Editor’s note: The following is a commentary from Complete Colorado’s education reporter.
Know before you go.
The homepage of the Support JeffCo Kids website says: “We want accountability, transparency, honesty, and respect for the JeffCo Schools Tradition of Excellence. When it comes to our kids and schools, it comes down to doing the right thing.”
The same group stands behind a recall attempt of three Board of Education members that could end up costing the school district $650,000 in election costs.
At the root of the problem, these folks say, are broken promises to voters, violations of open meeting and privacy laws, and wasting taxpayer money.
In a press release announcing the recall, organizers Wendy McCord, Michael Blanton, and Tina Gurdikian cite “hiring a novice Superintendent for $280,000 — $80,000 more a year than the previous nationally recognized Superintendent of 12 years — and hiding $90,000 each year in legal expenses from the public.”
Opponents to the board majority claim that “[the board majority has] repeatedly violated Colorado open meeting laws by secretly making major decisions behind closed doors. They have severely limited public comment at board meetings, bullied students and parents, and released a minor student’s private information in violation of state law.”
Finally, they say the majority failed to give raises, expand full-day kindergarten, address an overcrowding situation in the district, and that they give money to failing charter schools.
Those are some pretty hefty charges, but one of the things that attracted me to journalism was the chance to snoop around into government affairs and expose officials who were doing wrong by their constituents.
So what do I know about the reasons recall organizers claim are good and just enough to do away with continuity and seat an entirely new board?
Well, I don’t claim to know it all, but I do know that most of what JeffCo United is telling the public is a well-organized message with claims that are overblown and very far from the truth.
In fact, I know that most everything to disprove most of these claims can be found in documents at the district’s website or through the Colorado Department of Education.
I want you to know that too, and I want you to know it before you sign a petition — that’s why I say: “Know before you go.”
It also has become apparent that JeffCo United will have about two weeks to collect three separate sets of 15,000 valid signatures to put their desired recall on the November ballot. Otherwise, the recall will be a special election that would cost voters between $500,000 and $650,000.
So what I want you to know is nothing more than all the relevant facts. Not my opinion and not the opinion of the Jefferson County Education Association, which has worked hard to publicly distance itself from this recall but has opposed the new board from the get-go. They threatened last fall to “beat these bas _ _ _ _ _ back,” and then promised (incorrectly) that “the fight’s going to start in January.”
Plain hard facts are needed. So over the next couple of weeks, I will be doing a series of stories breaking down the claims of those behind JeffCo United to let you decide what to believe.
So before you rush to put your name on a petition, follow my stories at CompleteColorado.com/PageTwo, and once you have all the information, decide for yourself if a recall is really right for JeffCo.
First up will be a look at Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s contract and what it really says. Check back here often to see what’s in store and …
Know before you go!
About Sherrie Peif:
Peif is an award-winning journalist who has been covering K-12 education for the past five years. She has been in journalism for nearly two decades covering everything from government and politics to sports to education. She is credentialed by the Colorado Press Association and began covering K-12 education statewide for Compete Colorado earlier this year. She spends most of her days watching old episodes of the Jefferson County Board of Education meetings and her evenings watching her 18-year-old son play baseball. She is about to become an empty nester in a few weeks as her only child leaves to play college baseball in California.
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