For two years, due to very low turnout in an off-year, JeffCo CO struggled with three new members of a 5 member [school] board that immediately became a board of three. One of their obvious goals was to privatize education as much as possible through charters and some business owned charters of questionable reputation. They treated American History as if about Civil Rights or anything else requiring dissent or standing for your rights should come out of the history books. Since some of them are tea party types, I don't know how they would have treated The Boston Tea Party. They treated all teachers in the schools as worthless, 1% merit raises if they approved of the teacher, 0 for everyone else. They shortened the teacher's contract for the 15-16 School year, and were offering new teachers with equivalent credentials higher starting salaries than they were paying existing teachers.They imported a high school vice-principal from a much smaller school district and paid him more than the nationally recognized school superintendent who took early retirement without any search for a qualified replacement. I could go on and on, but you get the gist.
Students, parents, teachers and other community members started attending School Board Meetings and tried to speak up, but were shut down. Shouting matches became frequent, but the Three were gleefully in charge and vowed to listen to no one except themselves. There were some walk-outs, sign carrying and other events which were all blamed on the Teacher's Union which had to take them to Court to force semi-good faith negotiations for their contract. And nothing improved, the three just found work-a-rounds for issues that were challenged by too many.
In utter frustration, a group was formed to petition for recall votes for the three and 5 replacements (the other two board members were not interested in remaining after being ignored or disrespected for two years.) They had to have 15,000 plus signatures for each recall. The volunteers standing on corners and sidewalks produced over 30,000 petition signers for each recall. So the recalls and the 5 really interested potential board members were vetted for the Board. One of these was a retired high school principal and another had attended most of the board meetings (a glutton for punishment).
Most of the funds were generated from people's pockets,, the people all spoke facts and not meaningless platitudes, there were many volunteers, they generated lists of facts so numerous that they narrowed them down to 10 in the end as the most egregious and a series of post cards went out just prior to the election. They may have received some larger donations after the three got $1 million+ from Koch funded sources. Remember, this School Board and its election are supposed to be apolitical and these elections and candidates are supposed to be local and funded locally. Not true for the Three.
However, the folks running the recall were pretty scrupulous about being non-partisan, sticking to facts, and local. I cannot picture how many people must have had to work for months to do all that these folks did as volunteers for the children of Jefferson County.
We won and with pretty big margins, even though both the Denver Post and the Lakewood Sentinel both opposed the recall vote and there were all of those flashy Koch-funded advertisements.
I will never vote again in any election if I do not know the candidates, because I may have voted for one or more of these three in the last election. I was not vested in knowing the school board candidates. If you don't know enough about candidates, leave the space blank.
Here is the gracious statement of the Jeffco School Board Watch:
ACCOUNTABILITY! Voters Oust WNW: Determine Them to be Highly Ineffective
Tonight, after two years of Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams obviously answering to outside financiers and ideology, rather than to the real needs of a majority of Jeffco residents, Jeffco voters rejected an advertising onslaught and decided to oust the three of them in a statement heard loud and clear throughout our country.
Although the statement was loud and resonated across the nation, the most important outcomes will be heard in the more hushed tones of classrooms from Westminster to Littleton and from Wheat Ridge to Evergreen, where teachers may once again feel valued and respected, and the students are freed from extremist political agendas.
Beating back a wildly unprecedented $1 million-plus in advertising to prop up the failing WNW, Jeffco voters made a major statement about their independence and the power of real grassroots. Jeffco voters decided that they’d rather do the hard work of struggling through their own differences, rather than be guided by the bankrolled fantasia of strangers and outsiders.
Thousands of parents banded together with students, and yes, teachers, to remove these three from their seats. The narrative that this was all run and manufactured by the teachers’ union was obviously false to anyone that was paying any attention. In the end, the truth won out. Yes, the teachers’ union supported the recall, but that’s an easy call when the actions of the elected officials regularly evoke disdain for the governed. Teachers had been working on pay for performance already in 2013, and had collaboratively taken pay freezes and pay cuts. They are not the monsters that the advertising campaign conjured up, and the majority of voters saw through that false narrative.
There is hard work to do now for our new board. There is a fractured community to unite, and to show that a range of interests and ideas really can be represented through excellent governance, and truly putting kids first.
We have high hopes.
Thank you for fighting, Jeffco!