This is a long one but it is a great read and allows YOU to help make a difference!
Being a school board member is not an easy job. It’s a volunteer position that you have to become elected to do, there is no payment for serving the community but the position commits you to representing your constituents in all of Jeffco and it is an immense time commitment. And because not everything is perfect, there will be letters, emails, phone calls, meetings, and lots of advocacy. That’s the duty of an elected official. A board member should truly love our schools to do the job and have a desire to make Jeffco Schools the destination district for families and staff. Board members should be continually sharing factual information and touting the successes of our schools, staff, and children while always seeking to do the work to improve our schools for everyone. Three seats will be up this coming November, that’s a majority again.
Years back, some political organizations decided that school boards were the perfect training ground to start the political careers for their extremely partisan candidates (despite school boards designed to be nonpartisan) because hardly anyone paid attention to their school boards and the activities. The amount of money going to public schools, because children need real humans to care for and teach them, was an extreme attraction because these organizations are founded on anti-tax rhetoric.
Sadly, while too many people in our community were not paying attention in 2013, false information was spreading in the county. Not enough volunteers showed up to help great candidates get elected and three extremist board members ended up being elected due to an immense amount of money from outside of our district.
You know the outcome in Jeffco, it ended as an extremely successful recall in 2015 with 65% of the voters waking up and realizing that we had a serious problem. But dealing with their antics for two years, left a negative mark and a path of destruction that the current board members are still trying to clean up.
Imagine our surprise when recalled board member John Newkirk decided to post on our Facebook page on Saturday morning. Why? Clearly he is aware that we disagree with what he did to our children. His children are in private school and not impacted by the many negative decisions and horrible changes he helped force through and others are still cleaning up. He never even responded to the majority of board correspondence from the community and it apparently never occurred to him that the overwhelming amount of correspondence should have been a signal that the constituents in Jeffco were NOT happy with what the board majority were doing.
Is it ego? Is it bitterness? Is it the desire to be in the limelight again? It clearly wasn’t an apology. It was based on our article about the tentative agreement, “We were pleased to see that all Jeffco Public Schools employees will receive their first increase since 2003 in the amount contributed towards medical and dental premiums – that’s 14 years. It’s encouraging to see a return to real collaboration between the district and our employee associations (something we lost during the tenure of WNW), as they work together toward providing competitive compensation for current and potential employees. For too long now, Jeffco has fallen behind other metro districts in this area – where we were once considered a leader in attracting the best and the brightest. Community expressed a desire, during recent Budget forums/conversations, for the Board and District to make teacher/employee compensation a priority.”
So what did he have to offer?
A meme and an attack against the teachers. We initially thought of just deleting his ridiculous meme. After all, he’s used screen shots of our content before and Photoshopped the image to remove our name and add “teacher’s union” while adding other ridiculous statements to sway whomever he can, people who don’t do their own research, which could very well be your friends, family members, and neighbors.
Our community was great at responding to him eloquently and factually and clearly appreciated the opportunity to do so. He responded with his own opinion pieces, citing himself as a source, more manufactured memes, and one singular article opposing teacher associations (because, you know, the big scary union made up of the people who teach our children.)
- 65% of the voters seated this board. 65% also voted to recall you.
- I’m just a parent with no ties to Jeffco other than my children both attend schools there. I was over the top thrilled to see this happen. The teachers my children have lost to other districts has been heart breaking. Finally, a board that does what’s right for our kids!
- I’m proud the union supported the recall. Why wouldn’t they? The Union is the employees of the Jeffco School District. They vote how to use their union dues. Why wouldn’t they want a school board who collaborated with their employees?! Unlike the Koch Brother’s financial support, union support is made from the union dues paid by each employee.
- Mr. Newkirk is correct; nothing outside of the union let to his being recalled. Not the mistreatment of teachers and students, not the hiring of an attorney (at great cost) for the board only, not the hiring of an outside public relations firm (at great cost and no effect), not a false accusation about the new version of AP history, not a member of the school board calling for non-attendance because of students being turned gay, not the hiring of the least qualified superintendent candidate (as ranked by the hiring firm itself), not the support for vouchers (see Mr. Newkirk’s support for the new Secretary of Education), not the passing of a compensation plan without consideration of the effects of compression, not the attitudes shown at school events (when such were attended by the school board members), nor the claims, post election, of a secret plot to re-instate Dr. Stevenson as superintendent, nor even the attacks on the “union”. In the end, funding is important, but no recall is effective without voters casting a ballot; nor would the school board members have been abandoned by their own considerable donors had they not been perceived as vulnerable because of their very actions. In the end, Mr. Newkirk, if you want to understand why you were recalled, I’d suggest taking this opportunity to look in the mirror and to learn from your actions and mistakes.
