Dear Members of the Jefferson County Board of Education:
As it becomes increasingly clear that Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk, and Ms. Williams believe Jeffco is in need of major reforms, I thought perhaps you should be reminded of the strong tradition of excellence and collaboration this district has.
I, myself, am a proud Jeffco teacher and parent, as well as a graduate of Pomona High School in 1980. Like so many kids, I certainly had some obstacles, like my parents’ divorce and other stresses. But I had good teachers: Mr. Nelson, my English teacher at East Arvada Junior High, subs for me these days whenever I cannot be at school. I know I can trust him with my students because he cared so much about me when I was young. Mr. Dan Cunningham, my forensics coach, helped me to become a confident and articulate adult. With role models like these, is it any wonder I have taught English for nearly 30 years and I coached forensics for 17 of them? My high school drama teacher, Ms. Lauren Willis, was also my cooperating teacher when I student taught. I specifically asked for her because I knew she was demanding and would not tolerate anything but the best I had to give.
In my adult life I coached more qualifiers to the National Forensics League National Tournament than I can recall and earned the prestigious diamond key award. I have taught at-risk students for over 15 years and earned a state level award in that arena, as well. While I have never believed the adage that those who can do and those who can’t teach, I will add that I am a multi-published author with books translated into Portuguese, German, Dutch, and Russian.
In 1984, I married a Green Mountain graduate (class of ’79) who now owns a successful small business. All this from two kids who attended Jeffco schools at the very time we were supposedly becoming “A Nation at Risk.”
Of course, things have changed, haven’t they? My son graduated from Green Mountain High School in 2009. He, too, had fine teachers, like Mr. Black, Ms. King, and Mr. Hager. He graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with excellent grades. Now he manages residence life for international students at a community college in Washington state. When he was hired, he was told they had never before hired anyone under 30 or without a Masters. (He will start work on that next year.) Sure, he’s a great young man, but without a solid k-12 education, he could not have accomplished this. My daughter, Green Mountain High School class of 2013, is beginning her sophomore year at C.U., also with exemplary grades. Not bad for products of “failing schools” in need of “reform.”
The school district that laid the foundation of my and my family’s success worked collaboratively with teachers throughout all those years. Those teachers did not need the lure of stipends to give students their very best. They did it for love. A contract into which they had input and a fair evaluation that could withstand outside scrutiny were not too much to ask in exchange then, and they are not too much to ask now.
For all Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk, and Ms. Williams’s insistence upon in-district data before they will offer full-day kindergarten for disadvantaged children, they have shown remarkably little desire for any proof that their “reforms” are needed or will net results. If similar measures in Douglas County are any indication, then CDE data suggests that soon Jeffco will not have many of the excellent teachers it now employs. Kids in other districts will get some, and other professions will benefit, as well. Where does that leave Jeffco kids?
The residents and graduates of Jefferson County will not stand by idly while three of you destroy a decades-long legacy of excellence. Ms. Dahlkemper and Ms. Fellman, keep fighting to keep Jeffco strong! Your leadership is much appreciated.