Let’s Just Let Faye Griffin Choose All of Our Elected Officials

The Jeffco Shuffle: Government by Vacancy Committee

The Jeffco Shuffle: Government by Vacancy Committee

Jefferson County voters may be familiar with the name Faye Griffin, in large part because her name has been on a Jeffco ballot since the dawn of time. The 75-year-old Griffin is both allergic to the concept of "term limits" and more than willing to let the rest of the GOP county government trade on her name ID in order to retain any elected position for as long as possible.

As we first noted last November ("Finish Your Damn Job, Faye Griffin"), Griffin is a serial office jumper. Currently in the middle of her second term as Jefferson County Commissioner, Griffin is running (again) for County Clerk & Recorder; if she is successful in November, she will have held 4 separate elected positions in one 8-year span, and failed to finish her elected term for the second time in five years. More importantly for Republicans, Griffin's constant movement should allow two other term-limited Republicans a chance at holding a new office without having to go through an actual election – a pretty sneaky way to get around those pesky "voters" in Jeffco.

If Griffin is elected Clerk & Recorder (which is likely because of her high name ID that plays a major role in a countywide vote), that will create an immediate opening for a spot on the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners. The term-limited Treasurer Tim Kauffman would then likely be appointed by a Republican vacancy committee…which would leave Kauffman's Treasurer seat open for another GOP vacancy committee selection (likely to be the term-limited County Assessor Jim Everson).

And thus, with the election of Faye Griffin, Jeffco Republicans can avoid open-seat election battles for two other county jobs. Furthermore, Griffin has indicated that she may retire soon, which would open a vacancy for Clerk & Recorder that would be filled via…a Republican vacancy committee!

You can see Griffin's many moves over the years in the list below (after the jump). This is frequent occurrence in Jefferson County — Kauffman himself was appointed Treasurer when Griffin left that office to run for County Commissioner in 2008. But as Republican control over countywide elections continues to fade in Jeffco, the powers behind the curtain are doing everything they can to hold on to any office at the "Taj Mahal."

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Jefferson County: The Key to the State, Now More Than Ever

Jefferson County key to Colorado elections

This kid can’t vote. But his parents, relatives, and neighbors have a new reason to get involved.

We've seen plenty of stories both locally and nationally about the continuing controversy with the Jefferson County School Board — a controversy that will almost certainly impact the outcome of several key races in November, as we pointed out early and often.

Today the Denver Post takes a deeper look — on the front page of the paper, no less — into the political consequences of a right-wing school board angering a community that is always paying attention to education issues. As John Frank writes for the Post, the crossover into the 2014 election is impossible to ignore:

It's dark and a moth circles the halo of a porch light as state lawmaker Brittany Pettersen knocks on the door of a potential swing voter in this all-important Denver suburb. Hours of canvassing ended at the home of Brian Leffler, a 36-year-old independent voter. Pettersen, a first-term Democratic House member, asks him what issue is foremost in his mind this election year. A chorus of insects fills the silence as Leffler thinks. It doesn't take him more than a moment to name a top issue. "The whole schools thing going on in Jefferson County — that's the main thing right now," Leffler said. "I know that has very little to do with you, but they are talking about taking things out of the curriculum."

Door after door, the same refrain. The turmoil at the Jefferson County school board regarding the conservative majority's plans to revamp teacher pay and curriculum is emerging as a key issue in the November elections.

"The fact it comes up naturally in conversations is really reflective of what's happening," Pettersen said. [Pols emphasis]

In an election season with no single national issue dominating the conversation, Jefferson County's vote is a volatile political cocktail that proves all politics is local.

Education. The Democratic Party enthusiasm gap. Abortion. Marijuana. The Republican Party rift. Guns. The economy.

And the stakes couldn't get much higher: The county is likely to decide which party controls the state Senate, the governor's mansion and the U.S. Senate, a combination with far-reaching implications in Colorado and Washington.

Both Democrats and Republicans have figured out that the 2014 elections may hinge on the actions of Jeffco's screwy school board, though Democrats were much quicker to respond. Republicans have tried to push back with a ridiculous message accusing the teacher's union of, well, everything, but that attempted pivot isn't going to work in a county where students, parents, and teachers have taken to the streets in protest for more than a month now. As Frank astutely points out in his story above, this is an issue that is moving along under its own power — which is going to make it awfully difficult for Republicans to redirect as ballots start landing in mailboxes this week.

 

Making Julie Williams The Face of The GOP

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

As the months-long protests against actions of the new conservative Jefferson County school board majority have raged on, and in the last few weeks gained international media coverage, we've tried to stay focused on the next logical question for a political blog–what effect these highly visible and popular protests will have on next month's elections. Jefferson County is considered one of the state's (and for that matter, the nation's) foremost political bellwethers, and a win in Jefferson County is generally considered to be mandatory to winning any statewide race.

In addition to the general fact that the Jeffco school board is now controlled by identifiably partisan Republicans, board member Julie Williams has close ties to the Neville family of well-known conservative Republican Jefferson County activists. As Williams has emerged as the central figure in the recent AP history curriculum review controversy, her personal connections to Republican state legislative candidates–along with the damage to the GOP brand her proposal caused just ahead of a major election–are a legitimate concern for Republicans who want to win elections next month.

