9News Turns Issues with BOE into Labor Dispute

witt meme

This letter to 9News and the full public comment from a Jeffco Schools parent (also a lawyer) was published on May 5 on Support Jeffco Kids.  It highlights 9News and Nelson Garcia’s attempt to turn real issues parents, the community, teachers and staff have with WNW into nothing more than a labor dispute.

We feel it’s important to share so that all of you know not to trust what you see on 9News.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Please read the letter to Nelson Garcia and Ms. McCord’s public comment below and then take a few minutes to write to Nelson Garcia and 9News  (Nelson.Garcia@9news.com,  tim.ryan@9news.com with complaints and adele.arakawa@9news.com) and demand they tell the REAL story.

LETTER TO 9NEWS

Via email to Nelson.Garcia@9news.com Dear Mr. Garcia: I am sending you a copy of the public comment that I delivered, together with a group of other concerned parents, at the Jeffco Board of Education meeting that took place on Thursday evening at Bear Creek High School. I have watched the report that you put together, and I have to ask: were you actually at the meeting? Your report (and sadly the reports of many media outlets) is completely lacking in content or veracity.

I was there on Thursday night – til the bitter end (which was actually Friday morning). This is not a conflict of a liberal union against a conservative, but responsible, school board. It is about doing what is best for all 85,000 Jeffco students, as opposed to what is the best way to filter our taxpayer dollars to private corporations for their profit. It is about a board majority that does WHATEVER THEY WANT without regard to the community they serve or the rules by which they are bound. It is disgraceful. It is politics at its worst.

I am not generally in favor of unions, but I have read the collective bargaining agreement between JCEA & the district. It doesn’t look like a typical CBA (and as an attorney and recipient of the University of Virginia’s Earle K. Shawe outstanding labor and employment law student award, I have read other CBAs) – it has many, many protections that are in place to ensure that our teachers can teach our children – things like limits on class size, professional development, etc. These are things that the teachers association has determined are critical to ensuring that our children are in an environment where they can learn!

Teachers are not trying to get rich off the system. They are not trying to take advantage of the public. These teachers took pay cuts to try to keep steep budget cuts out of the classrooms for the last few years. These dedicated women and men teach because they genuinely want to make a difference in the lives of our children. They make shockingly low salaries for the amount of education and commitment that are required to fulfill their responsibilities.

Of the approximately 1,000 people at the Jeffco School Board meeting Thursday night, I am sure there were hundreds of teachers. But there were hundreds of other members of the community: students (ranging from Kindergarten to high school), parents, retired teachers and school staff, principals, and other community members. Teachers aren’t the only ones who want full-day Kindergarten for our most at-risk youngsters – parents and community members, high school students and younger students all spoke about the importance and value of providing full-day Kindergarten.

Shame on the media for trying to turn this into a labor dispute. This is about ensuring a strong future of public education for our children! Please read my comment below carefully – in it you will find a myriad of reasons why the community (not just teachers and union supporters) are up in arms over the behavior of the three newly elected members of Jeffco’s Board of Education.

I sincerely hope that you will get involved in sharing with the public the true nature of what is going on in Jefferson County with the Board of Education – it has happened in Douglas County, and it is now happening in Jefferson County. I strongly urge you to watch the Reformers documentary, as you clearly believe this is all about teachers unions. You will see that the real losers in DougCo have been the students.

Whether or not you have children; whether or not they are in public schools (in or outside of Jeffco), this should be important to all citizens. This “movement” will continue to spread throughout Colorado and the rest of the country, until segregation (of classes, races, ethnicities, religions) is rampant and our public schools have been decimated. The hundreds of billions of dollars that currently go into public education systems throughout the country will instead be going to corporations, and eventually lining the pockets of America’s already rich.

Please get educated on the very real threat facing our public education system. Then, please let your viewers know what is REALLY going on. Sincerely, Wendy McCord, J.D., M.O.M. Resident of Jefferson County

Public Comment to Jeffco Board of Education, May 1, 2014

My name is Wendy McCord, and I have two children in Jeffco public schools.

We want to talk tonight about the two resolutions that appear on the agenda under item 7.01 “Legislative Update.” The common theme of these resolutions is to increase local control over public education. We’ve heard a lot of reasons tonight why that may not be a good idea in Jeffco.

