I didn’t start this fight

I didn’t start this fight. It dropped on my doorstep. In fact, like many Jeffco residents, I assumed that school boards and school districts were something abstract, something outside the sphere of my natural sphere of influence. I assumed that the board of education wouldn’t be able to alter the course or slow the momentum of a district as large as Jeffco.  I assumed that my involvement with the schools my kids attend, and more directly, with their teachers and school administration, was sufficient enough to ensure that my kids received the best possible education.  I was wrong.

This time, being wrong is personal. In less than two years, three people – three! – have demonstrated that they can wreak enough havoc in our schools and disrupt entire communities without impunity.  They have turned a district that had nationally recognized administrators and a solid reputation for being a great place to teach and learn into a squalid organization rife with cronyism and nepotism, and with morale declining so fast that many have left or are looking for the exits.

  • Cindy Stevenson  was a nationally recognized superintendent, with years of experience and support from teachers.  In a few short months after the 2013 election, she was forced out, and replaced with Dan McMinimee, who has no previous superintendent experience from neighboring Douglas County, where he assisted in implementing the same reckless strategies now being implemented in Jeffco.  Shortly after, Jeffco’s new Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Syna Morgan, is appointed.  She too is from Douglas County.  Forward several months to early 2015, Mr. McMinimee hires a new Director of Communications, Lisa Pinto.  She happens to have close ties to the Leadership of the Rockies, a group that Board President Ken Witt is known to be a member.  Meanwhile, other district administrators, including CFO Lori Gillis have left.  In fact, the number of administrative resignations doubled in 2015 compared to the previous year – and the year’s not over yet.

  • The board majority unilaterally introduced a new pay-for-performance scheme that was declared unfair by an independent federal mediator, and a new salary structure that pays more for new teachers than for teachers with years of experience.  Morale in the district is at an all time low.  Nearly 500 teachers have quit so far this year, eclipsing the 375 teachers who left all of last year.  I have serious concerns that my kids will have the best teachers going forward.

  • Julie Williams’ proposal to challenge the curriculum for AP US History was a complete shock.  I have a daughter who will be entering high school next year. I have serious concerns for her education as well as for the education of the thousands of current high school students.  The curriculum proposal didn’t stop there.  Everything was on the table.  For me, that type of carte blanche, broad reach to influence my children’s curriculum is extremely alarming.

  • Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams repeatedly have pushed off any discussion on building new schools in Candelas, Leyden Rock, Solterra and the Mcintyre corridor.  Already schools like Miecklejohn are overcrowded and others like Ralston Valley high school will be bursting at the seams.  An estimated 7,000 new families will soon be moving into these new developments, without the benefit of any neighborhood schools. I would think long and hard before I considered purchasing a home in any of these areas.

  • Salting the wound, Julie Williams recently posted hateful and bigoted links to a known hate group denigrating the LGBT community on her Facebook page.  I personally know students, teachers and friends who identify with these categories. I am personally offended.  Whether Ms. Williams read and/or supported the beliefs of this group, her position of authority demands far more integrity than she demonstrated, particularly for those students and teachers who belong to the LGBT community.

This isn’t abstract anymore.  It’s tangible, real and directly impacts my family.  My kids are impacted by these three people.  They impact my kids’ teachers. They impact my kids’ education. They impact my neighborhood.  I didn’t start this fight. The current board’s majority dropped it on my doorstep, and guaranteed, I’m going to end it.  On my terms, for my kids, and for my community.