McMinimee Elected Jeffco Superintendent, Despite Union Protests

May 28, 2014
By

GOLDEN – Daniel McMinimee was elected as the new superintendent of the Jefferson County school system during a raucous Tuesday night meeting despite disruptions from hundreds of pro-union supporters, several of whom were escorted from the room by police.

The vote split 3-2 with pro-reform members Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk voting yes, and pro-union board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman voting no.

The meeting room was filled to its 300 capacity with mostly union members and activists intent on impeding the process by shouting down the proceeding or interrupting with loud clapping.

At least four people were removed by police for their unruly behavior, actions that drew loud cheers from the disorderly crowd.

Protestors chanted the union’s slogan “stand up for kids” and heckled the board with shouts of “I can’t do my job,” “This is a sham,” and “We don’t trust you.”

The behavior and comments annoyed some in the audience who said the focus should be on the students and not on the teachers’ union.

“The kids took second place really fast,” one woman commented.

Jonathan Lockwood, a Republican strategist who attended the meeting, said the rowdy and immature behavior by union activists was the real sham.

“There were multiple people kicked out for literally screaming in security guards faces, ginning up fake-outrage on behalf of teachers unions and special interests,” Lockwood said.

“The only thing we should be talking about is what’s best for students and parents, teachers and principals, not unions and their supporters who want to constrict choice and oppose pragmatic changes that aim to help build strong schools and successful kids,” Lockwood said.

Disrespectful tones weren’t limited to the crowd, and at times came from board members including Dahlkemper who interjected sarcastic remarks, and Fellman who raised her voice to interrupt Witt so many times the board president was forced to plead with her to “Let me finish.”

McMinimee formerly served as an assistant superintendent with the Douglas County School District, and was vetted from more than 60 candidates for the job. He holds a master’s degree in arts in education, the same credentials held by many teachers, but some protestors suggested his education was lacking.

Witt said more than just academic credentials were considered, but some challengers in the audience demanded that the vote be postponed and the search reopened.

The terms of McMinimee’s salary and benefits will be finalized at the June 5th board meeting.

The search for a new superintendent began after Cindy Stevenson announced her resignation in February. A favorite of the teacher’s union who holds a Ph.D., Stevenson asked to be released early from her contract in reaction to the election of the three pro-reform board members in November. Those members now constitute a majority of the five-member board and were the deciding vote in favor of McMinimee.

Although much of the pro-union crowd was unmanageable and reminiscent of the February meeting when Stevenson announced her resignation, some of the audience members managed to offer words of support for the incoming superintendent during the public comment period.

“Please,” said one father with an autistic son, “make all the reform you can.”

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

25 Responses to McMinimee Elected Jeffco Superintendent, Despite Union Protests

  1. Amanda
    May 29, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    You mentioned that the terms of McMinimee’s contract will be discussed on June 5th. Don’t you think Observer readers would be interested in the dispute with regard to the 40% salary increase that the current contract offers as well as the fact that the board “reformers” seemed caught off-guard when asked to tie the superintendent’s salary to performance outcomes?

    The term union was used ten times in this article – we get it, you detest teachers. Anyone who has followed this Jeffco BOE issue for the last few months knows that the community, taxpayers and parents of Jefferson county feel that this board is being fiscally irresponsible.

    Food for thought…McMinimee chose Jeffco teachers to educate his children. Why didn’t he enroll them in Douglas County if he had implemented so many reforms that he believed improved the success of students? After all, it is about the kids in the end.

  2. Marcia
    May 29, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Many of the attendees were not from the union, they were concerned citizens. People made outbursts because the board majority wanted to stifle public comment. 22 of the public comments were opposed to the contract offered McMinnimee and only 5 were in favor! When will the board listen to the majority of its constituents and not to the outside influences of the tea party, ALEC, Independence Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Koch brothers, etc?

  3. Samantha
    May 29, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Get your facts straight.

  4. Jim
    May 29, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Not in a union, not a teacher, I’m a VERY concerned parent of three kids in the district. I’m not sure how your rendition of events is so different from so many others that were there. Yes, the JCEA did speak on behalf of its members, but so did many others neither affiliated with the association nor employed by the district. Sadly, this is nothing more than propaganda masquerading as news.

