Is Jeffco’s Clean Slate Board Breaking Policy Again?

In spring 2016, thousands of families discovered the new Jeffco school board was considering closing their neighborhood schools.  This was not only a shock, but it came out of left field as there had been no community engagement in the development of the facilities plan.  In comparion to 2009, Jeffco spent thousands of hours engaging the community when the district presented its major facility plan to the community.  In spring of 2006, two thirds of the community engagement meetings were scheduled after summer break started and most communities found it hard to get the word out because so many families were on vacation.  Less than 500 people attended meetings regarding the new facility plan and around 1500 responded to the online survey.  Not great numbers considering there are 86,000 students in Jeffco.  When the community questioned the “Clean Slate’s” commitment to transparency, community engagement and accountability the board changed the plan and promised to become more transparent.

Trust in Broken Again

Just before Christmas break the “Clean Slate” board broke  community trust again, announcing that they would place a Superintendent search on their January 12th agenda. Again, the day before a long holiday the board announced they would be acting on changing the district leadership.  No matter what your opinion is about the performance of Superintendent Dan McMinimee we all clearly see this action breaks promises of transparency, accountability and community engagement.

Will Board Policy be Broken?

The Board’s Governance process number two (GP2) prohibits the board from taking action on an item the first time it is on their discussion agenda. And yet the board’s January 12th agenda shows the board is poised to decide on and vote on starting a Superintendent search the first time this item is on their public agenda.  Why aren’t they waiting until their February meeting to vote on this topic?  Why not give the community a chance to weigh in on the topic?  Would they find that the business community has come to trust Dan McMinimee?  Do they know that principals who are working hard to improve achievement appreciate the flexibility Dan has provided to meet the needs of their communities?  Might they find that teachers actually respect that Dan has reallocated resources and teachers have seen higher raises under his tenure than in the previous four years?  It clearly demonstrates that they just do not want to listen to the community.

The board has had two executive sessions discussing the topic. Those are the meetings that are held behind closed doors prohibiting the community from participating or even listening. In fact, the board’s first closed session on the topic was held in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor. That is right, at taxpayers’ expense (to the tune of $3000 per person), the Jeffco board held a closed session meeting in Colorado Springs to discuss district leadership. Hardly the open, transparent process the clean slate board promised during their campaign.

Worse, while the board has spent over six hours discussing whether to keep the Superintendent or not there has been absolutely no community engagement on the topic. The previous board voted unanimously, (yes, all five previous school board members voted to amend the governance process) to ensure that the board didn’t vote on an item at the first meeting it was on a discussion agenda. This board has violated that policy in the past but to change the district leadership without any community input goes against their promises of engaging the community.  Again, the lines of listening to the community have been cut, the trust is again broken.

Why is the board in such a rush to start a Superintendent search process?  Do they have someone in mind to run the district?  Worse, isn’t there a long list of schools in desperate need of repairs?  Couldn’t this search money be better utilized to say fix leaking roofs?  Shouldn’t this search money be used to hire literacy coaches or mental health professionals?  Or wouldn’t the funds be better spent raising teacher salaries?  Why don’t they want to listen to the community?

We don’t know the answers to any of these questions because all of the board conversations have been behind closed doors. Has the board once said that any of the monitoring reports provided by the Superintendent were incorrect?  No. Have they provided feedback on things they would like to see Dan do that he has refused to do?  No. Has the board set a direction for the district that Dan has refused to follow?  No. Has the board even set goals that Dan has not met? No. In fact the board has endorsed Vision 2020 which is the guiding plan for the district, created under Dan’s leadership, with the engagement of both district staff and the community.  The board awarded Dan more of his bonus money than the previous Superintendent and has given him positive feedback.

Policies are in place not only to give the board the opportunity to thoroughly discuss an issue, but it also gives the public time with weigh in as well.  And since this decision impacts the schools our children attend, impacts the teachers who teach our children, yes we need to have time to understand the issues and address any questions.  Again, why don’t they want to listen to the community?

So what are we seeing? Is this retribution for the failure of the bond and mill levy override?  Is this change in leadership payback to the union for backing and paying for the recall election?  We hope this board will slow this process and honor their commitments of transparency, accountability and community engagement before turning the district leadership upside down.  Will this board continue to break community trust?

Is Jeffco’s Clean Slate Board Breaking Policy Again?