti-LGBT organizations and using his blog to condemn same-sex relationships. Because Twin Peaks Charter Academy is keeping him on as counsel, they seem to have no problem with his public views concerning LGBT people,” said Dave Montez, director of LGBTQ-rights group One Colorado. “Every school in Colorado should be safe for all students and we are concerned that having an attorney on staff with clear ties to anti-LGBT organizations is preventing the school from being welcoming of all students.”

Bottom line: Twin Peaks Charter Academy does not advertise itself as a religious school, but it does claim to offer a curriculum of “the foundations of virtue and character,” in order to “achieve the highest standards in academics and ethics.” Charter schools must be non-religious like any other public school by law, but if the discriminatory actions of the school’s principal and statements by the school’s high-profile attorney are any guide–not to mention said attorney’s long history of overtly religious advocacy–it’s reasonable to question just what kind of education Twin Peaks Charter Academy is providing to its students with taxpayer dollars.

Because as of now, that’s looking a bit, well, questionable.

Jeffco Schools PR Staff: From Bad To Worse

crean1We wrote just over a week ago about the sudden departure from the Jefferson County Public Schools communications department of Lisa Pinto, the highly controversial GOP operative-turned district chief communications officer whose brief tenure was marked by disastrous press for the school district and conservative board majority, rapidly escalating tensions with district staff and teachers, and most recently several ugly incidents of alleged bullying of minor students by board members that also involved Pinto.

Since last week’s resignation announcement, there’s been total radio silence from the normally talkative Jeffco school board regarding Pinto and the state of relations between the conservative board majority and district employees, parents, and students. The exact reasons for Pinto’s sudden departure have not been revealed by the district, leaving observers to speculate. It hasn’t been revealed even whether a replacement for Pinto is being sought.

One of the major points of contention from Pinto’s time as chief communications officer was the hiring of outside paid public relations consultants from Republican comms shop Novitas Communications. And based on a memo on administrative staff hires from late last month, it appears that Novitas employees may be moving in to stay:

5. CENTRAL BASED ADMINISTRATIVE POSITION

A. Specialist, Marketing and Communication Crean, Devan 05/18/2015

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Devan Crean will lead the development and implementation of marketing strategy and execution for all Jeffco Public Schools increasing awareness of available school options. Education Information: 2012, M.P.A., University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming. 2013-present, Revealing Politics, Denver, Colorado.

crean2That’s right–Devan Crean, former employee of Republican-aligned advocacy group Revealing Politics and subsequently with Novitas Communications, is taking a full-time communications position with Jeffco Schools. Our readers will recall a scandal that erupted last February during the GOP state chairman race, after Crean came to the defense of a fellow Revealing Politics staffer with fellow Republicans by insisting that her organization “ONLY tracks politicians and policy makers who are left-leaning. We DO NOT track fellow Republicans.” This was a rather large problem for Crean’s employers since Revealing Politics is technically a nonpartisan organization–and soon after this incident, Crean’s name quietly vanished from Revealing Politics’ staff page.

A short time after that, Crean appeared in Novitas’ staff directory–just as that firm received a contract from Jefferson County Public Schools to run PR for the board majority. It’s therefore quite curious that Novitas, with its big contract to supply communications services to the district, is not listed in the memo above as Crean’s past employer. Maybe because this arrangement would have raised eyebrows?

Obviously, school district employees are allowed to have political opinions. But Crean is not just opinionated, she is a full-time conservative political operative much like Lisa Pinto was. Crean’s hiring by the district, given everything we can find about her, seems even more questionable than the hiring of Pinto, which ended in disgrace for everyone concerned–especially Superintendent Dan McMinimee, who by most accounts selected Pinto over a number of more qualified candidates for the job of chief communications officer.

Perhaps the only silver lining to be found here for longsuffering opponents of the Jeffco school board’s right wing majority is that Crean, like Pinto, is probably not going to be very good at her new job. That may in turn reflect poorly on higher-value targets like McMinimee and the board in the end, but not until after Crean draws her taxpayer-funded salary for at least a few months. Regardless, it is a curious decision for McMinimee to hire someone whose resume would indicate the same general problems that he had with Pinto.