Again ignoring the facts, Mr. Newkirk then makes a really silly assumption.
Voters had 2 years of watching the ridiculous antics of the recalled board, hours upon hours of video, thousands of letters of correspondence, and board meetings so packed that people couldn’t get in.
Voters for 3A and 3B had about 3 1/2 months to get information and not as many volunteers to help educate the community. The initial burden of proof for a mill and bond lies squarely on the school district. This is a HUGE difference. There’s also a difference in asking for a tax increase for schools that more than 70% of voters don’t see and getting rid of an incompetent board where hundreds of hours of video exist. Again, the community members attempt to help educate him:
- They rejected 3A and 3B because they didn’t trust the Superintendent that, you, John Newkirk, installed from Douglas County. This is why you were recalled by a 36 point margin. There will be a new Superintendent soon who will actually share the values of Jefferson County.
- John you were recalled because you were elected by the use of dark money, operated under the same direction, and had no reason to support JeffCo children, parents, or employees. You didn’t listen then and you continue to not understand now. Like our current federal regime, you and yours created problems in your very short venture that will take years to repair.
- I don’t think the voters were given enough time to learn the real issues. You guys do a great job of throwing misleading sound bites out there. This mom hopes it passes next time. I think it stands a good chance with all the attention that has been brought to education funding in the state. And the national attention on education has to help enlighten citizens, too. I have a special needs child and YOUR efforts hurt her directly. Shame on you.
- Just curious Mr. Newkirk, how much does it cost to run 3 different commercials on Monday Night Football? We have yet to hear a figure on how much the anti-recall people spent. Conveniently that doesn’t have to be released. You’re darn right the union helped fund it. Who is the union? Teachers! I pay my dues for a reason. You lost by a landslide because you were terrible for Jeffco no matter how you try to color it.
- Thank you for solidifying my choice to vote you and your idiot colleagues off the board. Signed, a parent of two Jeffco students.
- John, that’s a fascinating theory about why 3A/3B failed. Yet, there’s little in the way of evidence from you to support that claim. Instead, we’ve heard this same anti-union dog whistle from a very small contingent of vocal opponents to public education, including you. Let me be perfectly clear: I’m not in a union, and never have been. Instead, I see this issue from the lens of kids first. The individuals who interact and work with the 86K kids in this district are educators (teachers, paras, SEL specialists, etc). They are the ones who give a great deal of their time and energy to finding a way to reach and teach every child regardless of their circumstances. Yet, under your regime, you chose not to support them. In fact your policies went out of the way to attack and denigrate them. So the core reason you were recalled, John, was that parents, like me, saw through your rhetoric, and didn’t like how this impacted kids. Full stop. I’d ask you to reflect on that, but I think it might fall on deaf ears.
- John Newkirk there are 5000 Association members, you were recalled by over 115,000 people. Your unwillingness to work with teachers and your desire to follow your radical agenda made the vote easy and overwhelming. You’d think an elected official that gets recalled by 30% would recognize that they were clearly unpopular, you can choose to ignore that fact, but it doesn’t change the result.
- Why don’t we discuss the real reason you lost the election–the students. In your fairly successful quest to villianize the wonderful teachers who work in Jeffco you didn’t even think to consider that students might care about their education. And guess what? We did. For some students it was the curriculum review committee which caused their outrage. For many, like me, they felt hurt and frustrated when they saw how their wonderful teachers were being treated. And so we protested. Up and down the county. And what did you guys do? You tried to discredit us, the way you had teachers. You called us pawns of the teachers and said we weren’t old enough to know what’s best for us. Your colleague made up a lie about her special needs son just to make us look like the bad guys. But luckily, most of the public saw the truth. They were shocked by students caring enough about their education to listen to us and the issues. And then they spoke their minds with their ballots. And you know who else did? A large portion of us students who weren’t old enough to know what was best for us.