As FOX 31's Eli Stokols reported last night, Democrats are doing what they can to bring about the GOP's worst-case scenario:

In a new television ad, Colorado Democrats attempt to draw a line between the three conservative Jefferson County School Board members whose effort to square the district’s AP U.S. History curriculum with their idea of “American exceptionalism” has sparked weeks of protest, with four Republican state senate candidates looking to oust Democratic incumbents.

The Democratic Senate Campaign Fund, an initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party, is behind the ad, the most serious effort yet to leverage the ongoing controversy over the Jefferson County School Board into a political advantage in next month’s election.

The group is betting that swing voters in Colorado’s biggest bellwether county will side with the students and teachers who have protested the board’s move — and that linking four GOP senate hopefuls to the conservative board majority could swing these competitive races that are certain to affect the balance of power within the Capitol’s upper chamber come January.

“Jefferson County families are against the extreme Tea Party slate pushing their ideological agenda on families. That’s not how we do things in Colorado, said Andrew Short, the DSCF’s executive director. “They have nationally embarrassed us and they will pay for it in November.” [Pols emphasis]

UPDATE: From the Democratic Senate Campaign Fund's press release:

Tim Neville’s sister-in-law, school board member Julie Williams is trying to push her extreme agenda into the State Senate. She has the backing of her brother-in-law, Tim Neville and is also supporting Laura Woods, Tony Sanchez, and Larry Queen.
 
“We stand on the side of students, parents, and teachers – and against the extreme Tea Party agenda.  This isn’t about party politics.  This is about what is right.  The Tea Party won all the Jefferson County primaries last June and is now pushing their ideological agenda on Jefferson County families. This will not be accepted by middle of the road, Jefferson County voters,” said Short.
 
Beginning with a pop quiz, the ad asks, “The censoring of textbooks and rewriting of history recently resulted in public protests, where?”  The answer is Jefferson County.  The ad outlines how the new school board extremists nationally embarrassed Jefferson County families. It also highlights Julie Williams’ support for the Jefferson County Tea Party slate for State Senate.

Williams' original proposal to review Jeffco's new AP history curriculum to ensure it "promotes patriotism" and does not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law" was, it's safe to say today, politically disastrous. The literally worldwide attention it received precipitated anger that transcended party lines–at least with the overwhelming majority created by Democrats, independent voters, and yes, even Republicans who draw a bright white line at political censorship of history. It's another case where this new majority has tried to impose a right-wing agenda item that's simply out of step in a moderate place like Jefferson County. And with so much bad blood between this new board majority and the community already, stripping the review committee proposal of Williams' incendiary language did little to assuage fears.

Voters can already see, and will find it easily if they haven't, that this is a partisan political battle unfolding. The ad above supplies important data points that connect what's happening on the streets of Jefferson County with Republicans on the ballots going out next week.

We'll say it again: as Jefferson County goes, so goes Colorado. There is a possibility, and it is growing, that Republicans well above the county level will pay a dear price for Julie Williams on Election Night.

Is Bob Beauprez TRYING to Lose Jefferson County?

UPDATE: Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio responds:

"Congressman Beauprez has picked sides in the Jefferson County education fight. Not surprisingly, he chose the tea party school board members over parents, teachers and students. Asking our students to wait until the next election to be taught America's rich and incredible history is out-of-touch. To best prepare our children to be our nation's next generation of leaders, they should be armed with the facts, not just the limited and ideological agenda of the tea party extremes."

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Another bad answer from Bob BeauprezThe Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce is currently hosting a debate between Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. Politico reporter Manu Raju is moderating the discussion, which you can follow at Politico.com/LIVE or via Twitter under the hashtag #copolitics.

Just a few moments ago, Raju asked a question about the controversy surrounding the Jefferson County School Board, and Beauprez is apparently convinced that it is a smart idea to be critical of the thousands of students, teachers, and parents who have been protesting a proposal to change the curriculum for certain history classrooms. Last week, Beauprez said in a radio interview that teachers are "manipulating" students to walk out of class and join the protests — a comment that echoed Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee and the right-wing School Board. When given another chance to give a different answer to a similar question…Beauprez doubled-down instead.

Here's how Beauprez's answer sounded from the Twitter feed of Fox 31's Eli Stokols (image at right): "We've lost precious instruction time because of the protests…elected school board has obligation to look at [curriculum].

We can't even begin to speculate as to why Beauprez and his campaign team think this is smart approach to answering a question about a subject that has made national headlines for more than two weeks. As we all know, Jefferson County is THE bellweather county in Colorado, and it is essentially impossible to win a statewide race if you don't win in Jeffco. It is also considerably harder to win in Jeffco when your basic response is no more detailed than, Go back to class!

From a political standpoint, this isn't a difficult question to answer correctly. Just take a look at how Gov. HIckenlooper answered to see what Beauprez should have done instead.

