Do Nothing Or Act?

The stock market crash in October 1929 evoked fear and panic in the American public about the stability of the economy.  The panic became so great, runs on banks became so prevalent and people stopped spending money to the point where the economy eventually crashed.  The consequences of  a single event led to false assumptions about the stability of banks that resulted in one of the most profoundly devastating periods of American history: The Great Depression. 
Sociologist Robert K. Merton wrote:
The self-fulfilling prophecy is, in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.[1]
Nationally, and here in Jeffco, the self-fulfilling prophecy about failing public schools is rampantly in full swing.  We’ve all read the litany of media reports, and heard the cacophony of voices clamoring that our schools are failing.
Despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary showing that our schools are doing quite well compared to other school districts[2] in the metro area, Messrs. Witt and Newkirk, Ms. Williams and Superintendent McMinimee seem convinced that our schools are in trouble, and, in that vein, they are acting on these convictions:
  • Despite overwhelming public support and strong academic evidence, the board majority declined to support full day kindergarten for low income families, who most need the extra support
  • The board majority allocated taxpayer funds to the tune of $5.5 million to failing charter schools, even though some local neighborhood schools are in desperate need of repairs and others significantly overcrowded and understaffed.
  • The district is moving to redesignate Jefferson and Alameda International high schools to grades 7-12 despite the concerns from many parents and with no time or resources to opt out if they need to locate their children in school environments they feel are safer.  The district has cited that Jeffco has one 7-12 high school (D’Evelyn), which serves an extremely affluent demographic, and Cincinnati Public Schools has reorganized to 7-12 high schools.  However, they fail to note that Cincinnati only implemented the move in the 2013-2014 school year.  We won’t know the efficacy of that decision for a few more years.
  • The district toyed with the idea of changing schedules for Mountain area schools to a 4 day schedule.  Luckily, that didn’t amount to much given the heightened parent concern, and the fact that mountain area schools are some of the highest performing schools in the district and state
  • The board majority refused to issue Certificates of Participation that would allow the district build new schools in areas with large new housing developments underway.  Estimates from the school district suggest that as many as 7 or 8 thousand new students would need enrollment in public schools.  Even with local charter schools, many students and their families would not have neighborhood schools nearby.  Instead, students may have to travel several miles to attend a school with capacity for them.
  • The board majority ripped control of curriculum away from Subject Matter Experts and Parents in lieu of a board controlled review process, despite the fact that many parents had no issues with the curriculum, and making it a politically charged topic for the foreseeable future.
  • The board majority and the superintendent have repeatedly called  teachers, parents, and students, “thugs,” “rebels,” and “disruptive forces” for disagreeing with them. Meanwhile, teachers in the district fear they will not have a new contract for the 2015-2016 school year.  More than few teachers have moved to districts elsewhere, and many more are updating their resumes.  This issue is concerning to numerous parents and have them wondering what they’ll do if teachers leave.
  • The district has proposed the removal of social workers from gifted and talented schools, and registered nurses from Fletcher Miller, a school serving children with acute medical needs.  Both of these decisions would have profound effects on these students and their families who rely on these services.


The board majority believes our schools are failing.  Likewise, similar sentiments were voiced by board members in Douglas County, who have had four years to act on them. The reality is that Dougco has little to show for it:  Teacher attrition rates nearly doubling, school administration nearly all turned over, and test scores are stagnant.  We seem to be going in the same trajectory.  Then, we will have failing schools – just as Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk and Ms. Williams claim. 
We have a choice: do nothing and reinforce the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, or act and add our voices to a growing community of concerned parents, teachers, business and civic leaders who will work towards real transparency and real, positive student achievement through community involvement. 
[1] Merton, Robert K. 1936.  “The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action”.  American Sociological Review.  1 (6). pp. 894 – 904. 
[2] “Stop Blaming Teachers – Look at the real issues for student achievement”, Jim Earley, October 2, 2014,