- John J. Newkirk, we could discuss at tremendous length, how you installed a Superintendent who had absolutely no experience running a district of this size. The net result was palpable, particularly when he presented a proposal that was nothing more than a complete evisceration of critical services and programs designed to support kids. That last proposal was the last straw that McMinimee, who you voted to install as superintendent, lacked the leadership and gravitas necessary to serve our 86K students. Instead of indicating to the board that certain programs and services were too vital to be cut, he put forth a scorched earth policy. That’s the antithesis of leadership, and frankly, that is part of your legacy. You heard loud and clear from many constituents that we believed McMinimee was clearly the wrong choice, that it was politically and ideologically motivated. You chose to blatantly ignore us. We teach our kids, that choices have consequences. Perhaps that’s a wonderful reminder that the same lesson applies to the adults in the room – you were one of those adults.
- Mr. Newkirk why would anyone want to stay in education. Your party vilifies public education to the point you have made us the enemy. Then you go to work for a representative that looks to gut funding for public schools. It makes it an incredibly difficult, low paying, thankless job.
- Mr. Newkirk, I am an APUSH teacher, I’ve been a teacher in JeffCo PUBLIC Schools for 19 years, I am a graduate of JeffCo PUBLIC Schools, I am a life long resident of Jefferson County, I am the father of two current students in JeffCo PUBLIC Schools, I am a life long member of the REPUBLICAN Party and I am JCEA! There has been true collaboration between this current board and the teachers, there has been true respect shown between this current board and the teachers. That certainly was not the case when you and your sycophants were in control. The only collaboration you were aware of was with organization such as Americans For Prosperity, the Independence Institute, Leadership of The Rockies and other Koch Brothers backed foundations. Was JCEA involved in your recall? Of course! Over 60% of JCEA membership volunteered their time to get you recalled. Your board was much more interested in demonizing educators in the district, concerned that food choices of individuals demonstrated their racism, attempting to publicly humiliate and denigrate the underage students in your district during school board meetings, as well as attempting to silence all dissenting voices in the district. That seemed to be your true mission as a member of the school board. The real question is why would two brothers from Topeka, Kansas have any interest in a school board election in the Denver area? Why would would two billionaire brothers funnel massive amounts of dark money into a local school board race? There’s the question that needs to be answered. And I believe you hold those answers. You sir, along with your sycophants, do not represent the Republican Party I eagerly joined over 25 years ago. No, the party I joined was truly collaborative, it truly made an attempt to work with those who opposed them. I can remember very well Ronald Reagan (a former president of a union) maintaining a very positive, open and collaborative relationship with Tip O’Neil. This was my Republican Party. I am now extraordinarily dismayed by the nastiness, spiteful, vengeful almost dictatorial state of the current Republican Party and you and your board were the embodiment of this hurtful version of my party. Are teachers getting a 2% increase? Probably. And deservedly so. After not reviving a COLA in almost a decade, I say it’s high time it happened. What is most disappointing is that the Republican Party I joined would have cheered this and champion the economic gains of any and all Americans. Not castigate and denigrate it. That is not only disgusting but extraordinarily sad and disappointing. You and others who hold your views are not representatives of my party; or perhaps my party has simply abandoned me and Barry Goldwater, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. I guess the real shame here is that people like you want to entrust our most precious and important things in our lives, indeed the future of our nation, to people who are extraordinarily underpaid, under appreciated and overworked. That is really heartbreaking. I don’t think that’s how education is supposed to work, nor did Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. But apparently you do. I am a teacher, a parent, a Republican and I am JCEA. Have yourself a Happy Easter.
- Oh please Newkirk. You’ve been recalled. That was the voters staying we don’t care to hear what you have to say anymore. Teachers are tired of your abuse. Remember that!
- I’m so sorry, Mr. Newkirk, that respect and honesty between a board and its employees resulting in a fair contract is such anathema to you. And that you have no idea why you were recalled, which is because you had no respect for anyone in the district that opposed you. You are showing your true colors again.
- I’m sure it’s easier and more comforting to pretend the big, bad union is responsible for the recall. It doesn’t make it truth. As someone who voted for you in 2013, I worked as hard as I could and gave more hours than I knew I had in me to correct that mistake. JCEA didn’t empower me to get involved. You and your fellow board members did that all by yourselves.
- John J. Newkirk how anyone can get satisfaction tearing down a community will never make sense to me. I grew up in Jeffco. Until your groups misrepresented reality this was a place to be proud of. I truly don’t know how you sleep at night. You’re destroying children’s futures. When is the last time you volunteered in a public classroom? You’ve created a distorted view of reality and it has no basis.
