Hundreds of union activists disrupted a Jefferson County School Board meeting Saturday in response to superintendent Cindy Stevenson’s request that she be released early from her contract to accept another job.
Stevenson announced in November she planned to leave her position after the current school year, but accepted a job this week with the Colorado Association of School Executives and wanted her contract terminated earlier.
However, some of the 250 Stevenson supporters who showed up for the staged protest and disrupted the meeting accused the pro-reform board of forcing out the superintendent.
That’s not quite how Stevenson described her decision. In a Tweet to her followers, Stevenson said she does not feel respected by the board and is therefore unable to do the job for which she is paid more than $200,000 annually.
“I can’t lead and manage because I am not respected by this board. I can’t make decisions. This board does not respect me,” Stevenson said on Twitter.
“I have approached the board and I will be gone by the end of the month. I can’t manage this district with this board,” Stevenson’s Tweet said.
The disruption forced the school board overseeing the state’s largest school district to suspend the meeting early before budget matters could be discussed.
Union supporters held signs that read “Respect” and “Team Work”, unaware of the irony as they screamed at board members, Revealing Politics reported.
“It looked like a mob scene with nearly 200 angry and bitter union activists flooding a Jefferson County School Board meeting this morning,” Colorado Peak Politics reported.
“Unfortunately, the unions have tried to spin this as Stevenson being forced out and Stevenson, all too willing to oblige, told the media that she ‘can’t manage this district with this board.’ What a pathetic way to end her tenure – with her pettiness showing,” Colorado Peak Politics said.
Board President Ken Witt told the Denver Post they would honor Stevenson’s request to finish her contract prematurely.
“The fact is she approached the board and asked to be let out of her contract early,” Witt said. “I certainly never contacted her and said, ‘I want you to leave.’ We are, however, very much willing to honor that desire to be released early. It allows Cindy and the district to move forward,” Witt told the Post.
Stevenson’s abrupt resignation comes as school-choice reformers and union stalwarts square off in two of the state’s largest school districts: Jefferson County, with 84,000 students, and Douglas County, with 61,000.
In 2012, the Douglas County School Board declined to renew the contract of its union, an AFL-CIO affiliate, and has since witnessed labor-fueled protests similar to Saturday’s melee in Jefferson County.