Questions Arise and Policy Issues

February 9 – Jeffco School Board Meeting

We waited in line at the Jeffco district administration building last Thursday (February 9) afternoon where hundreds showed up to address the Jeffco Board of Education, requiring the district to use 3 overflow rooms. Lots of students, parents and teachers anxious about the upcoming decisions and waiting for their turn to pour their hearts out to the Board about why their respective program, teachers, or school should be spared from the ax – as per the proposal submitted to the Board by Superintendent Dan McMinimee just two weeks prior.

It’s been a highly anxious atmosphere around our Jeffco School District for the past few weeks.   Five schools were put on notice they may be on the chopping block; along with a complete, one-of-a-kind and highly regarded GT program; and so much more.   Parents, teachers and students have been wringing their hands searching for other options to present to the board.

But, let’s pause here and hit rewind to the board meeting on January 26th.

In the January 26th board meeting, Mr. McMinimee presented the board with his district budget plan encompassing these major cuts, citing the board’s desire to be more competitive in the market to enable the district to hire highly qualified educators and help to retain the ones who have remained with the district so far.

If you were in attendance for that January meeting (or watching online) you may have noticed the shock and aw on the faces of board members and those attending the meeting.

As demonstrated by their questions and comments, it was pretty obvious board members had not received any detail prior to the meeting around what those recommendations would entail, or the plan on how they would be executed. Unfortunately, the community was equally surprised, as the superintendent hadn’t shared with the school communities impacted any real information regarding these recommended cuts and closures either.  

Now, let’s go back to the board meeting last Thursday, February 9th.

The passionate outcry from a large range of community groups for nearly 3 and a half hours of pleas by students (many, many students), parents, teachers, and various advocacy groups asking their specific school or program be spared made for an emotionally draining evening.

You can view the meeting and the public comment here: https://livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310/videos/148985602

These comments were followed up by a surprise announcement from Superintendent McMinimee that he has a new plan and these extensive cuts and closures he proposed only two weeks earlier won’t be needed. This surprise announcement brought about a range of reactions by everyone in the room (board members, staff, and members of the audience). Expressions on the faces of Cabinet members and board members alike would tell you that no one knew this one was coming. Board members had braced themselves to deal with cuts and closures presented to them two weeks prior; and community members were fighting to hold on to anything they could. (A reminder of what the meetings were like under the recalled board members, new surprises at every meeting that were never shared with the other board members!)

Mr. McMinimee read from a prepared statement, which had not been posted to Board Docs prior to the meeting. Board member Brad Rupert even commented about not being able to process the new plan while hearing it for the first time as Mr. McMinimee read from his printed copy.

Of course, this was great news for those gathered in the room – there was a huge sigh of relief by many.

But what does this say about the dysfunction of the superintendent’s leadership or lack of?

It raises many questions.

  • Why would Mr. McMinimee not share either of these plans (January 26 and February 9) with the Board in advance?
  • Why would Mr. McMinimee not take steps to do some form of community engagement to prepare the school staff and parents for what was to be proposed – prior to announcing the proposed cuts and closures in January?
  • Why wouldn’t the superintendent include board members in his staff’s thinking on how deeply the cuts would go before they were announced?
  • Why wouldn’t the superintendent let the board know the plan with the cuts had been seriously revised – and far enough in advance of the meeting that they could have shared it with the school community?

From our perspective, it would appear that Mr. McMinimee is intentionally misleading board members and the community, and misrepresenting district staff’s work product and intent.

We’d like to point out, the board of education has one, and only one direct employee, and that’s the superintendent.   The “cabinet” reports directly to the superintendent and protocol dictates the Board and the Cabinet respect this line of report.

Jeffco Board policy

http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=87CTY35E40FB

District Policies
Section: C. General School Administration
Title: Administrative Organization
Number: CC

“The Board’s legal authority shall be transmitted through the superintendent along specific paths from person to person as shown on the district organizational chart.

The district’s organizational chart reflects the formal lines of authority and responsibility developed by the superintendent. Personnel are expected to follow the appropriate lines of authority in referring matters which require management decisions.”