- How interesting that Mr. Newkirk opposes the fact that the NEA/JCEA, which represents teachers, helped to negotiate their contracts? Of course, this comes from a group that had the financial support and training of their alliance, Tea Party/Independence Institute/Koch Brothers to over-take the school board in the first place, when they ran as a 3-person ticket. The irony is so apparent. I guess when you have billionaires supporting your limited-view causes, it is more annoying when public stands up and repels these concentrated political ploys to take over local government positions. Sorry. I would rather see unions, like the NEA, who gather their income through membership, help American workers gain worthy contracts than a small group, funded through dark money, trying desperately to undermine the value of teachers and providing public education for all children.
- Sorry. I’m not in any union. I’m a parent of a Jeffco student. I donated time and money to the Recall because I value strong PUBLIC EDUCATION. Educators are the corner stone of public education. Unfortunately, it’s clear you don’t share those values.
I also donated time and money to get 3A and 3B passed. Again because I value strong Public education. Strong public education requires we pay our teachers and provide them with the resources to do their jobs.
- Banter aside, I’m still bewildered how you and your recalled colleagues maintain your innocence in the face of so much backlash against you. Let’s be honest, John. You turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to your constituents at nearly every turn. Own it. Yet, you claim to be the victim of the “union.” That’s rich. It’s quite ironic that you also claim to be the messenger that constituents were duped by the fact that unions did contribute to the recall effort. But that’s only part of the story. You see, what’s happening is an interesting case of historical revisionism on your part. So in the cause of fairness, why won’t you disclose your sources of funding, vis-a-vis, AFP, the Independence Institute, and other 527s that paid for advertisements, and the slick glossies that were mailed across the district.
- John J. Newkirk What’s curious here, apart from the reference to the unnamed individuals, is that you see no role for yourself in correcting mistaken views in those with whom you speak. Take the issue of the AP American History course: when this topic was raised, a group of historians, including some in Colorado, along with the organization itself explained the context of the changes and refuted the, false, claim, that key thinkers were being removed from the curriculum. There was a shift in focus, but it was toward primary texts and analysis, rather than rote memorization. As a writer and commentator, is there not a duty on your part to correct misinformation?
Our supporters are so intelligent! There are more responses on the page, this is just a sampling.
Perhaps realizing that he isn’t convincing anyone (because so many of these people volunteered for and supported the recall), he attempts to change the subject a few times, after now telling everyone he is a “newspaper columnist.” He also posts another meme, this time a graph, with no sources, claiming Jeffco has poor achievement.
And a Jeffco teacher puts him in his place:
- You mean the outcome where our ACT scores are right on par with the state and the nation, and actually outperform other states and districts where 100% of students also take the ACT, despite the fact that most of those states vastly outspent us in per pupil spending? Those outcomes?Along with inflation, I’d love to see some numbers on the real costs of per pupil education, particularly given the high number of unfunded mandates and required testing that came down the pike from NCLB, and well as the increase of students who needed extra supports like FRL during the recession.I teach students who live in systemic poverty, and I’m actually thrilled to tell you things we could do to increase their achievement! Absenteeism is a major problem for students in poverty. Here are some steps we could take to get them in classrooms where they can get the education they deserve:1). Pass legislation raising the minimum wage to something closer to a living wage so that fewer of my students have to miss school and miss opportunities because they have to work to support their families.
2). Pass legislation to guarantee that their parents have paid sick leave so that my high school students don’t have to be the ones to stay home with sick younger siblings (since their parents can’t afford or aren’t allowed to miss a day of work)
3). Increase access to affordable health care and dental care so my kids don’t wind up in the hospital with conditions that were preventable or easily treatable if caught early. There are private organizations (like Planned Parenthood) that provide some of this care, and these organizations should be supported. Mandatory vaccinations for those healthy enough to receive them would also be worth looking into.
4). Develop a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants so that my students don’t have to live in terror or actually experience the splitting up of their families, not to mention all the economic burdens that come with losing a breadwinner parent to deportation or struggling to find a job that pays a decent wage.
Then, of course, we can:
5). Pass legislation to offer in-state tuition to undocumented students who can prove residency, so that these students have a reason to try on that ACT (now SAT) test.
6). Redirect existing federal tax dollars away from gigantic bombs that kill a whopping 36 ISIS fighters and fancy jets that can’t even fly toward education, from pre-k to college and career training.
7). Reduce required testing
8). Pass legislation to target predatory lending (re: poverty)
9). One final investment that would require tax dollars but not a lot would be plowing residential streets. So many kids don’t come to school in bad weather because they don’t want to walk (especially if they’re in charge of dropping off small children and have to lug them through the snow) and only have the option of walking.