Local control is beneficial to the community only with a Board of Education that is truly focused on making decisions that are in the best interest of ALL district students. Rather, Mr. Witt, Ms. Williams and Mr. Newkirk seem to have a very distinct subset of children in mind for whose benefit they are acting, and they do NOT include the children who most need our efforts and attention. Local control is only meaningful when there is broad-based community participation, coming from elected representatives who are well-informed and who act in accordance with the values of their constituents; and when it is exercised by a Board that is governed by the policies, procedures and legislation that have been developed by citizens over the years to limit Board powers and protect the interests of children.

This Board of Education seemingly acknowledges its constituents in one of the resolutions, where they specifically say that they are “accountable to our community.” But a closer look at their actions over the last six months shows that the majority of the Board conducts themselves with a complete lack of respect for the citizens they are supposed to serve.

These actions include:

  • Failure by the Board to live up to its promises to appropriately compensate teachers – the most valuable human resource to public education and the single-most important factor to the success of our schools

  • Soliciting then disregarding more than 13,000 community budget survey responses and the hundreds of people who participated in budget forums

  • Soliciting then disregarding more than 3,000 community superintendent survey responses and the hundreds of people who participated in stakeholder meetings

  • Finally, the Board completely fails to respond in any meaningful way to public inquiries    

  • Responses to community correspondence are frequently weeks, and sometimes months, past the two week reply time the Board promises on the website and in its reply emails.     

  • When he does reply, Mr. Newkirk’s responses lack any substance and provide no answers to constituents’ questions     

  • Having someone reply to board correspondence who has stated that he lacks the authority to speak for the board, and clearly lacks the information to respond to inquiries, is a complete waste of everyone’s time    

   • E.g. the Jeffco Administrator’s Association sent the Board clear and specific questions; Mr. Newkirk’s reply did not give the JCAA any answers; rather, he said he was “tacking it up” over his desk for “reference and guidance”     

  • This is completely unacceptable.

In addition to having no interest in the will of the people, these Board members remain uneducated regarding their role and issues facing our school district, and they seem particularly uninterested in learning more on these subjects, especially when the information they are presented with differs from their personal and political beliefs. Examples include:  

 • Repeated and complete dismissal of comments and suggestions by the veteran Board members, Ms. Fellman and Ms. Dahlkemper, about the manner in which the Board has historically and should conduct itself

  • E.g. putting topics on the agenda twice before taking action, utilizing fair procedures to appoint committee members, both rejected out of hand by Mr. Witt  

 • Seeming rejection that full-day kindergarten helps the most at-risk children by giving them a strong foundation on which to build.

  • Funding of different types of public schools – Ms. Gillis said that it would take several hours to provide the board with a meaningful presentation on the intricacies of school funding and she was willing to do it – but Mr. Witt decided to have her cover the entire topic in less than 30 minutes.

[From the small bit of knowledge I have on the subject, there was much more information that the Board and the public needs in order to really understand the many variables in comparing the apples of charter school funding to the oranges of district-managed school funding that the Board keeps wanting to make “equal.” They are two entirely different systems that simply cannot be compared as simplistically as Mr. Witt, Ms. Williams and Mr. Newkirk insist on doing. For example, of the appx $6,500 per pupil revenue mentioned by Ms. Gillis that goes to the district-managed schools, more than 95% of those funds are retained by the District and put in pooled funds that cover expenses for ALL district-managed schools, including transportation, instructional support, salaries, etc. So, in reality, a district-managed schools gets less than $300 per pupil, and out of those funds must come the salaries for the clinic aide and the paraprofessionals that help meet the varied needs of the school’s student population. When you take out those expenses, district-managed schools are often left with less than $100 per pupil.]

Finally, in one of Mr. Newkirk’s letters to me, he stated that all Board members, and I quote, “remain diligent to follow [Board] policies and Colorado law in every respect.” But it is clear that the majority of this Board has absolutely no regard for the policies and state laws that govern it.