Call it a lesson unlearned.

Huge Rally Protests Jeffco School Board Majority Friday

UPDATE: Courtesy the Jeffco PTA:

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With the exception of the 9NEWS video clip you can watch above (no online story unfortunately), another very large turnout of Jefferson County residents, teachers, and students for a protest against the conservative school board majority appears to have slipped under the local media’s radar yet again. Here are some photos from Friday evening’s rally in Littleton’s Clement Park, featuring a big crowd undeterred by heavy rain and hail that fell during the event. All photos via Facebook:

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We haven’t seen an official estimate of crowd size, but the event was by all accounts very large despite the weather, and caused traffic jams around the Southwest Plaza area as attendees crowded into Clement Park.

The escalating battle between the conservative Jefferson County school board majority and the district’s teachers, parents, and students has consistently been marked by enormous crowds turning out to protest against the board’s actions–a phenomenon we saw several times in 2014, culminating in the mass walkouts of thousands of students protesting the majority’s politically-stilted “review” of AP history curriculum. Other events like the “Boots on the Boulevard” protest along Wadsworth witnessed thousands of protesters lined up along Jefferson County’s busiest thoroughfare at rush hour: an event that no one who lives in suburban Jefferson County was able to ignore.

As for these renewed protests, which 9NEWS actually kind of disses in the process of being the only local news outlet to cover them? This is reportedly just the first, and they’ll be continuing all summer long.  Given the undeniably large turnout this one received even in terrible weather, we’d say ignore them at your peril.

Even More Ugly Jeffco School Board Footage


Ken Witt.

Ken Witt.

Amid fresh negative press coverage for the conservative Jefferson County school board majority, we were forwarded another clip of video from this month’s regular board meeting–in which the subject of board member Julie Williams’ Facebook posting of a hate group’s protest against the LGBT Day of Silence event the previous month loomed large, but was never acknowledged by the conservative members of the board.

Sources who have regularly attended Jefferson County school board meetings since the takeover of the board by right-wing candidates two years ago stress that they have never seen such a toxic environment as currently exists in these meetings. It’s often the case that school board politics become rather contentious, but not like this we’re told. Perhaps the best evidence of how far out of control the situation has gotten was the highly questionable public disparagement of a 17-year-old student by board chairman Ken Witt during this month’s board meeting, an incident now the subject of an outside investigation to determine whether laws or district policies prohibiting bullying were violated.

In the five-minute video clip you see above, a Jeffco student who earlier participated in a silent protest against Williams attempted to speak as the representative of a group of students. It’s the policy for Jeffco school board meetings that groups of speakers during the public comment periods are allotted extra time to speak. Witt apparently found a discrepancy in the list of students who had signed up as a member of this particular group, and ruled that the student in question could only speak for two minutes. Outgoing board member Lesley Dahlkemper immediately objects to Witt’s limiting of the student’s time to speak, and the room erupts in boos. The student gives an abbreviated version of his speech, only to be very rudely cut off by Witt once again as his already-chopped time expired.

All told, this probably isn’t as serious an incident as Witt’s later name-naming attack on a minor student who merely “favorited” a few Tweets. But having watched it along with all the rest of the Jeffco school board’s history since 2013, it’s illustrative of the kind of openly belligerent treatment that parents, teachers, and even students routinely experience at the hands of this board majority.

And folks, it is really not okay.

Jeffco Conservative School Board Insults Parents by Omission on Talk Radio

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

POLS UPDATE: The hits keep coming for conservative Jeffco school board member John Newkirk, 9NEWS reporting this afternoon:

During a public hearing Tuesday evening to discuss the proposed budget for next year, Jefferson County School Board member John Newkirk made a comparison that some are calling offensive…

Newkirk wants the district to increase funding to charter schools to make funding more equal compared to district schools.

Scott Kwasny with the Jefferson County Education Association shot video of the meeting Tuesday night and provided a clip to 9News with Newkirk’s comments.

