A Letter to Jeffco from a Dougco Mom

Dear Jefferson County citizens,

 

Former Douglas County Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, Daniel McMinimee, was selected as the sole finalist for the next Superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools on May 10, 2014.  Mr. McMinimee plans to meet with teachers and community members in Jefferson County over the next few weeks and according to 9 News, “hopes to heal the tense emotions around the district”.

 

As a parent of two Douglas County students, one of whom is also a part-time student in Jefferson County, I have a number of concerns that I would like to see Mr. McMinimee address before the Board of Education takes their final vote to appoint Mr. McMinimee as Jefferson County’s new Superintendent.

 

In the spring of 2012, Douglas County School District took $3.6 million in cuts to neighborhood high schools, forcing the high schools to move from a 7 period schedule, where teachers taught 5 classes, to an 8 period schedule, where teachers taught 6 classes, subsequently providing less instructional time and more off periods for students.  Multiple requests were made by members of the community asking the school board to address why large operating surpluses were occurring simultaneously with deep cuts to the classrooms.  At a meeting held in February of 2013 at Our Colorado News to discuss why the District had a $20 million operating surplus in the same year the cuts were taken to the high schools, Mr. McMinimee stated, “Ok, so it was unnecessary now that we know the full scope of what happened…. but I didn’t have a crystal ball.”  (DougCo Finances Shouldn’t Require a Crystal Ball)

 

Knowing that the cuts to the high schools were unnecessary, Mr. McMinimee never spoke up for Douglas County students to ask that those funds be immediately restored back to the high schools. 

 

A few weeks later on May 7, 2013, Mr. McMinimee presented an update regarding the 6 of 8 high school schedule to the Board of Education showing an annual instructional time increase of 3.24 hours per 1.0 credit course under the 6 of 8 high school schedule.  In addition, during the presentation, Mr. McMinimee stated that instructional time had increased at some schools by as much as 38 and 40 hours per 1.0 credit course.   Knowing that it is not mathematically possible to increase the amount of instructional time when moving from a 7 period to an 8 period schedule, I immediately sent Mr. McMinimee an email asking for his supporting documentation that he used for his presentation.  One day after I sent my email, DougCo Superintendent, Dr. Fagen, sent out an email to all District parents that linked to a Strategic Plan update where instructional time was still stated as increasing under the 6 of 8 schedule. 

 

While Mr. McMinimee corrected his numbers at the May 21, 2013 Board of Education meeting, showing that instructional time had in fact decreased by 10.26 hours per 1.0 credit course, no mention was ever made of the previous error, not one Board of Education member questioned the discrepancy and a request to Dr. Fagen to issue a correction to parents was denied.   (High School Instructional Time,Video of Presentation)

 

Knowing that the cuts to the high schools that had forced them onto the 6 of 8 schedule were unnecessary, Mr. McMinimee never spoke out in favor of restoring funds to the high schools in order to return students to a schedule that would increase instructional time and reduce the number of off periods.  In fact, at a Board of Education retreat on February 22, 2014, when the District Accountability Committee (DAC) presented spending priorities to the Board of Education, as required by Article II, Section A of the DAC Bylaws, showing an overwhelming desire by district high schools to return to the 5 of 7 schedule, parents in the audience witnessed Mr. McMinimee stating that the 5 of 7 schedule never worked for him as a high school principal.  Furthermore, as the DAC’s Administrative Representative, it would have been entirely appropriate for Mr. McMinimee to have clarified for the Board of Education, who at one point stated they were looking at a “Christmas Wish List”, the purpose and importance of the spending priorities that were submitted by 46 local schools in determining the spending priorities for the district.  (DCSD School Spending Priorities)

 

Ironically, Mr. McMinimee never sought to get teacher and parent feedback regarding the 6 of 8 high school schedule.  Now the community is learning that there were numerous concerns regarding the high school schedule and staff and parents overwhelmingly support the decision of some high schools to return to the 5 of 7 schedule now that increases in state funding have restored the high school cuts.  (Six High Schools Plan to Restore Schedules, Mountain Vista Bringing Old Schedule Back, Highland Ranch High School Also Shifting Schedule)

 

The questions every Jefferson County resident should ask are, “Will Mr. McMinimee speak up for the students in Jefferson County, ensuring that unnecessary cuts are never taken to the schools?  Will he be accountable to parents, staff, and the community by providing them the opportunity to provide authentic feedback regarding the impact of district initiatives on staff and students?  Or will he continue to remain quiet or provide inaccurate and misleading information to the public in order to support the direction of the Board of Education?”

 

Sincerely,

Laura Mutton

President

Strong Schools Coalition