school board edition
district at odds Jeffco split over new school board 9300 W 104th Avenue // Westminster, CO // 80021 // USA // Planet Earth // Milky Way Volume 25 // Special Edition 2 May 2014
Q & A with each side Q & A with julie Williams (New Board Member)
Q & A with leslEY Dahlkemper (Pre-existing)
The Lake: Why did you originally run to be on the school board? Julie Williams: I am a mom, and I feel like our voices needed to be heard. I have a child with special needs and a gifted child, and I feel like I’ve had to fight to get very basic needs met every single year. I ran for school board to make a difference. TL: How do you plan to acheive those goals? JW: As a board member, I think of each of those items and make sure that what I’m voting on meets those items or at least part of them. TL: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the new board? JW: There are many rumors going around that are not founded. I really think that there needs to be some fairness in how people look at me. TL: Do you feel that there is a lack of transparency between the board and the community? JW: I feel that we have been very transparent so far. I think that some of those issues, as a board, we know what’s going, but we’ve asked for certain bits of information to be released, and the district doesn’t want to do that, so it’s hard for people to know what’s going on. TL: Is there any truth to the rumors that the board wants to institute a voucher system? JW: We have not discussed a voucher system as a board. Could there be a voucher system in the future? I don’t know. TL:What are the characteristics that you are looking for in a new superintendent? JW: I want them to look outside the box. We’ve done the same thing for many, many years in the district, and I think that we should have a new vision of where are we going, what are we doing, and how we get there. TL: What level of influence will the community have on choosing the superintendent? TL: With all the recent loans that have been approved for charter schools, are there any qualifications that charter schools must have to receive a loan from Jeffco? JW: What I would like to see is all of our schools in Jeffco be treated like they are all of equal value. If a charter school has to come forward and ask for money, but a neighborhood school doesn’t because it comes from a different pool of money, I think there needs to be a better understanding of how that funding is happening. A charter school has to do it out in the open, a public school doesn’t. There needs to be transparency, so that we all understand how are schools funded and where that money is coming from and going. A neighborhood school doesn’t have to show in the budget exactly how they are funded and whether they have shortfalls or not.
The Lake: Why did you originally run to be on the school board? Leslie Dahlkemper: I believe that great education makes a difference in every child’s life, and I also think that great public schools attract families and businesses. Great public schools are the backbone of our community. TL: Do you feel that there is a lack of transparency between the board and the community? LD: I think there are certainly some concerns including the hiring of an attorney for the board. Over the last two years I’ve been on the board, we’ve only needed an attorney one time, and I don’t think that the board made a wise decision when it hired a board attorney without even having the scope of work, the details of the contract or his hourly rate in front of us when that vote was taken. That, for me, lacked transparency and that’s why two of us, myself and Jill Fellman, voted against it. TL: What will the board do to ensure there is trust between you and district employees? LD: For me, I think it’s very important that we keep in mind the board only has one employee that we work with, first and foremost, and that’s the superintendent. The board holds the superintendent accountable for meeting the goals that are set by the board. It is not the board’s role to communicate with the district’s 14,000 employees. TL: How does the recent retirement of Superintendent Dr. Cindy Stevenson affect students teachers and the rest of the community? LD: At this stage, our focus is on the next superintendent and making sure that we can find some common ground with our community. What I would say about Dr. Stevenson is it was my personal hope that she would be able to stay through the end of the school year so that we could have a smooth transition between her and the new superintendent. But as Dr. Stevenson told the board, she felt that she could not lead or manage and was not trusted under this current school board. TL: With all the recent loans that have been approved for charter schools, are there any qualifications that charter schools must have to receive a loan from Jeffco? LD: It comes down to what school board members are looking for. When we get requests from a charter school for a loan, we look at the recommendations of staff and consider what the financial risk is, the population of students the charter school is serving, and what their track record is in terms of student achievement. I, however, felt uncomfortable approving two new loans for charter schools that totaled $700,000. TL: Has there been any talk of vouchers within the board? LD: I personally do not support vouchers. I support choice and charter schools, but I do not support using taxpayer dollars for private schools or religious schools.
From left to right, new board members John Newkirk, Julie Williams, and Ken Witt, along with pre-existing board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman listen to comments at a recent board meeting.
a DISTRICT DIVIDED
Recent election Leaves community at odds with Each other and new board Teachers line street corners amidst a symphony of honking cars; a board meeting gets shut down early due to the hundreds of angry protesters while the former superintendent looks on in tears; Facebook arguments arise hourly between teachers, students, parents and other community members.
focus on restoring funding to the programs that were cut a few years ago when the district had to make $78 million in cuts such as teacher librarians and teacher compensation.