School Board Protests The Talk of Bellwether Jefferson County

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Photo courtesy Jefferson County Education Association

At 64th and Wadsworth yesterday.

At 64th and Wadsworth yesterday.

Following this week's adoption of a watered-down version of a highly controversial curriculum review of Jefferson County's AP U.S. History, students, teachers, and other residents turned out during yesterday afternoon's rush hour for a huge protest. Groups of protesters took up positions at intersections along 22 miles of Wadsworth Boulevard, Jefferson County's highest-traffic arterial surface street. Photos via Twitter, and as Chalkbeat Colorado's Nicholas Garcia reported last night:

The aim of those gathered along the 30-mile stretch of Wadsworth Boulevard, a major traffic conduit in the Denver suburb, is to raise awareness for their concerns regarding Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk, who make up the new majority on the Jeffco school board…

“First is was [the school readiness evaluation program], then it was full-day kindergarten, then it was more money for charter schools,” [Jefferson County mom Amanda Stevens] said, continuing to list more controversial decisions…

Critics of the [history review] proposal, originally introduced by Williams, feared the committee would eventually lead to censoring an advanced U.S. history class.

On Thursday night, the board majority approved a sort of half-compromise on a 3-2 vote. Instead of creating a brand new committee, they amended current district policies that govern challenges to curriculum to include students and board-appointed community members to a panel to review materials. The committees will also now report directly to the board instead of the superintendent.

AP's report:

Protesters packed street corners on Friday afternoon in organized rallies along Wadsworth Boulevard for more than 22 miles, from 120th Avenue south into the Ken Caryl area…

The Colorado board didn’t vote on its original proposal to review the history course with an eye toward promoting patriotism and downplaying social disorder – language students have blasted in waves of school-time protests across the district. However, students and other activists say the board’s new approach to include students on existing curriculum review committees doesn’t satisfy them because they believe board members will ultimately try to change the history course to suit their views.

“This isn’t over,” said Ashlyn Maher, 18, a Chatfield High School senior who has been helping organize protests over the past two weeks. “We are going to fight until we see some results.”

The issue has grabbed national attention, and some protesters said they hoped Jefferson County’s grappling with it offers lessons to other districts.

—–

CBS4 carried the story last night with some aerial footage:

54thandwads

We were given an informal head count of around 2,500 total participants along the entire length of Wadsworth Boulevard between 4-6PM yesterday. As the protests went on, Democratic candidates like Congressman Ed Perlmutter (photo after the jump) and state Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp worked the crowds in attendance at various points along the route. With at least the visibility of the recent en masse student walk-outs, and covering a much larger area at rush hour, it would have been difficult for a very large percentage of Jefferson County residents to miss what was going on.

Although the curriculum review "compromise" proposal had the most politically incendiary language originally proposed by board member Julie Williams stripped out, the change to a review committee that answers directly to the right-wing controlled school board majority, as well as the ability of the board to pack the new committees with politically like-minded "concerned citizens," leaves opponents with little confidence. Even without Williams's stated desire to review history curriculum to ensure it "promotes patriotism" and does not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," the board majority's clear desire to meddle with history curriculum for these purposes has been broadcast for (quite literally) the entire world to see.

The last few weeks of international newsmaking controversy in Jefferson County have introduced a volatile electoral element in what is arguably the state's foremost political bellwether just days before mail ballots go out to every registered voter. It's difficult to predict exactly what effect these protests may have on next month's elections, but there is no realistic scenario in which this becomes a positive for Jefferson County Republicans–or the statewide Republican races counting on a good showing there. As we've discussed previously, board member Williams is directly tied by immediate family members to numerous Republican legislative candidates running in Jefferson County. But the larger danger is this: that the lay public in Jefferson County realizes what is happening is politically partisan.

To the degree less-interested voters figure out that these highly popular and heavily-covered protests, and the underlying issue of protecting history courses from political witch hunts by unscholarly political activists, all have a common origin with Republicans they can punish at the polls now–even though the new school board majority is not on the ballot? For Republicans, the worst-case scenario here is, in a word, bad.

It's going to factor on Election Day. The question we have to wait to see answered is, how much.

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Jeffco School Board Meeting Open Thread; Watch Live Stream Here

Julie Williams Support

Both of them showed up tonight.

Why does this get its own Open Thread, you say? From 9News.com:

A fight over how United States history is taught is coming to a head in Jefferson County on Thursday with students and teachers expected to pack a school board meeting where the controversial changes could face a vote…

…Turnout is expected to be so high that the teachers' union plans to stream video from the meeting room — which holds a couple hundred people — on a big screen in the parking lot outside. Students are making plans to start their protests early in the day.

Turnout is expected to be so high that they will be LIVE-STREAMING VIDEO TO THE PARKING LOT. That's…wow.

You can watch a Live Stream of the School Board Meeting after the jump below. Twitter users should follow the hashtag #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory.

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Beauprez says Jeffco teachers are manipulating students to walk out over teacher merit pay

(Wrong answer, Bob – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Bob Beauprez.

Bob Beauprez.

In an interview on KOA 850-AM Tuesday, gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez sharply criticized Jeffco students and teachers who've been protesting against a proposed curriculum review, the conflict is really about merit pay for teachers, not the curriculum.

