Many of us in Jeffco will remember the documentary film crew who visited to learn about the turmoil caused in our district from the 2013 election. It’s a long and complicated story to tell in 10 minutes and they tried to be very fair in their reporting.
And we are most appreciative of the time and effort Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, and Paul Stekler put into this film. But we believe there is so much of this story that got overlooked. Not intentionally, for it would be difficult for someone from the outside (of Jeffco) to come in and truly understand what happened and what was truly at stake through a week or two of filming.
Following is the link to the final version of their work.
Washington Post: wapo.st/2016postcards
Now our thoughts…
What so many national media sources and even local media sources never understood is that this was never a conservative/liberal issue. This was, for the majority of us, about our kids. This was about our community and our schools and our teachers. We all were the people in the middle.
Some media reported that it was all about AP US History and the multiple examples of hate speech that came from the recalled board members. Those were just a few SMALL examples out of SO MANY that occurred over two years. Anyone who opposed anything that the recalled board majority did or who dared to speak up was deemed a union thug, bullied, videotaped, photographed and even now the harassment continues on social media and beyond. Simply for asking for accountability and an end to horrid practices at board meetings and in private.
We objected when the board majority advertised themselves as “the conservatives” – that’s from the mailer they sent out. The media used that wording repeatedly because it was assumed that this was what the turmoil was about and that’s what they called themselves. Well, that logic doesn’t work when you learn of the number of registered conservative voters who participated in the recall.
We’d like to note, when we formed Support Jeffco Kids, it was with the intention of having a vehicle in place to help with public education issues in Jeffco such as the current Colorado Priorities Campaign and mill/bond campaigns. We had no idea, at the time, we would be heading down the path of recall when we started out.
In the beginning, there was a Republican mom (Shawna Fritzler) and a Democratic mom (Jonna Levine), who had both been involved in the Jeffco School District including mill/bond campaigns, actively participating on the district’s accountability committee and other district level committees, the PTA, and much more. We came together to form a Bi-Partisan partnership for a Non-Partisan Non-Profit to Support Jeffco Kids. Our mission is a simple one:
Our mission is to educate the Jeffco Community on the importance of supporting public education for ALL kids in Jeffco, inform the community on current events, and to support a school board that understands the importance of educating all 86,000 students in Jeffco.
We are proud that Support Jeffco Kids is a non-partisan organization and has representation of all views, parties, and includes anyone who wants to support public education. In 2012, we were concerned about the false rhetoric about schools and wanted to ensure resources were available for people to learn the truth and get involved. When 2013 rolled around, we realized that supporting a board of education who supported public schools and practiced good governance while being even partially-versed in education policy was crucial and added this to our mission.
Sometimes we (and our supporters) were referred to as “Riled Up Mommies” in a joking fashion and sometimes disparagingly. But this was no joke. The Not-so “Conservative Board Majority” was not fiscally conservative at all. They simply made it a habit of making fiscal decisions (based on an extreme agenda) that had a negative impact on our kids and our schools. And, when you mess with our kids, moms do have a tendency to get “riled up”.
We The People took a stand about the lack of transparency and accountability and 65% of voters spoke very loudly about what we want for our Jeffco kids and our Jeffco Schools.
We won’t rehash the issues. Our community and school district are in the process of healing. Our new board members are working hard to listen to the community and repair some of the damage done to the district over the previous two years. Unfortunately, the ousted board majority members did a lot of damage to both. They were divisive, as well as irresponsible. Or as one recalled board member points out in the film: “… we are going to have a lasting impact on Jefferson County”. And some of the fiscal decisions they made will have lasting impacts for years.
But here are some things we hope folks will take stock in:
Yes, there was definitely some polarization. But it should be duly noted, there were a lot of Republicans – Conservative Republicans – who worked side-by-side with some pretty liberal Democrats during this campaign. We all believed in the same thing: Transparency, Accountability, and putting our kids first.
Unfortunately, a key factor that gets overlooked is what the intent really was on the part of the recalled board members and their supporters. If you listen carefully in the film (4:07), though, John Caldara explains it when he’s interviewed:
“As goes Jefferson County, so goes the state. So basically you’re in the swingiest county of the swingiest state in the Union. If these type of reforms take hold and stay in a place like Jefferson County, it could happen anywhere in the state; and if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere in the country.”
Think about Douglas County and what those parents are still going through. We were lucky. We were successful. Well, there’s another school board election in 2017 with 3 seats up and that’s a majority.
Ultimately, this community came together to protect our kids and our shared values and wanted Jeffco Public Schools to return to what it should be – nonpartisan. Because our kids aren’t registered Republicans, Democrats, or Union Members and they certainly aren’t punks.
We lost so many amazing Jeffco Schools staff over the past few years and it will continue to have an impact for many years. Our elected board of education is striving to listen to all voices while trying to learn at the speed of light and picking up the pieces along the way.
When you see issues about education arising, always check to see if the information is about individuals or party platforms. The discussions about what is best for kids should arise from education policy and best practice and it should always include staff and parents in those discussions.
Like it or not, it was a grassroots effort. Yes, we had staff and teachers and their union working with us. But let’s not forget, in a district that employs about 12,000 people, half of which are teachers, those folks are also parents, taxpayers, and voters, and have every right to call on whatever resources they have available to support their kids, too.
Speak Up, Jeffco! The discussions should always continue! Working together collaboratively is what will make a difference for our kids and public education.
We are also sharing something that Michael Clark wrote because it’s just so accurate:
I definitely liked the video overall, but I wished it was longer. As someone who initially supported the board majority, I feel the piece really sidestepped the heart of the matter. The biggest reason I volunteered and voted them out was how they treated members of the community.
In particular I still vividly remember how Witt, Newkirk, and Williams failed to even respond to the petition I started that asked them to approve more than a single finalist for the vacant superintendent position. Over 9,000 Jeffco stakeholders signed it in two weeks, and the board majority couldn’t even be bothered to send a reply email.
My other big memories were how they treated students and other community members who spoke out against their policies, like Ashlyn Maher. Her grace and courage dealing with a completely unacceptable situation is something I will never forget.
Lastly I remember the people. Shawna Fritzler , Jonna Levine, Wendy McCord, Lesley Dahlkemper, Jill Fellman, Tina Gurdikian, Stephanie Rossi, Dale Munholland, Jim Earley, Jeffco Students For Change, and hundreds of others taught me a valuable lesson. Together, we can make Jeffco a better place.
Together, we Support Jeffco Kids