Education, Jefferson County, Uncategorized

Campaign donations to recall effort and new Jeffco board members "pay off" for former superintendent

After Thursday night’s Jefferson County Public Schools Board of Education work session, former Jeffco Superintendent Cindy Stevenson can rest assured the $7,850 she spent recalling three reform members of the board will likely move her one step closer to working in the district again.

All five members gave their blessings to Jeffco’s legal counsel Craig Hess to find a way around a separation agreement Stevenson signed when she abruptly left the district in 2014, not finishing out the school year.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, Stevenson – whose reported address is in Boulder, not Jeffco – donated $3,000 to Jeffco United for Action, the union-funded group that recalled three members of the previous board. Additionally, she gave $2,000 to board president Ron Mitchell’s campaign, $1,000 to member Ali Lasell’s campaign, $700 to Amanda Stevens’ and Brad Rupert’s campaigns, and $450 to Susan Harmon’s campaign.

According to the Denver Post Stevenson announced she would retire just days after the conservative majority was elected in 2013.

“Stevenson said she knew then that the new majority — Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams — would want a change in leadership, but she planned to stay on through June 30,” the Denver Post report said.

Her last day was Feb. 21, 2014.

“My concern really stems from letters we received from a half-dozen community members who said, ‘You know Dr. Stevenson is not allowed to be on Jeffco schools property,’ ” Mitchell said in reference to a paragraph in the agreement that says Stevenson cannot volunteer or work in the district again.

Hess clarified that Stevenson can be on school grounds, just not part of the system.

Rupert said he believes at the very least she should be allowed to volunteer in the school where her niece and nephew attend, but that wasn’t enough for the others.

Lasell asked, giggling, if it was common practice for former employees to not be allowed to volunteer in the district after their employment ends. After some discussion, Hess confirmed that it is common when employees leave under separation agreements for that to be a part of the agreement.

“We don’t do a lot of agreements,” Hess said. “So I would say the majority of the agreements have something like that.”

Hess reminded the board that this was an agreement both parties entered into after extensive negotiations.

“Both parties were represented by counsel,” Hess said. “There was consideration given to both parties. I think that if we want to make major changes to any contract that we should re-enter negotiations with both parties.”

Mitchell said he didn’t want to spend a lot of resources on it, but wanted something done because Stevenson should be able to read a Dr. Seuss book to her niece and nephew’s class if she wanted.

“I do think those four words that relate specifically to volunteering – how difficult would it be to remove those four words that simply allow her to be a volunteer in a school,” Mitchell said.

Hess added a smaller amendment might be easier, but he would still have to take it to Stevenson’s attorney for approval.

“We are interested in removing the volunteer clause if that is a legal option for us,” Mitchell said. “And I think I’m hearing that is not particularly difficult for us to set up and negotiate.”

Hess will bring wording back to the board on April 7 for a vote, it would then go to Stevenson’s attorney from there.

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