Jeffco School Board OKs Controversial History Committee Over Vocal Protest, Critics Explode
Last night's meeting of the Jefferson County School Board was a raucous affair, with many if not most public commenters blasting a proposed history curriculum committee tasked with emphasizing patriotism and downplaying civil disorder. But the board's conservative majority was not swayed, approving the committee after adding a last-minute amendment allowing teachers and students to be part of the process.
This move didn't placate the organization leading criticism of the board's hard-right shift, which dubbed its newest members unworthy of trust. Continue for photos, videos, a document and more details.
Prior to the meeting, plenty of protesters gathered, as seen in this tweet....
— bonnie (@boniemylurv) October 3, 2014
...and this one:
— Nic Garcia (@nicgarcia) October 2, 2014
Another Twitpic shows that demonstrators who support the board, and particularly Julie Williams, the member behind the curricular committee proposal, also made their presence felt:
Supporters of Jefferson County School Board line up outside district headquarters. pic.twitter.com/9dCwoUzOqk
— Alan Stedman (@AlanStedmanKMGH) October 2, 2014
The crowd inside the Jeffco Education Center, seen gathering here....
— Jeff Simon (@jjsimonWP) October 2, 2014
...was loud and opinionated when the time came for public comment. Typical was Lakewood High School student Julianne Whistler. In a 7News piece, she can be heard saying, "The students of Lakewood High School...object to the absurd accusation that we are somehow pawns of our administration."
Such statements didn't seem to have a measurable impact on Williams, whose own talk at the meeting tried turning complaints against her on their head by claiming the current history curriculum is guilty of censorship that she wants to address.
Such assertions have made the Jeffco School Board into a national punchline via #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory tweets and posts such as a new Funny or Die item that offers a "new, more patriotic AP history test." Here are two sample questions from it:
Women only began voting in the year 1920 because: a.) they just didn't want to before then, it was weird b.) a woman's tiny hands couldn't lift the heavy paper ballots of the time c.) they were all too busy sewing flags d.) all of the above
Which word or phrase best describes the United States' treatment of Native Americans during the age of colonization?: a.) fun b.) flirty c.) super chill d.) un-genocidal
But the board's ultimate action last night didn't provoke any laughter from the school board's critics.
Photos from a September protest at Evergreen High School from 7News coverage.
In a move many board opponents appear to view as a face-saving gesture, Superintendent Dan McMinimee offered an amendment, on view below, that added students and teachers to the curriculum review committee.
Williams and cohorts Ken Witt and John Newkirk, all of whom were elected this past November and vote as a block, immediately endorsed the notion, while the other two board members, Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman, lobbied for additional time to review it, since it had been sent to them just after 5 a.m. that morning. However, they were outvoted, as they have been regularly over recent months, and the amendment and the committee proposal both passed.
The reaction of JeffCo School Board Watch, a group that's been highly critical of Witt, Newkirk and Williams, who it refers to collectively as "WNW," was sharply negative. Here's an excerpt from an item published after the meeting:
Why did they do this? After almost three hours of public comment? After hearing people pleading with them to begin working together.
Because they want you to forget.
They want you to forget that they were unwilling to wait even one more meeting so everyone can better understand McMinimee's proposal.
They want your to forget that they are WNW and how WNW have historically acted.
Remember, WNW actually do not think they have to listen to you. This is what Julie Wiliams told us last June when she said, "I keep hearing about the public not having a chance to speak. They did at the election."
That is certainly how they have behaved. They have ignored calls for more disclosure and debate on:
1. The hiring of Brad Miller for +$90k/yr,
2. The stopping the expansion of free, full-day kindergarten for poor children,
3. Ignoring the results of community surveys on District spending priorities,
4. Having only one 'finalist' (the search firm recommended three) from their 'nation-wide' Superintendent search -- Dan McMinimee,
5. Repudiating their own negotiating team when a tentative contract with JCEA had been reached,
6. Dramatically expanding funding of charter schools, which came in last on the community survey,
7. Ignoring the reports by both District staff and parents on the efficacy of full day kindergarten,
8. Ignoring Lori Gilli's warnings about the level of the reserve fund and not allocating any more funds to it,
9. Ignoring the report from the Facilities committee on the state of JeffCo's buildings,
10. Ignoring the report from their own Fact Finder in the JCEA negotiations, and ramming an unknown, unexamined, unsupported teacher compensation plan down the teachers and district's throats with no public debate.
11. With little warning push a motion to create a censorship (the "Curriculum Review Committee") onto the District, and then when our kids protest, call them "pawns", "uniformed", "misled."
And now they expect us to believe them that they will not manipulate this new group???
This raises the real key issue: Can we trust WNW?
If we look back at the past, the answer is a resounding "No"!
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JeffCo School Board Watch encourages those who disagree with the board's actions to "join and help build a broad-based community network that will recruit concerned parents, students, residents, and taxpayers, and provide constant, intense monitoring of WNW's actions along with a rapid communications network for organizing responses to their next outrages" -- and then "organize, fund, and launch a recall effort."
Along those lines, parents groups are reportedly planning a pair of protests today. The first is scheduled for 8 a.m. at Littleton's Mount Carbon Elementary School, with the second due to get underway circa 4 p.m. near Belleview and Wadsworth.
Below, see a 7News report about last night's developments, followed by a station clip featuring Williams's statement and the superintendent's amendment.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.