Board of Education Issues

Are you informed?  Do you know why GHS students are protesting and Jeffco teachers and parents line Wadsworth Boulevard with signs?

Our Jeffco PTA has information to share regarding current issues with the Jeffco Board of Education.  Please visit the Jeffco PTA website  http://www.jeffcopta.org/ and read the following article written by its President, Michele Patterson, and approved for publication by its BOD.

 

This article was written, edited, and approved for posting by members of the Jeffco PTA Board of Directors.  We are Republicans, Democrats, Independent, and Unaffiliated voters alike coming together in the best interests of Jeffco’s children.

Jeffco PTA website can be found at : http://www.jeffcopta.org/

Posting can be found at: http://yourhub.denverpost.com/blog/2014/09/your-voice-what-does-it-take-to-get-jeffco-boe-to-listen/65785/

 

our Voice: What does it take to get Jeffco BOE to listen?

Posted by Michele Patterson on September 30, 2014 in Arvada EducationArvada OpinionConifer Education,Conifer OpinionEdgewater EducationEdgewater OpinionEvergreen EducationEvergreen OpinionGolden EducationGolden OpinionJefferson County EducationJefferson County FrontJefferson County Opinion,Lakewood EducationLakewood OpinionLittleton EducationLittleton OpinionMorrison EducationMorrison OpinionSouth Jeffco EducationSouth Jeffco OpinionWestminster EducationWestminster OpinionWheat Ridge EducationWheat Ridge Opinion | 6152 Views | 9 Responses

 

For the past week, Jeffco students have been on the news, raising their voices about the direction our school board majority has taken.  Despite their very eloquent words, and overall peaceful, yet insistent pleas, the school board majority continues to defend their positions, ignore the public, and blame others for an uproar created through no one’s actions but their own.

Just like our students, Jeffco PTA is concerned about the actions this board has taken and their lack of transparency and accountability to the public.  The proposed curriculum committee is only the latest in a long list of actions that show a disregard for public concern. We have included some of this history at the conclusion of this piece.

PROPOSED COMMITTEE IS DANGEROUS & ABOUT MORE THAN AP HISTORY

The proposed curriculum committee, made up of citizens selected by the board majority, would initially be charged with a review of AP History and elementary sex education curriculum.  After that, the committee would have the ability to review any curriculum, at any grade level, in any classroom across the district, and present to the school board anything they deem “objectionable.”  The board majority, none of whom have experience in the field of education, could then choose to take action and remove anything they don’t like from being taught to our children.

This is an open door to potential censorship and inappropriate for a nonpartisan school board and district.

On Wednesday, September 17, the Jeffco PTA Board of Directors voted unanimously to oppose the Jeffco Board of Education’s resolution for a curriculum review committee.

THE DISTRICT ALREADY HAS A CURRICULUM COMMITTEE

What the board majority is not telling you about their proposed curriculum review committee and what has seen little coverage in all of this is that the district ALREADY has a curriculum review process and committee.

The committee – made of our own district leadership and educational experts, parents, teachers, and members of the community – participates in a thorough curriculum and text book review process.  Members of the Jeffco PTA Board of Directors have, themselves, participated in the process as parent representatives on the committee.

So when board president, Ken Witt says this new committee will mean more parent involvement in the process he is seeking to intentionally mislead you about the process that is already in place.

Our superintendent, Dan McMinimee, stated at the last board meeting that he feels there is no need for this committee and he reiterated this in interviews with local news networks.

IS THE PUBLIC OVERREACTING?

We keep hearing from the board majority this is only a proposal, it’s just being discussed, no decision has been made, and that we are overreacting.

When we have seen this board majority make a proposal and then force their agenda through with very little discussion, time and again, it is far from overreaction to assume it is going to happen with this committee.  It is what we have come to expect.

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, WHEN YOU HAVE NO ARGUMENT, BLAME THE TEACHERS

As though we are living in some long ago decade, Julie Williams uses the term “union bosses” in a Fox 31 interview, intimating our high school students are not intelligent enough to know what they are really protesting when they walk out of classes and that the rest of us are unwitting. ignorant pawns of these “union bosses.”  Blaming the teachers, the union, is what this board majority does when they have no leg to stand on.

All you have to do is take a look at the number of times they have done this in the last year.  When 13,000 people responded to a budget survey, when more than 1,000 people came to a school board meeting to protest the district’s proposed budget, when hundreds chanted “recall” at a meeting where former superintendent Cindy Stevenson announced she was being forced out, and hundreds more cried foul when only a single finalist from Douglas County was presented for the superintendent position, the only defense the board majority could manage is that the teacher’s union was behind all of it.