“We had a diversity day at Evergreen High School that I attended last month, and one of the people we heard from was a lady from the Deep South,” Newkirk said during the hearing. “She is African-American, and she spoke of growing up there in the 60s and how certain people would be treated differently from others just because of their skin color, and that thought was so foreign to me. It just made me just shake my head and go ‘what were they thinking?’ And, I think we almost have a metaphor here at this moment. Why would the district discriminate and say that certain students would be worth less than others just based on where they choose to go school? So, this is a quintessential what were we thinking moment here. This district has the opportunity here to validate that inequity by not working upon it.”

Got that? Being a charter school student is like being black in the 1960s Deep South.

Backpedal time, Mr. Newkirk.

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Jeffco school board member John Newkirk.

Jeffco school board member John Newkirk.

Activist parents of Jefferson County Public Schools students don’t rate a mention with conservative school board members and radio talk show hosts, when discussing the future of district schools, teachers, students and programming. 

In fact, if you take the words of Krista Kafer and Jeffco board member John Newkirk at face value– from their interview on the Dan Caplis show on 710 KNUS, on Monday, May 25– the only players with any stake or voice in the debate are “childish” teachers, “useful idiot” students, paternalistic board members, and self-righteous radio hosts.

Smells like desperation, to me – a desperate attempt to minimalize the force and action of dedicated and commited parents’ organizing and sacrifice, to bring accountability to board members who do not represent their interests. 

Kafer and Newkirk disingenuously call for an “adult debate”, while chiding teachers and mischaracterizing their alleged participation as “disgusting”, “mean”,  “vicious” and “bad examples” for students.  And they try to demonize activist unity as blind allegiance to the teachers union and more incredulously, to a universal rejection of performance pay. Even if this were true, which it’s not, it’s based on the false premise that Jeffco rejected performance incentives in previous negotiations.

I’d be insulted, too, were I a concerned parent in Jeffco.  Conflating the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum review protests as an extension of contract negotiations, trying to blame teachers for the collective irreverence of Twitter and social media, and portraying a massive rally of first amendment expression as, in Newkirk’s quip below, “Occupy Wadsworth” only serves to further marginalize and stir the hive of Jeffco parents and voters. 

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The Duggars Are Coming To Denver!

slider_duggar_family-1900x450_c

That’s the word from organizers of the Rocky Mountain Super Conference on the Family, coming to the Denver Merchandise Mart on the weekend of June 19th via the Christian Home Educators of Colorado:

Jesus set aside His kingly glory to come and to SERVE hell-deserving sinners. He showed us the perfect example of how to LEAD by serving others. This year’s conference will explore ways to build stronger families, churches, and governments through SERVANT LEADERSHIP…

Join us on Friday, June 19th, at 7:00 pm for a special evening with the Duggar Family. Come and hear the Duggar kids perform a special musical program, followed by a presentation with Jim Bob and Michelle.

As you can see above, the website for the Rocky Mountain Super Conference on the Family proudly proclaims “we’ve got the whole Duggar family!” And yes, the accompanying photo of what looks like all 19 Duggar children–or is it 20 now? We haven’t been watching–does include Josh Duggar (just right of center, gray shirt), at the moment the most famous of all the Duggar brood after admitting to having molested “several” underage girls as a teenager. In the wake of those allegations, Josh Duggar resigned from his job as executive director of the hard-right Family Research Council Action, one of the nation’s leading anti-gay and anti-abortion advocacy groups. The Duggar family’s reality TV program, 19 Kids and Counting, has been suspended from broadcast as advertisers line up to pull their advertising from the show.

All of which leaves the Christian Home Educators of Colorado in, you know, a bit of a lurch! As of this writing, the Duggar family–the WHOLE Duggar family, mind you–is still headlining their event. GOP presidential hopeful and fellow Arkansan Mike Huckabee continues to stand by the Duggars, and he’s not alone. Will Josh be part of the Duggar family musical ensemble playing in Denver next month?

If so, maybe consider keeping your kids home that day.

