Letter to the Board from Wendy McCord

Dear Mr. Witt (and members of the Board of Education of Jefferson County):

 

I received an email yesterday that contained the message below from your fellow Board member, Lesley Dahlkemper (it was addressed to the Board, a variety of staff members and others). I think the entire Jeffco community would like the opportunity to talk with/to the Board about this decision.

 

I, for one, am disappointed (like Ms. Dahlkemper and Ms. Fellman) that of the dozens of fully-vetted candidates, you and your two colleagues determined that the citizens of Jefferson County DIDN’T DESERVE THE OPPORTUNITY to compare and contrast a few options for filling the most crucial role in our school district. It is obvious to me that you and your friends on the Board of Ed are trying to hide something from the community.

 

I have lost track of the number of times you have pointed out how important the DATA is, with respect to all things. Yet, in this critical decision, you, Newkirk and Williams have determined to ensure that the community operates in a complete vacuum. You have yet to cite to a single piece of DATA that supports your allegation that Mr. McMinimee is “the best candidate” for the position of Jeffco superintendent. Where is your DATA, Mr. Witt? We want to see it. You expect the district to present all sorts of data, even down to details that make no apparent sense to logical, intelligent people. Yet you refuse to provide us with data to support your decision?

 

Is that because there is no such data – because Mr. McMinimee isn’t the best candidate for the position? Or is it possible that some determinations just defy the data???? It is surely the case that not everything that is valuable can be measured by data. But I actually do think the selection of superintendent can and should rely on some data (and recitation of Mr. McMinimee’s work experience is HARDLY data).

 

For example, I think the community would like the following information:

 

How many applicants were presented to the Board by Ray and Associates? How many came directly to the Board, if any?

What is the demographic breakdown of candidates: race, gender, education (masters, doctorate, etc.), experience (worked as superintendent; worked in a district the size of Jeffco, etc.)?

What factors did the Board consider as most important when making their determination?

Why did you blind us by only providing one finalist? If Mr. McMinimee truly is “the best candidate,” then surely he should have been able to withstand the scrutiny of this community?

 

In addition, I’d like to know about your relationship with Dan McMinimee. When did you first meet him? Who have you spoken with about his candidacy?

 

“It is declared to be a matter of statewide concern and the policy of this state that the formation of public policy is public business and may not be conducted in secret.” This is CRS 24-6-401, the policy declaration of what is commonly referred to in Colorado as the Sunshine Law. “The public meetings laws are interpreted broadly to further the legislative intent that citizens be given a greater opportunity to become fully informed on issues of public importance so that meaningful participation in the decision-making process may be achieved. Cole v. State, 673 P.2d 345 (Colo. 1983).” Annotations to CRS 24-6-401.

 

As the public has shared with you many times since your election, the Sunshine Law prohibits you from taking action in a closed meeting. By providing the community with only one finalist, and now attempting to force his appointment through prior to a regular Board meeting (which will take place only 10 days after your recently-called Special Meeting), you are essentially rubber-stamping a decision that was made in a closed meeting. That is a clear violation of the Sunshine Law.  See annotations to CRS 24-6-402 (“Prohibition against making final policy decisions or taking formal action in a closed meeting also prohibits “rubber-stamping” previously decided issues. Bagby v. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 186 Colo. 428, 528 P.2d 1299 (1974); Van Alstyne v. Housing Auth. of City of Pueblo, 985 P.2d 97 (Colo. App. 1999); Walsenburg Sand & Gravel Co. v. City Council of Walsenburg, 160 P.3d 297 (Colo. App. 2007)”).

 

In addition, your own Board policies provide for public comment at special meetings on the agenda topics.  I will remind you, once again, that your primary responsibility as Board president is to “lead the Board so that the Board’s performance is CONSISTENT WITH ITS OWN RULES AND POLICIES.” The president of the Board is supposed to “ENSURE[] THE INTEGRITY of the Board’s process.” The president of the Board is supposed to “ensure that the ENTIRE BOARD is FULLY INFORMED about Board business.”

 

What are you trying to hide that you are so intent on circumventing state laws and board policies to steamroll “the best candidate” for Jeffco superintendent into his position? And by failing to provide adequate time for all the Board members to fulfill their fiduciary duties with respect to the proposed contract, you are tying their hands and further limiting the public’s ability to participate in this process (and continuing to violate further Board policies).

 

The community wants real, honest answers to these questions. You continue to show us extreme disrespect by not addressing these issues with us directly. This is hardly behavior becoming of “a public servant” such as the Board of Education. 

 

Wendy R McCord
 
 
 

+++++++++

Hi, all –

 

I received notice today that a special meeting has been called for the superintendent appointment on May 27, however none of us has received a copy of the proposed contract for the superintendent. It is my hope that we will have ample time to thoroughly review the contract well in advance of the meeting. I do not want to vote on a contract without seeing it first – as was done with the board attorney’s contract.

 

When will board members have a contract to review prior to the May 27 meeting?

 

Furthermore, I strongly recommend we allow public comment at the May 27 meeting because our community has not been given an opportunity to weigh-in on the superintendent selection.

 

I’m also copying Jeffco PTA president Michele Patterson as well as the out-going and incoming chairs of the Strategic Planning Advisory Committee. Mr. Bottoms expressed similar concerns in his May 15 email to the board about the lack of community input and transparency regarding the superintendent finalist.

 

Please confirm that we will allow public comment on May 27.

 

Thanks,

 

Lesley Dahlkemper

++++++++++