Asked what message he has for "students, parents, teachers, and administrators in the Jefferson County school district," Beauprez said, "Get back to the task at hand, and that’s instructing the kids."

"This [protest] supposedly was about curriculum," Beauprez told KOA, touching on the topic of tonight's meeting of the Jefferson County School Board, "But I think it’s a long ways removed from curriculum. I think it’s really just a manifestation of the ongoing battle between the school board and the teachers’ union over pay, and in this case, merit pay. The curriculum is a very secondary issue."

In particular, Beauprez implied that Jeffco students were being manipulated by teachers, calling the student actions a "teacher-encouraged protest."

Asked what role the governor should play in the dispute, Beauprez aligned himself with the Jeffco Schools' Superintendent, and he sounded (see below) as if he believes gubernatorial intervention would be justified if the conflict continues.

Beauprez said it's now "very close to that moment in time when the legitimate requests and needs of the parents and the students are not being met, and teachers are not meeting their contractual obligation to be in that classroom teaching kids."

The Colorado Indpendent's Tessa Cheek reported Tuesday that Jeffco parents were upset by simlar, but less strident, comments Beauprez made in a recent speech. Cheek reported:

“What we’ve got going on in JeffCo right now is a bit of a complicated situation,” Beauprez said in a forum at Metro State college on Friday.

“I think the school board, an elected school board, they have a proxy from the citizens of Jefferson County to review that curriculum and to opine about that curriculum,” he continued. “And the remedy — if the citizens, the voters, decide that the school board has made a mistake — the remedy comes pretty quickly, in the next election. That’s the way I think it should work.”

The comment hit a nerve for Shawna Fritzler. She’s a registered Republican with a nine-year-old daughter who attends a JeffCo public school. She’s also the president of her school’s Parent Teacher Association and a citizen-chair of the JeffCo public school’s planning and advisory council. She said she is frustrated to see a top-of-the-ticket politician weigh in during an election year without enough context.

“Bob Beauprez says to take it to the ballot box,” she said. “You want me to wait three more years of my nine-year old’s education? My daughter has to wait for an election? That’s asinine.”

On KNUS radio this morning, conservative Dan Caplis said he believes "all of this theater is geared to the launch of a recall election" of the Jefferson County School Board.

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Jeffco School Board Troubles Impacting 2014 Election

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

State senate candidate Tony Sanchez is one of many Republicans who probably wish they never took that picture next to Jeffco School Board member Julie Williams.

THURSDAY UPDATE: The Jeffco Board of Education is scheduled to meet tonight, and they are expected to use their 3-2 right-wing majority to ram through an initiative to change the curriculum of high school history classes. Community outrage, be damned.

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We've written before in this space that the controversy surrounding the Jefferson County School Board would inevitably bleed into key races in 2014; it was only a matter of time that the biggest story in the most important electoral county in the state would break into the election cycle. As Nick Riccardi reports for the Associated Press:

The protests over a Colorado school district’s proposal to promote patriotism and de-emphasize civil disobedience in American history classes have found their way into the state’s marquee election races, injecting a volatile issue two weeks before early voting ballots land in mailboxes across the state…

…At its Sept. 19 meeting, the board proposed creating a committee to review texts and course plans, starting with Advanced Placement history, to make sure materials “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights” and don’t “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

The ensuing walkouts brought criticism from some candidates, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, a former congressman who represented Jefferson County. He said the board is within its rights to consider the adjustments.

“They have every right to discuss curriculum,” Beauprez said. “What this is really about is the continuing tiff between the teachers union and the elected majority.” [Pols emphasis]

His opponent, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, criticized the proposed curriculum changes.

We were a bit surprised, frankly, that this question didn't come in last night's Gubernatorial debate, though Bob Beauprez had already stepped in the mess on Friday. Yesterday The Colorado Independent followed up on Beauprez's school board comments from Friday; unsurprisingly, Jeffco parents are not pleased:

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Jeffco Schools Superintendent Threatens Teachers Over Latest Protest

Dan McMinimee

Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee has turned to the “threaten teachers” section of his right-wing handbook.

UPDATE: We'll have more on this before tomorrow's Gubernatorial debate at the Denver Post auditorium, but in the meantime, here's an interesting take from Westword: (we had a feeling this would happen):

Meanwhile, the proposed history curriculum changes could become an issue in the upcoming gubernatorial race between Democrat office-holder John Hickenlooper and Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. At a debate Friday, the Durango Herald reports that Beauprez backed board members: "An elected school board not only has the right to speak up about curriculum and what they think are the wisest choices…but they have an obligation to do that," he said. Hickenlooper, for his part, was more critical, arguing that "you want your kids to learn about Dr. Martin Luther King, but you also want them to learn about the Boston Tea Party."

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Classes were cancelled today at Golden and Jefferson High Schools in Jefferson County when a majority of teachers called in sick as part of an ongoing protest against heavy-handed tactics from the right-wing majority school board. As Jesse Paul of the Denver Post reports, Jeffco Superintendent Dan McMinimee is talking tough about cracking down on teacher protests…which is not going to go over well:

Teachers who missed school will have to show proof of illness, he said, adding that personal days need 24-hours notice.