Investigation Underway Into Alleged Student Bullying By Jefferson County School Board, Staff

We wrote two weeks ago about an ugly and perhaps legally actionable incident that occurred at the May meeting of the conservative-controlled Jefferson County Board of Education. A complaint from Jeffco parent Wendy McCord the following day asked for an investigation of the displaying of a Jeffco student’s name on the overhead projector at this public board meeting, and board President Ken Witt accusing the 17-year-old student in question of “favoriting racial epithets at district leaders”–an apparent reference to an anonymous Tweet that is it turns out isn’t “racist” at all. From McCord’s complaint:

All administrators, teachers, and classified staff who witness student bullying in any such circumstance shall immediately take appropriate action to stop the bullying, as prescribed by the district and building principal, and shall promptly report the bullying to the principal or principal’s designee for appropriate action. (Policy JBC)

That it is the Board members who continue to endanger our students and staff is of no relevance. You are OBLIGATED to act to ensure the safe learning environment required by CRS 22-32.109.1(1.5). The Colorado legislature enacted this statute because of their commitment to “a learning environment that is safe, conducive to the learning process, and free from unnecessary disruption.” I am quite certain that the legislators never truly considered that it would be the Board Members themselves from whom students needed to be kept safe. But that doesn’t change the spirit and letter of the law. Nor does it change your obligation to protect our students.

I demand that a formal investigation be undertaken in connection with Witt’s behavior and comments, and that prompt and equitable remedial action be taken to deter future bullying and harassment and to remedy the effects on the victim(s) of Witt’s bullying behavior. Such actions should include “[h]olding training and inservices to assist [the board] in being alert to student bullying, taking appropriate action when bullying occurs, and helping to engender an atmosphere where bullying is not tolerated at school or school-related activities.”

Here’s the bottom line: social media has become a central communications hub for opposition to the conservative Jeffco board majority, and on several occasions, social media organizing and communication has resulted in extremely embarrassing situations for the school board–from the #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory hashtag that went viral globally after Julie Williams’ disastrous AP History “review” proposal to Williams more recent linking to a hate group’s protest of the LGBT Day of Silence endorsed by the district. In response to these incidents, the team of paid communications consultants hired by Jeffco Communications Office Lisa Pinto has vigorously responded with a proxy campaign through local conservative blogs and social media–like the recent “Mean Girls” website from the right-wing Independence Institute, seeking to turn the anger on social media at the Jeffco school board into a sympathy ploy.

It appears that in the interest of “defending” the board majority from such criticism, Pinto and even elected members of the school board went on the hunt to identify persons to blame, discovering this minor student who had “favorited”–not even “Retweeted,” mind you, just “favorited”–a few Tweets critical of Pinto and the board majority. Emails forwarded to us from a recent Colorado Open Records Act request appear to be a “smoking gun,” setting up the incident that transpired later that evening between board chairman Ken Witt and the minor student in question:

pintosmokinggun

In the end, it doesn’t matter if this minor student “favorited” a Tweet. It wouldn’t matter if he or she was the original author of the Tweet that offended the board majority. That minor student is still entitled to protection from intimidation and bullying–and that includes bullying by a board member during a public board meeting.

Elected school board members have no business intimidating children. Period.

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Jeffco School Board’s Attack On Its Own Teachers Halted

Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk

Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk

More bad press for the controversial Jefferson County school board’s conservative majority, as the Denver Post’s Anthony Cotton reports:

Jefferson County District Court issued a temporary injunction Tuesday preventing Jefferson County Public Schools from implementing a pay plan the union complained was being imposed without required negotiations.

The plan would have provided higher base salaries for newly hired teachers. The temporary injunction granted Tuesday prevents the school district from using the new pay scale on any new teachers hired on or after May 1.

“Today is a victory for hard working Jeffco teachers who have sacrificed our own pay through pay freezes and reductions to help the school district weather the recession,” Jefferson County Education Association president John Ford said in a statement. “To offer thousands of dollars more to new teachers while neglecting to honor your promises to your current teaching staff is inexcusable.”

The board majority’s proposal to pay newly hired teachers more than some current teachers was broadly seen as a gratuitous attack on current Jeffco educators who don’t like the new direction of the district. This injunction, while it’s determined whether the new pay plan was implemented without required negotiations with the Jefferson County Education Association, is a setback for what conservative activists have admitted is a deliberate strategy to “break” the teacher’s union–as was done in neighboring Douglas County after a similar conservative takeover of the school board with dubious results.

