The Jefferson County School Board spurred a national controversy via a proposed history curriculum committee tasked with emphasizing patriotism and downplaying civil disorder. In an attempt to mute complaints, symbolized by multiple student walkouts at Jeffco schools, the board approved an amendment to add teachers and students on the committee, and the tactic seems to be working: A Saturday rally by Jeffco Students for Change drew only a small crowd and meager press coverage despite the presence of Colorado Lieutenant Governor Joe Garcia. By members of the opposition aren't giving up.
The event was held between noon and 3 p.m. Saturday at Clement Park, near the Columbine High School campus, with students from eighteen high schools in Jefferson County represented. The details are contained in a press release about the event, which we've included below in its entirety.
Nonetheless, the number of attendees and participants I saw during a visit to the park amid the event was far more modest than was the case during student walkouts during school days last month.
So, too, was press coverage: Fox31 put together a package on the gathering, and a Denver Post reporter also turned up. However, other local and national media outlets were absent.
Nonetheless, remarks by the students were pointed and thoughtful, with speakers clearly upset by suggestions from the likes of Jeffco school board president Ken Witt that they've been turned into pawns by the local teachers union. They also gathered signatures to gauge whether there's enough interest to launch an effort to recall Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk, the triumvirate of recently elected board members who've turned the board in a decidedly conservative direction. JeffCo School Board Watch is certainly advocating for such a move against Witt, Newkirk and Williams, which it refers to collectively as "WNW." Here's it's Monday to-do list:
1. Read the Weekend Review and decide how you are going to get involved. At the bottom of the post is a list of organizations you can contact. Make Even A Bigger Difference!
2. Read the Thursday Prep notes...then write an e-mail to the Board (firstname.lastname@example.org), asking them to explain something important to you, such as why they would not wait the policy required two meetings before voting on the curricula censorship comittee proposal.
3. Support Jeffco Kids has come out with their 2014 endorsements for the upcoming election. Read them!
4. Tell at least three friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members, or strangers about what is going on and try to get them to come to a Board meeting (just one time is generally enough for people to see why WNW needs to be opposed).
5. Put up a sign in car or window, letting people know that you oppose WNW.
6. Contact Support Jeffco Kids and get a yard sign!
7. Contact Jeffco Students For Change, and let them know you support them!
8. Keep Fighting!
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We are the Jeffco Students for Change. The Board's actions thus far have not represented the will of the students, teachers, or citizens of Jefferson County.
While we recognize that Mr. McMinimee submitted a compromise to the original proposal to include teachers, students, and elected community members, it remains unjust. Because the majority board members select the members of the committee, it remains an unbalanced display of power favoring the will of the board majority.
Many students attended the October 2nd Board meeting during which the proposal was passed. To our disappointment, the board majority, comprised of Mrs. Williams, Mr. Newkirk, and Mr. Witt, displayed and continue to display a distinct disregard for the opinions of the public.The Board constantly meets behind closed doors, flippantly spends taxpayers' money, ignores the public, and fails to see logic. Such actions include: passing the creation of a committee to review the AP US History curriculum in the face of overwhelming public opposition, neglecting to give $600,000 to provide for all day kindergarten (3A and 3B) and instead allocating it to two charter schools, implementing a teacher pay system without regard for the teachers, spending $90,000/year for a lawyer specifically for the board despite the district already having a lawyer, and disregarding board policy as well as Robert's Rules of Order.
Speaking to their disregard of board policy, the board majority has knowingly broken several board policies even when the board minority has warned them that they are doing so. When Julie Williams proposed the original committee, she violated board policy KEC-R which states "A challenge to the use of a learning resource must originate in the school where the learning resource is being used." Mrs. Williams did not complain about any specific learning resources in her own son's school; her only goal is revision to district curriculum. KEC-R further states "School personnel who receive a complaint will refer the complainant to the principal." Mrs. Williams took her complaint straight to the board. The board majority also violated policy when they voted on the revised and essentially new proposal at the same meeting at which it was presented. Board policy is that new proposals will be voted on the meeting after they are proposed to allow for research and discussion in the intermediary time period.
The violations don't stop there, however, as the board has violated Robert's Rules of Order which establish basic standards of conduct for democratic meetings in order to give every idea proper and due consideration. The board majority discounted their associates' rational requests to allow more time for review and discussion of the proposal. Furthermore, on multiple occasions the board majority dodged questions posed by Mrs. Fellman and Mrs. Dahlkemper, subversively passing a proposal that had been introduced only that morning. Lastly, the board majority frequently disrespects the board minority by interrupting them, disregarding their comments, or even blatantly ignoring them. None of this is proper conduct for a democratic meeting, and represents the shameful actions of the board majority.
Moving forward, the Jeffco Students for Change will not stop until the board majority shows due respect to the people of Jeffco, especially students, and their fellow board members. To this end, the Jeffco Students for Change will be hosting a rally on October 11 in order to raise awareness and to make a statement: the students of Jeffco are not satisfied with this so called "compromise", and believe in the respect and consideration afforded by a true democratic process. We are comprised of students from the high schools of: Alameda, Arvada, Arvada West, Bear Creek, Chatfield, Columbine, Conifer, Dakota Ridge, Evergreen, Golden, Green Mountain, Jefferson, Jefferson County Open, Lakewood, Pomona, Ralston Valley, Standley Lake, and Wheat Ridge.
Authors: Kyle Ferris Chalen Gordon-McGlone Dylan Johnson Michael Kerl Ashlyn Maher Casey McAndrew Forrest Werner
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.