"We are going to have our building principals work with each teacher involved in this," he said.

"We will probably dock them a day's pay," McMinimee said of teachers who didn't follow the guidelines of the collective bargaining agreement. "I think it's time for this to end. Let's put an end to this." [Pols emphasis]

That tone-deaf statement from McMinimee is fairly typical of the response we have seen from the conservative members of the Jeffco School Board — Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk have been oddly surprised that students, parents, and teachers are not excited about the idea of non-educators making massive curriculum changes. Even though Jefferson and Golden High Schools were closed today, that didn't stop students from another day of protests. McMinimee and the school board might want to pay closer attention to what the students are saying:

Angelica Dole, a sophomore at Jefferson High School, said the students were 100 percent behind their teachers.

"This is our own time. This was all students. No teachers are here, look around," Dole said.

At the same time that administrators are talking tough, the students are taking matters into their own hands, which further complicates any response. McMinimee and the school board have made passing references in the last week essentially laying the blame for protests with the JCEA (the Jeffco teachers' union), and they are getting more aggressive with those accusations and in trying to crack the whip with teachers. But the students can make things much, much more problematic:

The recent walk and sick-outs have raised alarm as the Oct. 1 state county day approaches, which determines district funding by enrolled and present students.

State officials said Monday that absences should not affect the district's funding — which is $7,021 per student — because of extensions and rules in the count which allow for students present five days before and five days after Oct. 1 to be included in the funding determination.

Ken Witt

School Board President Ken Witt. He’s “an adult.”

We're now entering the third week of high-profile protests in response to asinine actions from the right-wing Jeffco School Board. In that time, we've learned one thing above all others: Julie Williams and the rest of the conservative board appear to be completely clueless as to how to deal with this situation…which they, of course, created with their own actions. Check out this quote from Board President Ken Witt:

"I'm very disappointed that some of our instructors have chose not to turn up for work today. It is not appropriate for adult matters to impact the education of our students." [Pols emphasis]

Yes, really. That's Ken Witt saying it is not appropriate for "adult matters" to impact the education of our students. When you say, "adult matters," Ken, do you include when "adults" make inappropriate school curriculum plans based on partisan political positioning? Or does this only apply to "other" adults?

The Hubris of Julie Williams

UPDATE: The College Board weighs in strongly in support of students protesting against the Jefferson County school board's proposed "censorship" of the AP history framework, via 9NEWS:

"The College Board's Advanced Placement Program® supports the actions taken by students in Jefferson County, Colorado to protest a school board member's request to censor aspects of the AP U.S. History course," The College Board said in a statement.

The statement cites concerns with a portion of the proposal submitted by Jeffco School Board Member Julie Williams which reads "Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

The College Board states, "These students recognize that the social order can – and sometimes must – be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice. Civil disorder and social strife are at the patriotic heart of American history – from the Boston Tea Party to the American Revolution to the Civil Rights Movement. And these events and ideas are essential within the study of a college-level, AP U.S. History course." [Pols emphasis]

We have a theory who the kids are going to listen to–and it's not Julie Williams.

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Yesterday, FOX 31 caught up with Jefferson County Board of Education member Julie Williams–the member of the new hard-right conservative majority school board responsible for a proposal to "review" new AP history curriculum standards, in hope of ensuring they do not "encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and "present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage" while promoting "citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system." Her proposal has resulted in massive student protests all week in Jefferson County, as thousands of students walked out of class and took to the streets to demand that history "not be a mystery."

Williams has been difficult to reach by the press in the last few days as protests over her proposal raged, so FOX 31's interview was a big chance for her to set the record straight.

Or to make things much, much worse for herself, which is what happened.

FOX31 Denver’s Kent Erdahl spoke with Julie Williams Thursday night, the board member who is at the center of this controversy. The goal was to find out what she has in mind and what her reaction is to the protests which have been taking place for a week now…

Many say the fear comes from Williams` original criteria for her proposed committee which states … “Materials should present positive aspects of the United States,”  “Promote patriotism” and “should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

“Basically, what I am asking for is for history to be taught complete, without bias. So the good, the bad, the ugly without bias,” Williams says.

Kent Erdahl asked her, “Isn`t discouraging things like civil disobedience bias?” Williams answer, “I`m not talking about changing the history to not teach that. I`m saying we shouldn`t be encouraging our kids to disobey the law and that`s what`s happening right now. [Pols emphasis] Our kids are being encouraged to walk out of the schools.”

As we've noted a few times while covering the antics of the new Jeffco school board majority, Julie Williams is a member of the Neville "political dynasty" of arch-conservative political activists and politicians, which is very well known both in Jefferson County and at the Colorado Capitol. Williams is the sister-in-law of former GOP state Sen. Tim Neville, once again a candidate for the Senate in District 16. Tim Neville's son is Joe Neville, chief lobbyist for the infamous Rocky Mountain Gun Owners. Joe Neville's RMGO this election season is supporting a number of RMGO-endorsed legislative candidates.