This will make it a little harder for the board’s many surrogates to demonize the teachers going forward. Teacher pay negotiations are perhaps the one arena where conservatives have a natural advantage with the low-information public–and this kind of bad faith is how you blow that.

Who Is Lisa Pinto? Jeffco Parents Might Not Like The Answer

nopinto3Lisa Pinto’s resume, marked “NO” by a Jeffco employee involved in the search process.

Former Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

Former Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

Since being hired last January, Republican media consultant Lisa Pinto has been the point person for the unenviable task of messaging the controversial actions of the Jefferson County Board of Education’s conservative majority. Pinto, a former official with ousted GOP state chairman Ryan Call’s much-balleyhooed “SuperPAC” along with another GOP media type who pled guilty to campaign finance violations earlier this year, has worked to smooth over ongoing embarrassments from far-right board member Julie Williams, and brought in conservative media relations firm Novitas Communications to help improve the district’s rapidly deteriorating image.

Last January, local blogger Paula Reed wrote in detail about Pinto’s hiring, including the conclusion by members of the interview committee that Pinto was unqualified for the job of communications director for Jefferson County Public Schools. Yesterday, some of the correspondence related to this hiring process appeared on our desk–and while we’re protecting identities involved with redactions, it’s clear that Pinto had some serious issues going into her interview.

nopinto1

These handwritten notes from a Jeffco Schools employee describe Pinto as “lacking deeper experience in PR,” “guarded” and “political” and given to “lawyer speak,” with “no current experience,” “not great media contacts,” no recent on-camera experience, and (critically for this job) “no K-12 experience.” Another email strongly recommends against hiring and possibly even conducting further interviews with her, based on discrepancies in her resume:

nopinto2

Not a very auspicious review. Here’s a little more detail:

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We’ve done some Googling as well, and we haven’t found anything close to 200 media appearances by Lisa Pinto in any capacity. Now, that’s not to say that Pinto has no on-camera experience. One of the few media appearances we were able to find with her was an episode of Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher from 2002–certainly a high-profile appearance, albeit nearly fifteen years old. But there’s a problem: appearing as a Republican-leaning pundit, this clip of Pinto being smacked down by Maher and William Shatner isn’t one that would encourage us to hire her to speak for a school district:

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Ken Witt: Not Very Nice (or Smart)

A new story out of the scandal-plagued Jefferson County school board late last night, following an ugly exchange between the chairman of the new conservative majority Ken Witt and a Jeffco student representing the group Jefferson County Students for Change. A complaint filed by Jeffco parent Wendy McCord today recounts what happened:

Bullying is defined as “any written or verbal expression, or physical or electronic act or gesture, or a pattern thereof, that is intended to coerce, intimidate, or cause any physical, mental or emotional harm to any student.”

Witt made a defamatory statement regarding a District student, who is a minor, at the Meeting. He not only accused her of using racial epithets, he also directed district staff to post social media screenshots that identified the student by name. In addition, Witt said he refused to have anything to do with the organization that this student represents.

Aside from the obvious hypocrisy that Witt won’t associate with students who essentially “liked” a Tweet but continues to sit next to (and serve on the Board with) a woman who posted material from an identified hate group encouraging parents to keep their children out of schools to protest a day designed to prevent bullying of LGBT students and staff, Witt’s statements were completely unacceptable.

Since the moment Witt, Newkirk and Williams took office, they have repeatedly embarrassed this District. They continue to degrade and demean not only our staff but, as evidenced in this circumstance, our students. These are the very stakeholders the Board and all district staff are supposed to protect.

In the video above, you can see minority board member Jill Fellman responding to the student, suggesting that the board use available time in a future meeting to have a conversation with the student group Jeffco Students for Change. Witt interrupts Fellman to accuse the leader of this group, who was one of the handful of people still in attendance at this meeting after midnight, of “favoriting…on Facebook er social media” (Witt is a little unclear about what kind of social media he is referring to) “racial epithets about district staff.” On the basis of this, Witt announces that he “will not have any association with this group.” It’s not seen in the video, but Witt directed to have a Tweet identifying the student in question projected on the large screen at the front of the room.

