We are so grateful to our retired Jeffco principals for their support and standing up for our children! Here’s a letter shared from Mr. Frank DeAngelis, our very own national treasure!
This column is the complete text that I submitted to the Denver Post as a rebuttal to an editorial in opposition to the Jefferson County School Board Recall. Because of space limitations, the Post could not publish the entire text.
I am saddened to write this submission to the Denver Post, but feel I have no choice following the publication of the misguided editorial about the recall election. I believe that the Post’s editors have completely ignored critical issues of the Recall.
The Post and those supporting the three school board majority members have continually attacked the teachers’ union as a strong motivation behind the recall effort. They have implied or stated outright that Jefferson County teachers put themselves above the needs of the children. I can state absolutely that I have never met any teacher (union member or not) who went into education for selfish reasons. These are the same teachers who agreed to forego a raise for five years (and even took a reduction in pay) when the economy was suffering. The current board majority states that they approved a 7% raise for teachers. In reality, this was not a raise. Instead, it represents an increase in the base pay only for beginning teachers in order to offer more competitive starting salaries with other metro school districts. Actually, experienced teachers received an average raise of only 1%.
Contrary to criticism, teachers want to be held accountable. Under the current system, however, those completing evaluations are not adequately trained to be consistent. As a result, a teacher’s evaluation, which determines his or her salary, depends as much on the evaluator as the teacher’s performance.
The Post and others argue that teachers are leaving because they want to take advantage of a “better hiring market.” Two of the highest achieving school districts in our state, Cherry Creek and Boulder, are not losing teachers to other districts. In fact, experienced teachers from Douglas County and Jefferson County are going to Boulder and Cherry Creek because of the support they receive as educators. The loss of quality employees would never be accepted by a successful private sector company.
Our board should be asking, Why are experienced employees leaving and how can we reverse this trend so we are not losing our most valuable assets? Since Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams (WNW) took office, nearly 1,000 experienced teachers and administrators have left Jeffco, many of them for other school districts. This exodus reflects the low morale, lack of trust, and hostile environment created not just by the decisions made by WNW, but the way those decisions were made. I applauded them for increasing the starting salaries to compete with other districts, but it is disheartening and expensive that once Jeffco hires quality candidates they are not keeping them. I feel that the present board majority does not value experience.
When WNW campaigned for their current positions, their platform promised increased transparency. However, it has been their on-going practice to present new agenda items just prior to board meetings and demand that the other board members make decisions without a reasonable amount of time for consideration or discussion. Anyone attending these board meetings realizes that WNW have made decisions without consulting the other board members, as was the case when they hired an attorney to represent only the three of them. This is an inappropriate process and, most likely, a violation of the Sunshine Law that governs elected officials. Over the years, I have witnessed board members who may not agree, but they disagreed respectfully. It saddens me that the disrespect displayed at board meetings becomes weekly YouTube videos.
Another important issue the Post failed to address is the use of outside money to influence this election. Why is an organization located in Arlington, Virginia, “Americans for Prosperity,” pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into television ads, Facebook ads, and mailings trying to defeat the Recall? A vital trait of any effective school board should be local control, not outside influence that doesn’t have a stake in the community.
During my 35 years as a teacher, coach, dean, and administrator in Jefferson County Public Schools, I have never witnessed a grassroots movement as powerful as that employed by community members seeking to recall WNW. Specifically, 33,000 Republicans, Democrats and Independents signed petitions to recall the board majority, not just because of objections to their policy but because of their failure to be fiscally responsible, transparent, and respectful. Our students deserve better!!
For the reasons above I strongly endorse the Recall. The local candidates seeking to replace WNW are Ron Mitchell, Brad Rupert, and Susan Harmon. These candidates have deep ties to Jefferson County Public Schools and share goals of retaining quality staff, returning the district to local control, and providing a quality education for all children. Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens have joined Mitchell, Rupert, and Harmon because they share a vision for ensuring quality education for all Jeffco children. I have had discussions with all five candidates, and I am convinced that they have Jefferson County Public Schools as their priority and will bring local control back to our schools.
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