Elections, Jefferson County, Transparency

Jeffco recall issues wrapped up just in time to vote

Although Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education recall supporters would like voters to believe the effort was a grassroots campaign that began over the summer by a group of parents, the first recall signs surfaced during an October 2014 rally at Clement Park.

It was a well-documented campaign by the Jefferson County Education Association from almost the day after Julie Williams, John Newkirk, and Ken Witt took office.

“Just know the fight is on … A recall has to be organized by the community. They are doing community building. Many people who voted for these Board members don’t support them now,” reads the minutes of a November 2014 Boulder Valley Education Association meeting that was originally published online but then edited after Complete Colorado published the remarks. “John [Ford] recommends reaching out to our friends in Jefferson County and telling them we support them. We have to think big for our protests and pull people from all over the state.”

Also in the meeting minutes, Ford told his neighbors to the northwest “We have a unique opportunity to beat these bas_ _ _ _ _ back,” with the “deleted” word presumably being “bastards.”

Complete Colorado took a screen shot of the minutes before they were edited and eventually removed.

Ford also told the BVEA that he couldn’t wait until the terms of the three members now subject to recall ended in three years, adding the union needed to get students involved.

However, the union was already using students. The fall before, teachers from several Jeffco schools staged a sick out, and students organized walkouts allegedly to protest an Advanced Placement History issue that even the College Board eventually agreed with the board on.

From thousands of miles away, even the Washington Post knew the rally cries were about a pay for performance plan that the union didn’t agree with.

“Kerrie Dallman, the president of Colorado’s NEA branch, declared and brought in NEA cadre from as far away as California,” the Post story reported. “During the 2014 summer vacation, these organizers met with teachers at their homes, distributing talking points and, crucially, urging them to let the union deduct dues directly from their bank accounts, according to two teachers who received visits.”

So in reality, the active recall push had begun by October 2014. It’s just been since summer that the group behind the recall, Jeffco United, has been working on a series of mistruths about Witt, Newkirk, and Williams hoping to trick voters into voting yes on the recall.

With each false claim, Complete Colorado reported the truth, and with just two weeks until Election Day here they are again summed up one last time.

The first three are taken verbatim, directly from the ballot:

  • Restore ACCOUNTABILITY: The Board Majority wasted millions of taxpayer dollars, including 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.

Actually, Dan McMinimee’s salary is really only $220,000. Click here to see his contract, and here to see his predecessor Cindy Stevenson’s contract. The claim compares McMinimee’s entire compensation package to just Stevenson’s base salary. Here is the full story.

  • Restore TRANSPARENCY: They have 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.

No decisions have been made behind closed doors. In fact, Witt recently filed a complaint against himself with the Colorado Ethics Commission to investigate the claim, since no one with Jeffco United has sought to prosecute the issue. When asked how they prove the claim, Jeffco United spokeswoman Lynea Hansen said: “We don’t.” Here is the full story. Additionally, recall proponents claim the Jeffco board has “repeatedly” violated Colorado open meetings laws, yet they only point to a single instance — not multiple times — in which they allege open meetings laws were violated.

  • Restore RESPECT: They attempted to censor US History classes, leading thousands of students to walk out of class in protest. Their unprofessional actions have pushed over 700 educators this past year to leave Jeffco schools, most to teach in other districts, because the educators believe the Board Majority’s policies hurt their ability to educate our students. In the interest of our children, community and schools, we need to send the message that our kids’ education and fiscal responsibility come before politics.

There was never an attempt to censor AP U.S. History classes. One member proposed to review the curriculum, a proposal that never came to fruition. Eventually, the College Board agreed with the board majority on changes they did say were needed. Here is the full story.

The second half of the final complaint is factually wrong on all accounts, according to documents obtained by Complete Colorado through a Colorado Open Records Act request.

The district’s human resources director Amy Weber said the number used is skewed, as a large number of losses each year are teachers who are hired on temporary, one-year contracts. Even so, the increase in the reported turnover rate coincides with improved economic conditions that affect school districts across Colorado. Jeffco’s turnover rate, according to the Colorado Department of Education, remains lower than its neighbors and the state average. Here is the full story.

Two other issues have surfaced since the ballot wording was created. Jeffco United has tried to say the board refuses to expand all-day kindergarten services. But in reality, the district now pays for more students to receive the service than ever before.

Finally, they say the board has refused to address the overcrowding issue that faces the district over the next few years. However, the board recently agreed to construct a new school with existing funds instead of adding more debt to taxpayers.

Know before you go to the ballot box, and read about what is really happening in Jeffco.



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