Readers will recall that the communications director for Jeffco schools, Lisa Pinto, has claimed she was racially insulted via Twitter over a post from an anonymous spoof account about “burritos” being served–in fact a reference to the meeting we helped publicize earlier this year between Witt and the conservative board chairs of several other Colorado school districts at Lakewood’s Jose O’Shea’s Mexican restaurant. This case of silly misplaced outrage formed the basis of a notably unsuccessful countermessage campaign from the Independence Institute, hoping to garner sympathy for Pinto–and shift attention away the ongoing PR disaster that is board member Julie Williams, or the district’s increasingly bad-faith contract negotiations.

It’s necessary to explain all of that in order to understand just how off-base Witt was in attacking this student and the student group represented. Once you understand this, Witt’s ridiculous bullying of a student he is charged with representing over merely “starring” something entirely inoffensive, projecting the student’s name for all to see in the board room and disparaging an entire group of Jeffco students over it…well folks, it’s pretty outrageous conduct. Not to mention, given the recent controversy over Williams’ sharing of a hate group’s call to defend discrimination, hypocritical in the extreme.

Which seems to be the rule these days on the Jeffco school board.

Martyred: Lesley Dahlkemper Will Not Run Again

Jefferson County Board of Education member Lesley Dahlkemper.

Jefferson County Board of Education member Lesley Dahlkemper.

Important news from Nic Garcia at Chalkbeat Colorado late SundayLesley Dahlkemper, one of the two members of the Jefferson County Board of Education’s embattled minority of non-conservative ideologues, will not run for re-election this year:

Lesley Dalhkemper, who makes up half of the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education minority bloc, announced Sunday she won’t seek re-election in November…

“This fall, our daughter Grace will enter middle school. Middle school is a critical transition. [My husband] and I want to be fully present for her,” she said.

Dahlkemper also cited her work at the Colorado Education Initiative, an education nonprofit that works with schools and districts, as another reason why she won’t seek re-election.

Since the 2013 reconfiguration of the Jefferson County school board, Dahlkemper and her colleague Jill Fellman have become heroes to the teachers and parents who vocally oppose the board’s new conservative majority. Both women have been greeted with applause upon arriving at school board meetings.

It’s not been reported whether fellow minority board member Jill Fellman will run again for her seat, but Dahlkemper’s public policy experience made her the natural lead in the battles with the conservative board majority that have raged since their election in 2013. Dahlkemper’s stated reasons of wanting to help her child through middle school and work for the Colorado Education Initiative are above reproach, but we have to think that the stress of the new board majority running roughshod over other stakeholders in endless 3-2 votes–not to mention the numerous high-profile instances of major embarrassments committed by the board’s majority but attributed to the board as a whole–factored into her decision to not run again.

What does this mean for this year’s school board elections in Jefferson County, already shaping up to eclipse 2013 as the most contentious ever? That remains to be seen, but as the public’s understanding of the sorry state of affairs under the conservative board majority grows, there’s a scenario in which Dahlkemper’s decision to not run again becomes a rallying cry: to put a stop to these right-wing ideological flights of fancy in one of Colorado’s largest and best public school districts.

Because just like Lesley Dahlkemper deserved better, so do the kids.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 5)

Cinco-LogoIt’s Cinco de Mayo, which translates in Denver to “Election Day.” It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► It’s Election Day in Denver. If you still have a mail ballot at home, you’re going to need to truck that sucker to a drop-off location before 7:00 p.m. Visit the website of the Denver Clerk and Recorder for drop-off information.

 ► Republican-led efforts to pass a fetal homicide Personhood bill in the legislature came to a predictable end yesterday when a House Committee axed SB-268 on a party-line vote.

 ► The U.S. Supreme Court seems a little hazy about what to do with legal marijuana, so they are asking the advice of the U.S. Solicitor General. As it turns out, we still have a Solicitor General.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Jeffco PTA Calls for Censure of Board Member Julie Williams

Julie Williams of the Jefferson County School Board.

Republican Julie Williams, Member of the Jefferson County School Board.

