Jeffco School District Stevenson’s 3 R’s: Rumor, Revolt & Recall

February 10, 2014

Stevenson rumors whipped union activists into an angry fury.

Stevenson rumors whipped union activists into an angry fury.

DENVER –- Jefferson County School District Superintendent Cindy Stevenson knew the truth but refused to denounce rumors that the school board had slated an executive session to discuss firing her. Instead of holding Stevenson accountable, pro-union activists were whipped into an angry fury, demanding recall of three newly elected conservative-leaning board members.

 Stevenson confessed Saturday that she had asked for the discussion of her “personnel matter” – not the school board. Her request was made a day after the Colorado Education Association union’s Chalkbeat website announced Stevenson secured a new job with Colorado Association of School Executives.

“I can’t make decisions, I can’t lead and I can’t move the district forward,” said Stevenson during a tearful speech Saturday. “Consequently I did approach the board — it was my initiative — to say we need to do something.”

Stevenson, who led the district for 12 years, wanted to exit early to take the new position in March. The school board might have been caught off guard – it had planned to contract a nationwide firm to find her successor on Feb. 26. But, the board agreed that Stevenson’s last day as superintendent will be Feb.  21.

After the November election of three reform school board members who defeated union-backed candidates, Stevenson proffered her resignation effective June 30. Last week, she asked the board to let her quit in March and negotiate a severance payment settlement.

The rumor that Stevenson was being fired was leaked to reporters from a source in the administration close to the superintendent – and hyped on several pro-union websites – fueled hysteria to turn out more than 250 irate pro-union activists who protested Stevenson’s departure Saturday. Alarmed by the uproar, security personnel ended the meeting in less than 14 minutes.

The union-backed protestors’ shouts of “Respect, respect, respect” for Stevenson turned swiftly into chants of “Recall, recall, recall” of the school board majority members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams.

The unionist websites claimed that the conservative trio “stormed” out and held a secret meeting in violation of Colorado’s Sunshine law.  

The allegations were false — school board president Witt had called for a 10-minute recess to allow the boisterous crowd to control their behavior so the meeting could continue to the next agenda item, the school budget.

The adult tantrums escalated, encouraged by minority board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman, who criticized their three conservative peers.

Stevenson calmed the chaos when she offered to talk personally to groups about her decision to move on and discuss future actions to protect the district’s achievements over the next two years.

“We are all madder than h*ll right now,” proclaimed Jeffco School Board Watch, which shares website and Facebook links with so-called parent and teacher groups such as Transparency Jeffco and Support Jeffco Schools.

The websites promote several unions including American Federation of Teachers, National Educators’ Association, Colorado Educators’ Association and Jefferson County Education Association, whose slogan is “United We Bargain, Divided We Beg.”

Transparency Jeffco posted a video of Saturday’s uproarious meeting on YouTube, and in response some followers declared Stevenson’s resignation is a “travesty” and others demanded the recall of the Witt, Newkirk and Williams.

“Recall!!!” demanded Lynn Debroder-Owens. “I did not vote for those 3 people, they are unbelievable,” posted Shanyn Jones-Mitchell. “I too am for recall.”

Daring to differ, Jessica Krankota Branaugh wrote, “(Stevenson) is not a victim. She brought this on herself.”

The seething anger Saturday demonstrated by union members and supporters was also triggered by the board’s intent to renegotiate parts of the teachers’ union contracts, retaining attorney Brad Miller, and a budget proposal to award bonuses to achieving educators and administration staff, provide more funding for charter schools, and allocate funding to reduce mandatory fees paid by parents for their children to participate in school sports, activities, classes and bus transportation.

“Today saw our superintendent resign because of a deliberately hostile, abusive and just plain mean work environment,” alleged Jeffco School Board Watch. “Almost all of us are furious.”

“But what can you do right away? How about filling out a (budget) survey? No, we are not kidding!” said the pro-union group, signaling that supporters might skew the survey that will help shape the district’s budget for fiscal year 2014-15.

The survey is open to anyone with an interest in the future of the Jefferson County School District, but must be filled out by Tuesday Feb. 11.

Comments made by visitors are not representative of The Colorado Observer staff.

