Dear members of the Jefferson County Board of Education:
I have become increasingly dismayed by the actions of this Board over the last year. I am not concerned about property values or my daughter who is a junior at Green Mountain High School. I am concerned about public education. Your actions have shown disregard for community input, at-risk students, and extreme disrespect of your most important asset—your teachers. It is probably not useful to enumerate all of my concerns, but I will tell you they are many. Among them is your disregard for your own Governance Process policies.
I will specifically mention only the most recent egregious violation of one of your policies. Ms. Williams introduced a proposal at your September 18, 2014 Special Meeting regarding Curriculum Review. Your Governing Process policy GP-02 states that the Board will govern with focus on “strategic leadership rather than administrative detail.” It further clarifies that “the Board will direct, control and inspire the district through the careful establishment of written policies reflecting the Board’s values and perspectives. The Board’s major policy focus will be on the intended long-term benefits for students and the community, not on the administrative or programmatic means of attaining those effects.” Among its other completely appalling aspects, Ms. Williams’ proposal is in direct violation of that policy. Specific programmatic means (curricula) are not in your purview. What purpose would the Board have to review curriculum if not to consider changing it? And, in fact, Mr. Witt stated during the meeting that the committee would opine, and that “it would be the Board’s responsibility to make curriculum decisions.” This is very poor leadership on Mr. Witt’s part.
I find Ms. Williams’ proposal very disturbing on many levels despite her protestation that its purpose is to initiate a diverse discussion, and Mr. Newkirk’s comments on it during the discussion were disturbing as well. If I understood him correctly, he wants to shelter students, perhaps his own children in particular, from the realities of oppression. Oppression and white male privilege are real, and the more we educate ourselves and our children, the more prepared we are to try to heal ourselves and our society. We may never finish the work but we must continue it. Mr. Newkirk is free to educate his children as he wishes and to attempt to assuage their guilt over “atrocities committed or imagined.” He is not free to limit educational materials in this school system because they make him or his children uncomfortable.This proposal opens the door for the Board to do just that.
Your board policies provide for a statement of the Board’s “values and perspectives.” When the Board has provided that statement, then the curriculum decisions are Mr. McMinimee’s responsibility to manage within a reasonable interpretation of the policies, his Executive Limitations and while demonstrating progress toward the Ends. To restate, your concern is the result, not the means. I am not trying to argue that the AP U.S. History curriculum is perfect. I am certain that it is not. I am arguing that it is not your job to review or change it. Specific course materials, whether for AP U.S. History, elementary health, or anything else are not your work.
I respectfully request that you reject this proposal, or any revised version. And further, I request that you take sincerely your duties to follow your Board policies in all of your work. Public education is for the common good, and it is your responsibility to work in its pursuit.
Carol Wilsey, Graduate of Lakewood High School