“Teachers as a united group feel that the resources that have been given to the charter schools should be used more wisely,” science Jefferson County is completely divided, but over teacher Mr. John Moriarty said. “The monwhat? ey should first be used to keep librarians in schools, keep a large selection of electives, and This past November, a new conservative majoriimprove our technology so that we can provide ty--Mr. Ken Witt, Mr. John Newkirk, and Ms. Julie Williams--was elected to serve as members on the the students of Standley Lake and Jefferson County with a 21st century education.” board along with the previously existing members--Ms. Lesley Dahlkemper and Ms. Jill Fellman. The belief of many teachers is that the board is A few days after this election, district superinten- not showing transparency with their decisions and are hiding a more radical agenda from dent Cindy Stevenson announced that she would the public. The board members are adamant be retiring at the end of the 2013-14 school year. After a couple of board meetings, she announced that they are being completely straightforward about what they want and plan to accomplish. on Feb. 8 that she would be leaving immediately because she felt that she could not lead the new board, causing accusations from the teacher’s union that the board had forced her out. “When the Super was given an opportunity to address the public at a board meeting to announce her leave, she denounced the new board and encouraged a disrespectful outburst that was preplanned,” new board member and SLHS parent Julie Williams said. “This resulted in ending our meeting early and interfering with the board’s important work that affects our children--what would you do? We never asked her to leave. That was her choice.’” Following Dr Stevenson’s resignation, the new school board’s discussions sparked action throughout the community. At a board meeting on April 4, the crowd was so large that the entire overflow room was bursting, and the fire marshall wouldn’t allow any more people in. The various teachers, parents, students, and community members were mostly there to voice their opinion on charter school funding. Witt, Williams, and Newkirk have been advocating for more funding to charter schools. Dahlkemper and Fellman agree that charter schools should be funded equally. However, they believe that there is not room in the budget and the board should
“I have seen a whole lot of banter about transparency, and that concerns me a lot,“ Witt said. “This board does more than any board I have seen in recent history to try and increase transparency and increase engagement with the public.” The recent hiring of attorney Brad Miller to represent the board is a large reason for the distrust of the board by some members of the community. The Jefferson County Education Association has raised concerns that Miller, as a board member of the Colorado Charter School Institute and Colorado League of Charter Schools, could influence the board’s votes in favor of his personal gain.
make your voice heard May 1st
5:30 PM voice your opinion at The BOARD meeting TONIGHT at Bear Creek High School, 9800 West Dartmouth Place, Lakewood, CO 80227 directions from standley lake high school Exit parking lot and turn right onto 104th AVE. tURN RIGHT ONTO WADSWORTH PKWY. and continue straight for 14.7 miles turn right on Morrison Rd.
Others have questioned whether there is really a necessity for the board to hire its own lawyer. “Over the last two years I’ve been on the board, we’ve only needed an attorney one time and that was for a student related matter,” Dahlkemper said. “I don’t think that the board made a wise decision.” Time will tell exactly what the board’s long term plans are, but, for now, the district is divided. // bethany keupp
Turn left onto s kipling st.
Turn left onto w dartmouth pl. Can’t make it? follow the lake on twitter FOR A livetweeT OF the meeting @thelakenewsmag
Various teachers hold signs to show their frustration with the current school board. Teachers picketed before and after school at Standley Lake, Wayne Carle Middle, and Witt Elementary over the couse of three days.
TEACHERS PROTEST TEACHER CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS SPUR ANGER, PROTESTS
For three days at the end of April, Standley Lake teachers took to the streets in front of schools to express their frustration over how their contract negotiations are going. Since the end of March, the Jefferson County Education Association (JCEA) and the school board have been negotiating teacher contracts. With the new board and all the rumors and distrust already surrounding them, the negotiations are working differently this year. Every three years, the entirety of the contract expires and is up for negotiation. On the years in between--this year, for example--four specific issues are brought to the table for negotiation, two chosen by each side. Teacher compensation, or pay, is brought to the table every year. “This is when one side says, ‘It’s really important to us to do this,’’ and the other side says, ‘No, it’s really important for us to do this,” school board member Ms. Jill Fellman said. “It’s really important to find the commonalities.” This year, JCEA declared an impasse, putting negotiations on hold until the two groups can decide on a moderator. The board and JCEA will conduct negotiations through the modera-
tor without direct contact with each other.
“We do not believe the board has Jeffco’s neighborhood schools, students, and employees best interests are at the front of their decision making,” math teacher Ms. Carrie Ott said. “We believe they are serving on the board to promote their own political agendas “I personally already have been recommending and the agendas of those that are financially to young teachers to leave the district while backing them.” they can and advising prospective teachers not Many students have shown their agreement to come to Jefferson County,” social studies teacher Mr. Scott Eichhorn said. “I know many with the teachers. Numerous students have discussed wearing blue today and bringing paof my colleagues are saying the same thing.” per signs to the board meeting tonight at Bear This past month, teachers have been wearing Creek High School. blue on Thursdays to raise awareness about the “My ultimate hope would be for the school negotiations and express their anger. board to realize the amount of work teachers “We are wearing blue to protest a decision by do and what it means to the community as a the school board to take money away from our whole,” Jocelyn Wallen ‘15 said. “They should neighborhood schools (like Standley Lake) to give them reason to keep doing those things.” better fund charter schools, while at the same School board president Ken Witt, however, time not funding a program to provide all day stated that there is no reason to be worried. kindergarten to students whom would greatly He opened the April 24 board meeting with a benefit from it,” science teacher Mr. John statement that there had been no discussion of Moriarty said. cutting employee pay at all. Starting on April 25, teachers appeared out The teachers and school board must find a front of Standley and various other neighborhood schools before and after school with signs resolution by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. expressing their anger. // bethany keupp With the tensions between the board and the union, there have been a lot of questions and rumors surrounding the teacher contract negotiations currently happening.
WHAT IS THE BOARD SAYING? COmmunity’s fears
the board’s responses
The board wants to institute a voucher system.
“I have not heard any talk of vouchers within the board.” - pre-existing board memeber Jill Fellman
The board is hiding a more radical agenda from the community.
“I feel that we have been very transparent so far.” - new board member and SLHS parent Jullie Williams
The new board want to cut music, arts, and the electives.
“That’s about as out of character for me as anything I can think of because I was very much involved when I was in school in the band.” - new board member John Newkirk