In just six months in office, the three new members of the Board have repeatedly violated AT LEAST: 11 12 Board and District Policies and 2 state laws

District Policy:

  • BBBA (non-partisanship of board members)

  • BDG (hiring and use of attorneys)

  • BE (special meetings; notice)

  • BEDH (public comment at meetings)

  • KDB (public meetings; public servant)

  • BSL-01 (Board and its members can’t give instructions to staff)

Board Policy:

  • GP-02 (action on agenda items only after two appearances)

  • GP-04 (Board as link between district and community)

  • GP-05 (President’s role)

  • GP-07 (Board member code of conduct)

  • GP-08 (Board members’ covenants)

  • GP-17 (community engagement)

  • Colorado Revised Statute  

 • 22-32-108 (special meetings)

  • 24-6-401 (open meetings)]

We’ve heard about a number of policy violations already here tonight.

One example of blatant policy violations was the fact that Mr. Witt permitted more than 30 people to speak on charter school funding equalization at the April regular Board meeting – each one getting their three minutes – in clear violation of Policy BEDH. That policy requires the Board President to put large numbers of people speaking on a single subject into one group. Yet just three months earlier, Mr. Witt strictly enforced the same policy and told citizens that he couldn’t have 25 people speaking on a STEM program expansion, so they had to come together as a group, and they were allotted 10 minutes total. It isn’t a coincidence that Mr. Witt voted in favor of the charter school funding issue and against the STEM program expansion.

And another violation was intended tonight: the approval date of these two resolutions was clearly drafted as being tonight, May 1, even though these items are appearing on the agenda for the first time.

 • Clear violation of Policy GP-02, that says that the Board will not take any action on items the first time they are placed on the agenda for consideration

 • Ms. Dahlkemper pointed this out at the March meeting; and Mr. Witt dismissed her comment out of hand

 • In fact, the Board reviewed Policy GP-02 last Thursday.

 • When I sent a letter to the Board pointing out these issues, Mr. Newkirk’s excuse was that GP-02 doesn’t “necessarily pertain to non-policy matters.” But the policy doesn’t limit its application, and he didn’t bring up this issue during last week’s policy discussion.

 • And this isn’t the first violation of GP-02. We have to go back to December, just weeks after the new members took their oaths of office, when they hired Brad Miller in clear violation of this policy. “The job of the board is to represent and lead Jeffco by determining and demanding appropriate and excellent organizational performance” – GP-04. A Board of Education that is capable of such leadership should have more local control over public education. However, the new members of our Jeffco Board have made it clear that they are not concerned with fulfilling the promises they made to the public either during their campaigns or the continued covenants that bind them as members of the Board.

This failure starts at the top with the newly-elected President, Mr. Witt. According to Board policy, the number one responsibility of the President is to “lead the Board so that the Board’s performance is CONSISTENT WITH ITS OWN RULES AND POLICIES.” [Policy GP-05] Mr. Witt has shown us time and again that he is incapable of such leadership. In fact, he is frequently the initiator of policy violations, such as with the hiring of Brad Miller. His willingness to follow Board policies and state laws goes only as far as will advance his personal and political views. Beyond that, he has shown that he is willing to bully members of the Board (and public) who do not share his opinions.

As citizens of Jefferson County, we will not sit idly by and watch you dismantle our school system piece by piece. We are committed to providing all 85,000 students in Jeffco with the best public education possible. We expect real transparency from all five Board members. We demand that all Board members act with integrity and treat each other and the constituents they serve with respect. This begins with real accountability to the community – actual answers to our questions rather than meaningless drivel. It includes being open to the possibility that you don’t already know everything. And it requires that you follow policies and state law in every respect.

2 thoughts on “9News Turns Issues with BOE into Labor Dispute

  1. Wendy did a great job here! I too wrote to Nelson Garcia (got a reply) and wrote him a second letter. All of which I’m attaching here. They are in reverse order as I copied and pasted from my emails to 9News. I think another great choice to cc if others write would be Patti Dennis, who is the director of 9News her email: patti.dennis@9news.com. I also included Kyle Clark as he was the anchor on May 3 when Nelson’s article appeared: kyle.clark@9news.com. I also cc’d Kim Christiansen as she is a former student of mine when she attended Arvada West HS: kim.christiansen@9news.com

    Best,

    Bob Zachman 5164 S. Taft Way Littleton, CO 80127 303-988-5678 (home) 303-489-7198 (cell) zachmanr@comcast.net

    (This was my 2nd letter to Nelson Garcia sent on May 5, 2014)

    Nelson,

    Thank you for taking time to respond in such depth to my recent letter. I certainly thought your response was quite timely, as I know you are a very busy man. Thank you for including the many previous articles you have posted and I want you to know I had seen all of them and overall I feel they are very well written.