14 Responses to Jeffco School District Stevenson’s 3 R’s: Rumor, Revolt & Recall

  1. Bob Terry
    February 10, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I graduated in 1970, when Jeffco schools were top notch. I doubt this that way now. So run off those, that want to produce and show results …Get your lead sleds in there and really show Jeffco, how You want to operate .. So when your “test scores” a joke etc..and you dumb down your kids…maybe you’ll stand up for yourselves .. Teachers Union…they so care, as long as they profit by your pocket books, and not by results. Are there Jeffco teachers that really care..Yes …But I’ll bet they are out numbered by those that couldn’t care long as they are paid protected and don’t have to prove that they are a reliable entity

    • MBY
      February 10, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      A lot has changed in 44 years Bob! So “I doubt” you have a genuine investment in student achievement. “I doubt” you have researched the success or direction of Jeffco Schools. “I’ll bet”, your out of touch with the accountability and administrative goals of educators!

      • 5280crazy
        February 11, 2014 at 11:00 am

        It would appear you are a victim of public education, a travesty, really; but countless children victimized by teacher’s unions make the same mistake you have. Please see Webster’s definition of “your” and “you’re”, and next time you are espousing the greatness of Jeffco Public Schools spell correctly!!

        • toddw
          February 12, 2014 at 5:12 pm

          Is that 1 teacher’s union, or did you mean the teachers’ union?

      • Tim Meadows
        February 13, 2014 at 8:17 am

        Also, learn to use quotations, or in this case scare-quotes.

  2. Regan Benson
    February 10, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Catching Cindy Stevenson in another lie? Say it isn’t so.

  3. Jen
    February 10, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Good reporting. LIKE

  4. Jeanette Carmany
    February 11, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    There is always two sides to every story. Why is the teacher union being blamed for trying to Supt. Stevenson when principals ,parents and other people were in the audience. Why is it okay for professional athletes to belong to a union but not teachers ,firefighters ,police officers and other public employees.

  5. Mike Hyde
    February 12, 2014 at 7:21 am

    The board hasn’t even hardly begun to operate and the Teacher’s Union has their panties in a wad. Why? Because the new board will probably start holding them accountable for their actions and work ethic. Far too often these days I see a lot of bad teachers who having some weird union tenure cannot be fired or removed from the classroom. The constant complaints by teachers are absurd in their very nature. Hello? Your freaking job is to teach your students. Your job is to ensure they understand the material. If they are not getting it, your freaking job is to discover the way that they will get it. It’s your job, get it?

    And for the teachers support “Common Core” – Is this what they taught you at university? To dumb it all down so all they kids pass and feel really good about themselves? Really? I hope this new board in Jeffco takes you and the union to task.

    • Tim Meadows
      February 13, 2014 at 8:22 am

      You are spot-on about lousy teachers being kept in their jobs by the Union goons. We are talking poor results, chronic absenteeism, and even showing up to work stoned out of their minds. This board needs to conduct an system-wide, unnanounced drugtest to all teachers and school staff to get rid of half of the problem. Then they could focus on poor performance and they might actuallay see some improvement.

      • KAS
        February 21, 2014 at 6:37 pm

        Of course you are entitled to your opinion, but backing it up with some facts would be great! It sounds like you have some inside information. Are you a teacher? How many teachers has the district (principals) tried to remove, but couldn’t because of the union? How many were removed? How many “stoned” teachers continue to come to work each day? There is a zero tolerance policy. Where are you getting your ideas? I’m all for accountability and getting rid of “lousy” teachers, but statements like these, without being based in facts, are worthless and sound moronic. State the facts and change some minds. Please.

  6. chris strom
    February 13, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Why does the board not transparent? Why did they hire an attorney (on our dime)? Who is accountable here? Where is my recall? Out with the Conservatives. Why did the board spent $8 million recently to fund charter schools? RECALL….

  7. baxtman
    April 3, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    This board is actually much more transparent than past boards have been. They have moved public feedback time from the end of the meeting to the beginning, opted to have the union negations in public rather than in executive session. There has always been a board lawyer. In truth, while I don’t like unions and I would like some accountability for teachers. Much of what is happening in education isn’t the fault of teachers but the fault of federal and state mandates on education that really constrain our education. We think one model fits all which is a joke and we lower the bar so more pass and don’t help exceptional students progress. The answers to these issues are not easy.


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