A few weeks ago, controversial Jefferson County School Board member Julie Williams upped her own ante on inappropriate behavior when she used social media accounts to promote efforts to oppose what she called “perverse indoctrination.” As we wrote on April 19:

The problem here is obvious to anyone who knows anything about Julie Williams, a close family member of the “Neville Nutters” clan of far-right Republican political figures. The reason Williams posted a fringe anti-LGBT hate group’s information about a walkout to counter the Day of Silence protests against bullying is simple: that’s where she gets her information from as a member of the far-right fringe. Although some of the worst examples have reportedly been purged along with this latest post, Williams’ Facebook page has lots of examples of the kind of fringy “wisdom” that we have every reason to assume informs her votes on the school board.

As for not having read the link she posted, that would have to be so literally true–the very first sentence contains the words “perverse indoctrination”–that it’s difficult to believe. It’s a much more likely scenario to us that one of the aforementioned press flacks had to explain to Ms. Williams how “perverse indoctrination” is not an acceptable way for a board member to refer to a district-sanctioned event against bullying LGBT students.

This did not go over well, obviously. In a letter sent today to the Jefferson County School Board, Michelle Patterson, President of the Jefferson County Council PTA, asks the school board to take the step of a formal censure of Williams:

If this were the first time we had seen this sort of careless thought and behavior from Ms. Williams, this community might be more forgiving, but it is not. In light of this, Jeffco PTA’s Board of Directors requests the topic of a formal censure of Julie Williams be added to the May 7 meeting agenda. [Pols emphasis] With a vote to censure Ms. Williams, this school board can send Jefferson County a strong message. The message must be that you stand with EVERY student, regardless of race, religion, socio-economic status, and sexual orientation and against intolerance of any kind.

You can read the full letter here (PDF: PTA-JulieWilliams-Censure) or check the full text after the jump.

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Are Colorado PERA Negotiations Being Influenced by Federal Politics?

(clockwise from top): U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, State Sen. Bill Cadman, State Sen. Owen Hill

(clockwise from top):
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, State Sen. Bill Cadman, State Sen. Owen Hill

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reported late yesterday on a troubling political strategy from Republicans that intertwines state and federal politics:

Intense negotiations are underway at the state Capitol to try to revive a Denver Public Schools pension bill that critics claim was killed by Republicans because of former DPS Superintendent Michael Bennet’s Senate re-election bid.

House Bill 1251 is important for DPS because it would allow the district to quit paying around $23 million more a year into the state pension fund than other school districts…

Three people with knowledge of the bill told The Denver Post that they talked about it with Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, who said national Republicans didn’t want to see a bill passed that potentially could help Bennet. Hill briefly ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014. [Pols emphasis]

Hill responded Thursday that his chief concern is that PERA is a “real ticking time bomb,” but he acknowledged people told him they had concerns about “some bad deals that were cut” when Bennet oversaw Denver schools.

Bennet’s financial dealings at DPS were an issue in his 2010 Senate primary. “Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt,” read a headline in The New York Times. Republicans have said they plan to revisit the issue on the campaign trail next year.

For his part, State Senate “PresidentBill Cadman says that he has “never” talked to the Republican Party or “anyone in Washington” about HB-1251, although it’s difficult to say how much people are really listening to Cadman anyway.

We won’t get into the policy discussion of the relative merits of HB-1251 and PERA reforms here (Colorado Pols is a political blog, after all), but the idea that Colorado legislation might be torpedoed because of how it might harm the re-election chances of a U.S. Senator is more than a little troubling. It also speaks, again, to the leadership structure surrounding Colorado Republicans. If this story proves true, it seriously calls into question how much Senate Republicans are even making their own decisions locally.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (April 28)

Hey, there it is! Welcome back, Sun. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Prosecutors are scheduled to call their first witness today in the Aurora Theater Shooting trial. The Aurora Sentinel provides a handy update for Day Two.

► As the Supreme Court begins hearing arguments over same-sex marriage, experts on both sides of the argument seem to think equality is a foregone conclusion. Or…maybe not?

► So-called fetal homicide Personhood legislation limped out of the State Senate yesterday. Senate Bill 268 is unlikely to make it through the State House, especially after running into all manner of political problems in the Senate. 

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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