    There are many points you make that I agree with:

    #1, 2 – I was unaware that you were not able to attend the board meeting, but I was aware that Channel 9 had a camera crew present. This is most assuredly an ongoing conflict that started the day the new Jeffco board members were elected.

    #3 & 4 – This has not always been a union vs. board issue, and the breakdown of negotiations has thrust the Jefferson County Education Association to the forefront.

    #11, 12, 13, 14 – The new board members did win handily in the election; therefore, as the board majority they are capable of making decisions that align with their ideology. However, as you know, voter turn out was quite low. Only about 33% of voters did in fact vote. I too am supportive of charter schools, and no it is not a crime to support charters. Elections do have consequences, and if enough people are not happy with the new board members, then they can be voted out at the end of their term.

    There are some points that I have no basis for judgement: # 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

    However, there is one statement you make that I question:

    #5 – Perhaps some but I certainly do not feel many teachers are just working to the “letter of their contract” – showing up just before school and leaving shortly after kids are dismissed. Here is a link that you may want to visit with many comments from current teachers. Michelle Ewer is a former student of mine, and was inducted this year into the “Colorado Music Educators Hall of Fame,” an honor that I share as well. https://www.facebook.com/groups/743380109040818/permalink/788935801151915/

    I also disagree with two additional statements in the email you made: > “The fact that you and others do not like to hear the truth–”

    > “If all you want to hear is a one-sided report that simply slams the new school board because people are emotionally upset, you are not going to find that on 9News –”

    I and others in the community continue to welcome a robust and balanced media coverage of what has transpired in Jeffco since the school board election. I would politely suggest you might consider some additional topics in your on-going coverage of the Jeffco School Board: 1) Why did the board solicit then disregard more than 13,000 community budget survey responses and the hundreds of people who participated in budget forums?

    2) Why did the board solicit then disregard more than 3,000 community superintendent survey responses and the hundreds of people who participated in stakeholder meetings?

    3) The Jeffco Administrator’s Association sent the Board clear and specific questions. Why did Mr. Newkirk’s reply not give the JCAA any answers; rather, he said he was “tacking it up” over his desk for “reference and guidance?”

    4) Why did the Board go against the advice of the District’s counsel and the District’s Capital Assets Advisory Committee (“CAAC”) on withdraw the appeal of the 2090 Wright Street ruling?

    5) Why did the Board refuse to consider a one-year contract extension with JCEA and JCAA prior to JCEA declaring an impasse?

    Thank you for your consideration,

    Bob Zachman 303-489-7198 (cell) 303-988-5678 (home) zachmanr@comcast.net

  2. Thought I would also attach the the 2 letters to the BOE. The first one came from JCRSEA & the second JCRSEA & JCEA-R. Lorraine Bowen and I also spoke at last Thursday’s BOE meeting – we were the LAST of public comment #2 at about 12:25 a.m.

    Best, Bob

    January 9, 2014

    Dear Members of the Jefferson County School Board,

    On behalf of the Board of Directors of JCRSEA (Jefferson County Retired School Employees Association), we are writing to express our great concern and displeasure with the conduct of the three new members of the Jeffco School Board at the December 12, 2013 meeting. The urgent push to hire an outside attorney to represent you was shocking.

    Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman, the two continuing board members, expressed many valid questions and concerns regarding where the funding for this attorney would come from, what the total cost to the taxpayers would be, and requesting an interview/review by the entire school board prior to the hiring of this new attorney. It was appalling to watch as the three new members admitted they had conducted interviews in secrecy without involving the two continuing board members. We believe this action violates the Colorado Sunshine Law regarding open meetings.

    The new attorney, Brad Miller, is located in Colorado Springs, which certainly will drive up costs to the Jeffco taxpayers to have him present at school board meetings. In addition, he is involved with multiple organizations dealing with the promoting and managing of charter schools. We feel that this is a conflict of interest, and not helpful to the Jeffco School District. Therefore, we are politely demanding that you review this decision at your January board meetings.