And you know, it's a funny thing: RMGO doesn't have much trouble with people breaking laws.

brophyobey

Remember when Sen. Greg Brophy (R-RMGO) said these words from the well of the Colorado Senate? Brophy was hailed as a champion of freedom by RMGO and the gun lobby after he announced he would not obey House Bill 1224, the magazine limit law enacted last year.

Now folks, we don't know about you, but we'd say Brophy's declaration of "civil disobedience" to Colorado's magazine limit law sounds an awful lot like "encouraging our kids to break the law," doesn't it? Do you think the RMGO's "I Will Not Comply" T-shirts (above right) might be "encouraging" people to break the law?

Does Julie Williams own one?

In a way, this sums up the whole problem with any politically biased "review" of history, to smooth over the unsightly parts and not "encourage disregard for the law." Any time you try to review/rewrite/sanitize/whatever you want to call it history–any time you treat history as something you can bend to the politics of the moment–it comes back to bite you, from the civil rights movement to…well, even Greg Brophy.

And yes, sanitizing civil rights history in the U.S. is far worse than making a hypocrite of Greg Brophy. Almost incomparably worse. But Brophy's and RMGO's open support for lawbreaking does one thing very well: it throws the hypocrisy of Julie Williams into sharp relief.

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Another Day, Another Massive Protest In Jefferson County

thursdayprotests
Photo via Twitter

The Denver Post's Jesse Paul reports, the student protests in Jefferson County over the new conservative school board majority's proposal to "review" new AP history curriculum raged again Thursday:

Nearly one thousand students from Columbine and Dakota Ridge high schools walked out of classes Thursday morning, punctuating the fourth straight day of Jefferson County school protests.

Students from Columbine, Lakewood, Bear Creek and Dakota Ridge high schools all walked out Thursday. It was the largest protest in what has been a week of escalating tensions between students and the school board…

Jefferson County School Board Chairman Ken Witt spoke to reporters near the Columbine protest.

"I think it's unfortunate presently to our students being used as pawns," Witt said. He also said he thought the student protests were a union tool and that students were being misled.

While Jefferson County school board conservatives defend their actions, the Post's Eric Gorski updates today on the broad range of divisive actions this new school board has taken, of which the latest "curriculum review" is the most recent example:

In the face of mass protests from students, members of the Jefferson County school board majority Wednesday defended a proposed curriculum committee and called it misunderstood, while signaling the most criticized elements are likely to be cut.

The proposed panel has emerged as the largest point of disagreement yet in the state's second-largest school district, a perennially high academic achiever that saw a conservative, reform-minded board majority voted in 10 months ago.

Like the election last November of three Republican board candidates who ran as a slate, the curriculum controversy is also an example of partisan politics playing a greater role in public education — in this case, involving a charged debate about changes in how Advanced Placement students are learning American history.

The angry denials from conservative board members in today's stories are severely undercut by the wording of the proposal. They are further undercut by fellow board member Julie Williams' stunning response to the protests, in which decries the new AP history curriculum's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing"–a diatribe more appropriate from fringe AM talk radio than the board of one of the state's largest and highest achieving school districts. According to Gorski's report, Williams' conservative colleagues John Newkirk and Ken Witt intend to cut the most offensive language from Williams' proposal: presumably, the stuff about how history courses should "not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law," and "present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage."

But the language in the proposal might be a sideshow to the real problem. Although Jefferson County has had curriculum reviews before, the committees involved were generally composed of education professionals and experts. This new proposal for a review of AP history simply calls for a majority vote by the school board. Since the current conservative majority took office, almost every decision made by the board has been a 3-2 party line vote. That means this committee could very easily be stacked by conservative political activists with no educational qualifications–which, incidentally, perfectly describes the new conservative majority on the Jeffco school board! And in case you're wondering if that's what the right really wants, check out this message sent from a supporter of Williams to prospective review committee members:

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It's as bad as it looks, folks. Defensive bluster aside, the facts back up the concerns of the protesters. Last year, a failed education funding initiative brought out legions of conservative voters to vote against it, in the process installing a school board majority in Jefferson County that is distantly to the right of the population they are entrusted to serve. Today, however, the unexpected "bonus" of Amendment 66's crushing at the polls, a far-right school board majority in Jeffco, may blow back hard on conservatives in this electoral bellwether county–doing political damage far beyond anything they had hoped to gain.

Between here and there, we expect a lot more protests.

The Madness of Julie Williams

UPDATE #2: Chalkbeat Colorado's Nicholas Garcia reports, the largest protest yet today in Jefferson County:

Stretching on for a fourth school day, students from some of Jefferson County’s largest high schools gathered at a busy intersection here to echo concerns about a proposed curriculum committee they believe could lead to censorship and show solidarity with their teachers.

The rally appeared to be the largest thus far. More than half of the 1,900 students at Chatfield High School, coupled with hundreds of students from Dakota Ridge walked, ran, and drove up and down a stretch of Simms Street shortly after classes were supposed to start at the two schools.

