DENVER — More fireworks could be in store at the Jeffco Board of Education’s meeting Tuesday night to discuss hiring a replacement for Superintendent Cindy Stevenson.
Supporters of both the pro-reform board and teachers’ union are being urged to attend the meeting after a disruptive crowd of about 250 union backers forced the Feb. 8 meeting to adjourn early over security concerns.
“We need EVERYONE to show up and be there as early as possible!” said a post on the new pro-union website Jeffco School Board Watch under the headline, “Feb. 18th Meeting—It’s Important to Be There!”
Stevenson resigned in November, two days after voters elected three pro-reform candidates to the five-member board. She was originally slated to work through the end of her contract June 30, but requested and was granted early leave in order to take a job with the Colorado Association of School Executives.
The Colorado Observer has an open records request pending with the school board asking that the final payout amount to Stevenson be released to the public.
Her last day is Feb. 21. Even so, union officials have raised the battle cry that Stevenson was “forced out,” a message that’s now seeping into the classrooms.
Tensions between reform supporters and union backers ran high even before the melee at the Feb. 8 meeting. Two PTA officials made cracks in a Jan. 30 Twitter exchange about gun violence and pro-reform board member Julie Williams, according to a report in Watchdog Wire.
Callers and emailers to KOA-AM’s Mike Rosen have described how teachers wore black in their classrooms Feb. 10 after receiving a memo from the Jefferson County Education Association, the local teachers’ union and an affiliate of the Colorado Education Association.
“They all wore black on Monday. In fact, the principal at my kid’s school taught class for an hour so one teacher could go home and change into black,” said an email from a listener, as read on the air by Rosen during his Feb. 13 show.
The email continued: “My wife is on the staff but not a teacher. She did not wear black and was asked several times why she did not. This in fact caused a hostile work environment for her. Please do not use my name on the air, she is pressured enough without having the principal come down on her for not supporting the union.”
A caller who identified herself as a student at Lakewood High School said her English teacher played a video of the Feb. 8 meeting, which included anti-board captions provided by the union.
“It seemed really slanted,” said the student, but added that other students who saw the video concluded that the pro-reform board was “awful.”
“There was this feeling, ‘Poor Miss [Stevenson],’ that Dr. [Stevenson] is being pushed out, that they had an illegal meeting, that they should be recalled,” said the student.
Another email came from a listener who was identified as a teacher and a union member but who disagreed with the “wear-black” memo.
“I received the email from the union encouraging teachers to support Cindy Stevenson by wearing black. I saw fellow teachers post this as well and saw them wear black. I didn’t agree with the idea–teachers’ political viewpoints don’t belong in classroom. I also received the email asking us to join in the Saturday meeting to hear the new board force out Cindy.”
The email ended: “Their tactics are immature, detrimental to the educational system, bordering on abusive. Transparency Jeffco censors opposing viewpoints and posts heavily edited videos that destroy context. These groups are ruthless and are not reflecting respectful disagreement but destructive disagreement.”
The three board members were elected in November on a slate that emphasized school choice and accountability, such as by rewarding the best teachers with higher pay.
“What JCEA doesn’t approve of is a school board that isn’t in its pocket,” said Rosen.