Now hundreds of high school students walk out of classes to protest poor treatment of their teachers and this proposed curriculum review committee and a number of parents are interviewed supporting their children, and members of our Jeffco community, and all the board majority can do is point to “union bosses” and blame teachers. Again. 

DOES WILLIAMS WANT RELIGION IN OUR HISTORY TEXTS?

Williams, in a last week’s press release, seems to want Jeffco to move in the same direction as Texas.  In a recent Newsweek article titled “Textbook Case of Bad Textbooking” the author discusses the heavy religious overtones in new Texas history texts.  For example, the texts say Moses had a hand in writing the Constitution.

The article states that historian reviews of these texts are “scathing.”  Is this what the board majority wants taught to our children?

DID OUR CHILDREN BREAK THE LAW?

While we certainly don’t condone kids skipping classes nor do we condone any poor behavior on the part of students participating in the protests, we do support the right of our students to exercise their First Amendment rights to civil and organized protest.

In her Fox 31 interview, Williams goes so far as to say “our children should not be taught to break the law and that’s what they’re doing right now.”

Williams admits, in the same interview, that she has only glanced briefly at parts of the AP History curriculum, yet her press release stated key historical figures and events are eliminated from current curriculum.  Fox 31 reporter Kent Erdahl looked at those history texts himself and pointed out in his interview with Williams, that her claims are completely false.

NEWKIRK’S DISHONEST OP-ED

In his recent op-ed in the Denver Post, John Newkirk defends the proposal and parrots the same talking points made by Witt and Williams in the media, stating our children are being used by the teachers association and the rest of us are essentially falling prey to them.

Newkirk plays pretty loosely with his facts when he asks why there were no sick outs when the previous board cut employee salaries by 3%.  We know Newkirk knows very well why there were no sick outs then.  We have sat through board meetings where it was explained to him.

Newkirk, in fact, is so misleading in cherry picking his facts that he should be ashamed of himself.

Our teachers willingly, voluntarily, took that pay cut in tough economic times.  That pay cut was negotiated with the teachers, proving that our teachers are actually very selfless and dedicated.

The new teacher compensation plan was developed without any input from our teachers or even our district staff.  It was proposed at one meeting, where it wasn’t even on the agenda, and voted in at the next meeting with very little discussion.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET THEM TO LISTEN?

We simply don’t know the answer to that.  Witt, Williams, and Newkirk justify ignoring any and all public outcry by claiming it is all teacher instigated.

Still, it is the public’s duty to hold elected officials accountable and though we may be powerless to stop the board majority from implementing this committee, it is our responsibility to make our voices heard as advocates for our children.

DAHLKEMPER SAYS ONLY THREE LETTERS SO FAR SUPPORT THE CURRICULUM COMMITTEE

In a Sunday Facebook post Lesley Dahlkemper, says:

I have been up since 6:30 a.m. reading thoughtful, passionate and pointed emails from students, Jeffco graduates, parents and community members from all walks of life regarding the proposed curriculum committee resolution.

All but three emails are against the resolution. I still have many more to read. (I work full-time, so I am playing catch up this weekend.) I am continually impressed by the depth, thought and research poured into correspondence to the board – especially from our Jeffco students and graduates.

I voiced my opposition to the resolution at the board table last week. It goes too far. Our students deserve an unvarnished look at history that encourages them to study deeply, think critically and engage in rich conversations about transformative events that shaped who we are today as a people and a nation. 

WILL IT MATTER?

Will it matter that public opposition to this committee is so strong?  This board majority has proven time and again they have a specific political, perhaps even a religious agenda, they are intent on forcing through.  In the meantime, they try to distract from the real issues by pointing to teachers as the culprits for this mass protest.

Whatever happens, we will be there and we will continue to fight, with you,  for what is right for our children.

Thank you for your many letters and phone calls to our Jeffco PTA president.  We hear you even if the school board majority does not and we stand with you in solidarity for Jeffco’s children and their future.

You can email the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us or sign up to speak at the October 2 meeting on the district website.

AS PROMISED, A LITTLE HISTORY

TRANSPARENCY ISSUES

In December, shortly after their swearing in, our new Jeffco Board majority, Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk, with Witt as the new board president, hired an attorney to serve the school board only. They made this decision behind closed doors and brought it to the table for a vote with no substantial discussion and without any prior knowledge of fellow board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman.  It is important to note that the Jeffco BOE had never, in its history, paid an ongoing attorney solely for the BOE. Here’s a link to our article from nearly a year ago.