According to the Denver Post, students at Bear Creek High School also walked out this morning. And according to sources, students at Alameda High School [walked out] this afternoon after meeting with a representative from Jeffco Public Schools.

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UPDATE:

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GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

GOP state senate candidate Tony Sanchez and Jeffco board member Julie Williams.

Yesterday's student walkout at at least five Jefferson County high schools, in protest of the new conservative Jeffco school board majority's proposed "curriculum review committee" to undertake a politically suspect review of revised AP history materials, has exploded into national headlines. The New York Times, along with major online sources like Talking Points Memo and Raw Story, have elevated this controversy and linked it to the larger right-wing struggle against updating education standards throughout the country. Jefferson County, like most school districts, has always had some form of ongoing curriculum review, but carried out by people with educational experience–with specific goals of ensuring the material is comprehensive and conformal to standards set by national bodies like the College Board.

The conservative board majority's proposal, to select members of this new "curriculum review committee" by majority vote of the board with no qualifications required–and especially the committee's proposed mission to ensure the district's history courses promote "citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority," and "presents positive aspects of the United States and its heritage"–is not the same process at all, and poses a direct threat to the academic integrity of Jefferson County's AP history courses. A second proposed target of investigation by this new committee, the district's sex ed courses, hasn't even been explored yet by the media, though we expect that would become every bit as controversial should it be enacted by the board.

The author of the proposal, board member Julie Williams, is a member of the Neville family of arch-conservative activists in Jefferson County. Williams' brother-in-law, for Sen. Tim Neville, is running again for Colorado Senate District 16, and her in-law nephew Joe Neville is the hard-charging principal lobbyist for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners organization. These are people with a very broad political agenda, of which education policy is merely one piece–albeit an important one. On Monday, as protests ramped up, Williams responded to her critics.

Disastrously.

I was truly surprised by the reaction of so many people regarding the AP U.S. History curriculum (APUSH). I must not have explained myself clearly. I thought everyone, or at least everyone involved in education understood the huge debate and controversy surrounding the new APUSH. To be accused of censorship? “Seriously?” That is just ridiculous. I am advocating for just the opposite. So, please let me start at the beginning…

APUSH rejects the history that has been taught in the country for generations. It has an emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing [Pols emphasis] while simultaneously omitting the most basic structural and philosophical elements considered essential to the understanding of American History for generations….parents who have reviewed APUSH have been very unhappy with what their children will be taught and have lost trust in the “experts”. Please note: This is NOT a committee to review teachers, this is NOT about teachers, it is about curriculum review, which is a board’s responsibility.

Balance and respect for traditional scholarship is NOT censorship. Again we believe that exposure to the curriculum itself, not inflammatory rhetoric; will convince most parents that a review committee is a very good idea. I humbly ask our Jeffco history teachers to review their philosophical position on the APUSH. I think the majority will be surprised to find they agree. I invite them to join us while we investigate this curriculum, together…

Last, when it comes to history I believe all children graduating from an American school should know 3 things: American Exceptionalism, an understanding of US History, and know the Constitution.

The most obvious problem with this response is how Williams says she doesn't want censorship, but then launches immediately into a reactionary diatribe about the AP history curriculum's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing." Williams clearly doesn't like that, and we can infer pretty easily from her description of it that she would like the new AP history curriculum in Jefferson County to change.

Which is an awful lot like censoring it.

For us, the sophomoric and badly-written language of this "press release" is itself an embarrassment to the Jefferson County School District. We can't speak for everyone, of course, but placing the word "experts" in scare quotes inspires the opposite of confidence in this person's viewpoint–especially as an education administrator. It would be one thing to have a debate about a history text's "emphasis on race, gender, class, ethnicity, grievance and American-bashing" with a person who is qualified to debate these subjects, but Williams simply is not. Her sole purpose on this school board appears to be to inject the Neville's far-right agenda into their process at every step, and spew AM radio talking points that have no place in a discussion about education in one of Colorado's best and largest public school districts. Certainly not in the closely divided political bellwether of Jefferson County.

The exposure of Williams' agenda, now underway in the form of massive protests and national news coverage, could be very bad for her fellow Republicans this election season. By provoking such controversy with a political review of history, Williams has touched a nerve that crosses party lines–and could bring out angry independent voters in Jeffco who might otherwise have stayed home.

For Republicans, this could be a most unfortunate consequence–even if they can't say it was unintended.

Students Walk Out Across Jefferson County

ralstonvalleyprotest Photo via Twitter

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The backlash against the new right wing Jefferson County Board of Education's proposed "curriculum review committee," intended by conservative board members to ensure the district's history courses promote "citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority," and "presents positive aspects of the United States and its heritage," continues today as hundreds of students walked out of Jeffco high schools in protest. As the Denver Post's Jesse Paul reports:

The walk-out followed a similar protest Monday by at least 100 Evergreen High School students who left classes to voice their opinions at the county's school administration building. On Friday, two county schools closed after 50 teachers either called in sick or used a personal day.