I can keep going…
And then a professor weighs in:
- John J. Newkirk There’s a key difference between correlation and causation; you present here two different figures: average cost per student (though no explanation of how the numbers are arrived at or what they include) and ACT scores (again, without explanation. The implied claim is that while per pupil spending has increased ACT scores have not; the deeper claim seems to suggest that teachers are being paid to much when pay is weighed against achievement. But the graph is misleading. First, there is no accounting here for the various influences on ACT scores: motivation of students, average wealth of a given school, etc. Second, it is assumed that the ACT score is a good indicator of, broadly, student ability, but anyone who works with education at the college level (or who is or has recently gone through the application process) knows that the ACT is a one day snapshot, rather than a detailed analysis of knowledge; it does not capture, for example, the ability to study over the course of a semester, creative intelligence (art, poetry, music), athletic intelligence, or….This is why the majority of colleges and universities (and let’s note those who make no use of the scores at all) require students to, along with test scores, submit grades, an essay, activities, achievements, etc. In effect, you have presented two statistics and claimed (and I believe that this particular graph was posted by a member of your family in a piece that claimed a conspiracy was in place to return Dr. Stevenson to Jeffco, said claim based on an accidental piece of letterhead) that they are connected when they are not clearly so. The classic example of this is the story of the train and the station clock: each day the clock chimes ten and then the train arrives; thus, one might claim that the chiming of the clock causes the train to arrive, but this is to misunderstand the nature of causation.
Mr. Newkirk then decides that he’s a victim and insinuates that he’s a piñata. Apparently forgetting that he came on to the SJK page, KNOWING full well that we have disagreed with his antics! Mr. Newkirk has been left alone since the recall. We’ve even ignored his letters to the editor “columns”, ignored his Photoshopped memes of our page when we could have corrected his false information, ignored seeing the attacks of parents by name on his page, etc. Even before Mr. Newkirk was recalled, we advocated to him vigorously and wrote hundreds of letters asking Newkirk and the Board Majority to stop hurting our children, staff, and schools and become accountable to the community!
Mr. Newkirk then issues a veiled threat to the community with his false posting on the SJK page being “Exhibit A” for the next election.
Game On! We love our children and our schools and this too extreme for Jeffco political game needs to go away!
Let’s not forget that it was JOHN NEWKIRK who attacked an underage Jeffco student during a Board Meeting and posted her social media information publicly for all to see while attempting to slander her character. That was NEVER okay and Jeffco changed many policies to ensure that something like that NEVER happens to another student.
As another community member wrote:
John J. Newkirk I think a certain amount of anger and lashing out is understandable. I’ve never been publicly “fired” from a position, so I won’t pretend to know what that is like. But, in your anger you are lashing out at the public, the members of the school board, the staff of the district, the teachers, and in a key way, harming the students of the district. In the religious tradition to which I believe you belong, today–this time of year- is of critical importance. While Easter has many roots, echoes, traditions and interpretations, and while I am not a member of this religious tradition, my familiarity with it reveals that this is a time of calling–a time to look at one’s self and to ask what kind of person one wants to be. You’ve been a member of the school board, you have some experience with the key issues and challenges that the district faces; what choice will you make? Will you continue to seek to harm everyone connected with the district, children included, or can you find a way to look into yourself, learn from the experience about your own strengths and weaknesses, and become someone who works toward solutions?
Just a few more community comments:
Thank God for our Union and new school board!
Thank god for the PARENTS, who put the recall in order, led it and stood for students and teachers.
Let’s not forget what John told us – this posting can be Exhibit A. Do you want to go through another Board of Education like we had because people weren’t involved and did not share information?
We approve of a Board of Education who is transparent, accountable, respectful, and who understand the complexities of school finance and the challenges facing our schools.
We support Board Members who Support Jeffco Kids! Their names are Ron Mitchell, Brad Rupert, Ali Lasell, Amanda Stevens and Susan Harmon. Thank you to our amazing Board Members for all you do!
If you Support Jeffco Kids, we need you to join in by sharing information on social media, making donations as often as you can, helping with the campaigns when we issue the candidate endorsements, and talking to people so they have the facts. None of this happens without your support!
PS – a huge thanks to Mr. Newkirk for his visit to our page, he increased traffic by three times our normal rate in just a few hours and inspired more people to help out!
Feel free to make a donation, we love his idea – Mission Exhibit A! Let’s raise money together to support a great board of education for Jeffco Public Schools this November!
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