Despite public outcry, protest, and demand for a discussion of board attorney Brad Miller’s scope of work, the board majority refused to put it on an agenda until recently. Then it was limited to a 20 minute discussion, most of that time taken up by Brad Miller in which he complained about public outcry over his hire, and with no substantial answers to Dahlkemper’s and Fellman’s questions as to what work this attorney has been providing.  Though Fellman and Dahlkemper are clearly out of the loop when it comes to the work Miller is doing for the board, the board majority voted, at the conclusion of the discussion to extend Miller’s contract for another year.

LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY TO PUBLIC ON BUDGET

Next came the budget survey.  The school district has always reached out to its community for feedback on the budget process.  On average, the district would receive about 2,000 participants in the survey. This year they received more than 13,000 responses.  People overwhelmingly said they wanted better teacher pay and lower class sizes to be a priority.  The survey said stakeholders value early childhood education and that charter school expansion is low on the public’s list of priorities.

The board majority made it clear they felt the survey results were invalid – despite an independent source verifying the results – and decreased the budget line item for teacher salaries, and added nearly $1 million to the Gifted and Talented budget line item while denying $600,000 to expand free full day Kindergarten for our children of poverty.

In addition, the board majority chose to violate promises made to voters when the 2012 mill levy was passed and to reallocate $7.4 million of those promised 3A funds to charter schools rather than using new state funding.

Public outcry was, again, strong both for our littlest learners being denied opportunity and the reallocation issue. More than 1,000 people came to the next meeting.  By a show of hands, asked for by Dahlkemper, at least half the auditorium was made up of parents and members of the community.

After four hours of public comment, mostly from parents, some from Kindergarten teachers setting the record straight about the value of full day K (Williams had said full day K was just naps and more recess) and a motion from Dahlkemper to add the $600,000 line item for Kindergarten back in the budget, the board majority voted a second time to deny free full day Kindergarten expansion for our children of poverty.

They would vote against it a third time before final passage of the budget.

They also refused to work with Dahlkemper and Fellman, to find a way of providing funds for charter schools without violating the trust of Jeffco voters.

AVOIDANCE OF ACCOUNTABILITY TO THE PUBLIC ON SUPERINTENDENT HIRE

A survey and community forums asking what the public wanted in a new superintendent showed the public preferred a traditional candidate with experience managing a large district.  The search firm reported to the board that a recurring theme was “a superintendent able to work with a growing ethnic and culturally diverse community.”

The board majority chose instead to say they wanted a non-traditional candidate and refused to include anything in the job posting about diversity.  Witt went so far as to say he objected to the use of the word “diversity.”

Of course, after following what appears to be a playbook from Douglas County, it became apparent that the taxpayer dollars spent to hire a search firm were a waste and that the search itself was a ruse when the board announced only one finalist for the job, an assistant superintendent from Douglas County.  Our article on the subject can be read here.

At the meeting where the board majority voted to hire McMinimee, the board majority limited public comment to 90 minutes on a first come, first served basis, demonstrating again their lack of interest in community input.

THERE IS MORE

There is more but it would take pages and pages to go into all of it.  We invite you to visitwww.supportjeffcokids.org for more information.

 Jeffco Council PTA is a non-profit, non-partisan child advocacy organization. We are standing up for kids here in Jeffco, and at the state and national levels.  We believe every child has the right to a quality public education and promote the health, safety and welfare of all children.  You don’t have to have children in school, volunteer, or attend meetings to support the work we do. Become a member or donate to us at www.jeffcopta.org.  

This article was written, edited, and approved for posting by members of the Jeffco PTA Board of Directors.  We are Republicans, Democrats, Independent, and Unaffiliated voters alike coming together in the best interests of Jeffco’s children.

Posted in Arvada EducationArvada OpinionConifer EducationConifer OpinionEdgewater Education,Edgewater OpinionEvergreen EducationEvergreen OpinionGolden EducationGolden OpinionJefferson County EducationJefferson County FrontJefferson County OpinionLakewood EducationLakewood Opinion,Littleton EducationLittleton OpinionMorrison EducationMorrison OpinionSouth Jeffco EducationSouth Jeffco OpinionWestminster EducationWestminster OpinionWheat Ridge EducationWheat Ridge Opinion | Tagged dan mcminimeeJeffco Public Schoolsjohn newkirkjulie williamsKen witt

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