Tensions have been mounting in the school district as students and teachers push back against district leadership. Community members are angry about an evaluation-based system for awarding raises to educators and a proposed curriculum committee that calls for promoting "positive aspects" of the United States and its heritage and avoiding material that would encourage or condone "civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

A slate of conservative candidates took control of the board last year and hired a new superintendent, Dan McMinimee, to replace the veteran Cindy Stevenson. Stevenson resigned and left earlier than planned, saying her work was being impeded by the board majority.

Walk-outs Tuesday happened at Arvada West, Pomona, Ralston Valley, Wheat Ridge and Golden high schools.

These highly visible protests, just a few months after similar protests of the hiring of Douglas County's Dan McMinimee as the district's superintendent but by all accounts much larger, pose a considerable and unforeseen political risk to Republicans in Colorado's electoral bellwether population center. The connection between the conservative board majority proposal to "examine" history curriculum with openly political goals and Republicans on the ballot in Jefferson County is very easy to draw. The close family ties between board member Julie Williams and Republican SD-16 candidate Tim Neville are a matter of record, as well as extended ties between Williams and Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-endorsed Jeffco legislative candidates like Tony Sanchez and Laura Waters Woods.

Bottom line: the Jeffco board's history curriculum review proposal could well alienate independent voters from Republicans in Jefferson County and perhaps elsewhere. Even where one might not agree with Democrats on everything, something that looks like an attempt to manipulate public school instruction for political purposes is repellent in a way that crosses political lines. Outside a conservative diehard bloc that isn't troubled, this all seems terribly…

In a word, un-American.

Denver Post Editorial Board Hammers Jeffco School Board

UPDATE: Students in Jefferson County are organizing their own protests against the School Board. From the Denver Post:

Dozens of Evergreen High School students walked out of their morning classes on Monday and car pooled to the Jefferson County School Administration Building to protest what they see as the school board's attempt to censor advanced history curriculum.

"I want honesty in my classroom," the students said in a letter presented to Superintendent Dan McMinimee, who spoke with four student representatives, and the board. "Teachers want honesty in the classroom."

The protest followed a teacher sick out that closed two schools last week. Schools were back open on Monday despite rumors that educators might not show again. Students said similar protests are planned for the rest of the week.

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With backlash against the right-wing Jefferson County School Board continuing to grow, the editorial board of the Denver Post weighs in today about efforts by the board to make specific curriculum changes to history classes hat would basically ignore, well, history:

Whatever their purpose, the guidelines, if adopted, would give the impression that the board seeks a narrow, upbeat and even propagandistic curriculum instead of the broad and even-handed approach that is best.

The pursuit of a first-rate curriculum by the district is a worthy goal. If the board wants to appoint a committee to examine current offerings, so be it. But don't taint the process with language that hints at an ulterior and non-academic agenda.

Two Jeffco High Schools Closed Today as Board Backlash Grows

UPDATE: Colorado Public Radio's Jenny Brundin:

Teachers are riled by a couple of issues: one is an ongoing disagreement over pay and the intentions of the new conservative board members. The other is a board proposal to set up a curriculum committee to review what materials teachers use in the classroom.

The resolution stated that history classes in Jefferson County schools should promote “patriotism and the free enterprise system.” It generated controversy at Thursday night’s school board meeting. The resolution was tabled last night but could come up for discussion at a later date.

The controversy prompted about 60 Standley students to line Wadsworth Boulevard, near their school, waving placards and drawing a cacophony of honks from passing cars.

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Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk

Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk of the Jefferson County School Board.

As KWGN Channel 2 reports (among others), classes were cancelled today at Standley Lake High School and Conifer High School after a wave of teachers called in sick this morning:

Standley Lake and Conifer high schools will be not have classes Friday because of several teacher absences, the Jefferson County School District said…

…Despite classes being canceled for the day, some students went ahead with a planned protest in support of the teachers.

Teachers are upset with the school board over the district’s new teacher pay model and a proposed curriculum review panel for AP U.S. history classes.

Under the plan, the starting teacher’s salary would go up about $5,000 a year, but raises will be determined based on performance. Teachers rated as ineffective or partially effective would receive only a 1 percent raise or the possibility of no raise at all.

We've been following this story closely as the right-wing Jefferson County School Board announced a plan — unveiled last night — to make changes to how schools teach history and other subjects. 9News education reporter Nelson Garcia has more on the controversy:

The proposal reads: "The charge to the committee is to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials."

[School Board Member Julie] Williams says this is necessary after all the changes to academic standards under the Common Core movement…

…The second part of the proposal reads in part, "Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."

"I don't think we should encourage kids to be little rebels," Williams said. "We should encourage kids to be good citizens." [Pols emphasis]

The actions of the Jeffco School Board — under Republican control following an election last November — have created plenty of concern for months. Parents and teachers have been concerned about a number of decisions, including the hiring of a new Superintendent (with no competition for finalists), but this move by the conservative board to quite literally change curriculums has stoked a much hotter fire in the community. Public Education has always been the biggest policy issue for Jefferson County voters, and with both teachers and the PTA vocally opposing the Republican school board, candidates from Governor to U.S. Senate could suffer mightily at the polls from this public backlash.