    We hope that in the future you will demonstrate complete and full transparency in all board activities. The entire board as well as the Jeffco community deserves to have input prior to making any decisions.

    Our organization represents a total of 175 retired school employees that care very deeply about the continued strength of Jefferson County Schools. We want to insure the very best education for all the children in Jeffco. We need all of you to be equally committed to that goal.

    Sincerely,

    Robert D. Zachman

    Kathleen E. Zachman

    Co-Presidents of JCRSEA

    5164 S. Taft Way

    Littleton, CO 80127

    303-988-5678

    zachmanr@comcast.net

    zachmank@comcast.net

    May 1, 2014

    Dear Members of the Jefferson County School Board,

    We are here tonight representing the two organizations of retired Jeffco employees. My name is Bob Zachman, my wife Kathy and I are Co-Chairs of JCRSEA (Jefferson County Retired School Employees Association). Also speaking is Lorraine Bowen, President of JCEA-R (Jefferson County Education Association Retired).

    On behalf of the Board of Directors of JCRSEA we were surprised to receive a response from Mr. Newkirk to our first letter to you (dated January 9) 11 weeks later. We were beginning to think that you would not respond at all – thank you for your VERY belated, but inadequate response.

    We expressed concerns around the hiring of Brad Miller as the Jeffco School Board exclusive attorney. You really did not answer our questions adequately, and in light of what has transpired in the last three months, we would like to let you know that we continue to struggle to understand many of your decisions. Therefore, we are presenting some of the major concerns that we would like the Jeffco Board of Education to clarify for us as well as the Jeffco community:

    1) Explain and justify why you felt the need to hire Brad Miller as the Board attorney, as that has not been done by previous Jeffco School Boards. Also clarify the fact that two of the current board members were not remotely aware that you were considering hiring Mr. Miller until presented to the full board at a meeting where you voted to proceed with this decision.

    2) Discuss and clarify fully the terms of Mr. Miller’s contract. To date no formal explanation of his contract has been presented. Discuss why the majority of his services on his invoices to the district to date have been redacted.

    3) Regarding Charter Schools please explain how you plan to evaluate and fund existing as well as potential new schools. Will the Board of Education be developing a formal set of standards/criteria for loaning additional monies to floundering schools? Are you developing a rubric for evaluating new applications? Will ALL students within the charter boundaries be allowed to attend, or will the Board permit limited access?

    4) In hiring the new superintendent explain and clarify why the top priorities of the public forums and questionnaires are not included in your documents to Ray and Associates.

    5) Please justify and explain why the Board did not support the funding of full day kindergarten for schools with highly impacted (35%+) free and reduced students.

    6) Clarify and explain why the Board wants to allow the contract between the District and the Jefferson County Education Association to expire in 2015. What are your plans for the future of JCEA and the Board?

    7) Will the Board honor the MOU (memorandum of understanding) with JCEA to honor the return of steps to the contract this year? How are you demonstrating transparency when there is an effort to discuss negotiations in Executive Session instead of at the board meeting?

    8) How does the Board of Education plan to include all parents (not just “Choice” parents), teachers, administration, students, and support staff in decisions that impact Jeffco Schools?

    9) How does the cessation of the appeal over property on Wright Street make good fiscal sense? How do you justify the loss of a $500,000-$1 million piece of property and risk other district property?

    As we stated in our first letter, we hope that in the future you will demonstrate complete and full transparency in all board activities. The entire board as well as the Jeffco community deserves to have input prior to making any decisions.

    Our combined organizations of retired school employees care very deeply about the continued strength of Jefferson County Schools. We want to ensure the very best education for all the children in Jeffco. We look forward to a more timely response to our questions.

    Sincerely,

    Robert D. Zachman

    Kathleen E. Zachman

    Co-Presidents of JCRSEA

    5164 S. Taft Way

    Littleton, CO 80127

    303-988-5678

    zachmanr@comcast.net

    zachmank@comcast.net

    Lorraine Bowen

    President of JCEA-Retired

    6880 Pierce St

    Arvada, CO 80003

    303-456-0660

    bassbros@msn.com

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