A very active Jeffco community member was not able to participate in public comment on May 27th due to comment changes announced at the last meeting (not vetted or agreed to amongst the 5 member board.)
In fact, only those people who signed up to speak online in the first six minutes were able to have their voices heard. For parents dropping off children, for staff working at our schools, and for community volunteers, being able to register to speak between 8:00am and 8:06am was not a possibility. If a significant number of individuals are signing up for public comment on a specific topic, elected officials probably should take the time to listen to them. Unless they’re not interested in representing the public…
Our community member has shared her letter with us below:
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Subject: Jeffco School Board majority acts without accountability and transparency
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2014 01:19:43 -0600
June 1, 2014
Dear Jefferson County School Board, and representatives of Denver area media,
On May 27th, I attended a Jeffco School Board Special Meeting. I had signed up in advance to address the Board during Public Comment. However, because of Board President Mr. Witt’s perceived unilateral decision to restrict the public comment time to 45 minutes, my name was not called before the arbitrary time period ran out, despite having signed up within 16 minutes of the start of the online sign-up period. Apparently, one had to sign-up within the first 6 minutes to have been called to the podium that night. I was among 60+ other individuals who were prohibited from speaking that night.
Another disturbing element of this altered public comment period is that the decision to alter the conditions for public comment was not arrived upon with the full participation of the 5-member board. These decisions are to be made by the entirety of the board, not by a single or select segment of the board. Once again, this is a violation of board policy, which seems to be a regular and routine action of the “reform”majority board members.
For these reasons, I am submitting to the Jeffco Board and to the local news media, my comments that I would have delivered during public comment, had I not been excluded from this opportunity.
May 27, 2014
Good evening Board members,
As a parent of two graduates of Jeffco Public Schools, who received stellar grade school experiences and have gone on to achieve exceptional heights in undergrad and graduate programs, I firmly believe in the advantages of public education. I think every student should have the opportunities to reach for the stars as my two did. Considering the conduct of the majority Jeffco Board since last November’s election, I have grave concerns for current and future Jeffco students.
In the last six months, watching the rampant spending and erratic decision making by this majority board without cause or data support, without board discussions inclusive of ALL board members, without public disclosure, and without following board policies and state laws is greatly disturbing and deplorable.
This latest discharge of duty, the process to seek and appoint a superintendent to replace Dr. Stevenson, who was forced out, has been nothing short of disturbing, when considering elected officials are spearheading this effort. In particular, the three in the majority are bound by their reform ideology and are not basing decisions on what’s best for Jeffco’s 85,000 students.
Public engagement is a critical element. Limiting public comment and changing the rules on public comment without board discussion and public discussion, is suppression of the public’s voice. Altering the Special Meeting agenda in the midst of the Special Meeting is against the law! Since accountability and transparency are campaign tenets the newly elected members espouse to support, why does the majority board have so much trouble utilizing accountability and transparency in routine decisions and actions?
It is absolutely unfathomable that out of 63 reported applicants, with ultimately 5 candidates who were possibly interviewed, that only one candidate was worthy of noting as a finalist. A multitude of other Colorado districts have hired superintendents in the last year, or so. These districts routinely put forward two or more finalists for consideration. Of course, everyone in the community who is following this saga recognizes the majority board’s motives to suppress any information about alternative candidates. It’s impossible to question the options when there are no choices. A candidate of one is not a CHOICE; it’s a mandate!
I urge you to return to the candidate selection process and identify three or more finalists to bring forth to the Jeffco community. Then, allow for a respectable period of review and introduction, before selection of a superintendent is finalized. This would offer accountability and transparency in the process.
The majority board’s ideology is grossly out of touch with the mainstream of Jeffco voters. As the Jeffco community is becoming more aware and more vocal about the chaos now underway, as evidenced simply by attendance at board meetings, it must be clear that Jeffco will not take these “reform” actions lying down. Mr. Witt, Ms. Williams and Mr. Newkirk, you may have been elected by a majority of voters on November 6, 2014, but rest assured, the majority of ALL Jeffco voters did not elect you!
Parent of Jeffco graduates