  5. Dawn
    May 29, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Another parent who is not a teacher or affiliated in any way with the JCEA. I was at the meeting and it was not only JCEA members there were many many very concerned parents and community members speaking and in the audience. This was a situation where the board made it clear they do NOT care what the community wants and pushed through their own agenda. There agenda is not in the best interest of my autistic child.

  6. Dawn
    May 29, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Another parent who is not a teacher or affiliated in any way with the JCEA. I was at the meeting and it was not only JCEA members there were many many very concerned parents and community members speaking and in the audience. This was a situation where the board made it clear they do NOT care what the community wants and pushed through their own agenda. Their agenda is not in the best interest of my autistic child.

  7. lisa
    May 29, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    How do you know that the people at the meeting were pro-union supporters? They maybe concerned taxpayers, parents, students and community members that are worried about education and how money is being spent. Don’t assume we are pro-union.

  8. Katrina Prill
    May 29, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    When has the Board majority’s focus ever been on the kids? For everyone who believes Reform is good for JeffCo, just get yourselves up to speed on how things are playing out in DougCo. Now that the system has been in play for a few years it’s quite clear that there has not been the results promised, plain and simple. Just millions of dollars wasted…
    I am a parent, and a taxpayer, as were the majority of those sitting around me at the meeting.

  9. Paula
    May 29, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    There are two ways to tell a story:

    Daniel McMinimee was appointed the new superintendent of the Jefferson County school system during a raucous Tuesday night meeting despite protests from hundreds of public education supporters, several of whom were forcibly removed from the room by police.

    The vote split 3-2 with pro-privatization members Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk voting yes, and pro-public education board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman voting no.

    The meeting room was filled to its 300 capacity with mostly teachers and citizens intent on participating in the process, but only being able to by shouting down the proceeding, as public comment was greatly curtailed.

    Oh, what a difference a few words make.

  10. Jane
    May 29, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    I am a Jeffco parent and taxpayer and livestreamed the board special meeting from home. I was shocked at Ken Witt’s dismissive behavior to his fellow board members, Jeffco parents, Dr. Stevenson, and teachers. He acted like a schoolyard bully…behavior our Jeffco schools wouldn’t allow in our community today. And yet we tolerate it from our board president?

    There was absolutely no reason to not let all 65 people/groups who had signed up speak. If the board majority wants community support, they need to listen to the community. We tried to communicate via a survey. 13,000 people filled it out and Witt and the board majority chose to ignore it. We write letters and do not get We’ve signed up to speak directly to the board at meetings. We are denied that opportunity.

    As Ms. Dahlkemper said to him, “This is a public school. The board works for the public, the public does not work for the board.”

    Perhaps Mr. Witt and the others on the board majority can LISTEN to their public. This article makes the assumption that anyone who wants to have a true conversation about what is best for our kids is “pro-union” and a rebel rouser. This is not true and certainly shows the lack of research depth in this article.

    Please come talk to some Jeffco parents and teachers. Get all sides. Report factually.

    • kelly
      May 30, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      Yes!!! Well said Jane :)

    • Jackson
      May 30, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      You seem to have forgotten. The public DID speak when they elected the three pro-reformers. They didn’t need to go to a board meeting just to be confronted by obnoxious union members and union supporters. All they had to do was go to the polls.

      Oh, and as far as the supposed ‘raise’. His original pay was to be $284,000/year. The “$40,000 raise” was not a raise. It was $40,000 taken off the top of the $284,000 pay, and then to be used as a pay-for-performance bonus, just as the union folks asked for since the board wants to try out the same pay plan for teachers.

      The union folks would have known this had they closed their mouths and just listened. I heard it on the streamed video.

  11. Roger Merrick
    May 29, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    I am not pro or anti union and not affiliated with the school system in any way – just a private Jeffco citizen of 20 years. I’m appalled by their Board majority and their lack of respect for Board rules, policies and transparency. These actions are what is driving the revolt, not “pro union” activists. When the Board actions show they are taking the entire communities interest into the decision making process, trust can begin to be rebuilt. Until then, they can expect more of the same and organized efforts for a RECALL.

  12. Concerned Mom
    May 29, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    Wow. I was at the meeting as a concerned parent and Jeffco citizen and Tax payer. I saw many many more concerned citizens just like me…. NOT mostly union members and activists. Isn’t the Board majority supposed to be acting on our behalf? On the behalf of our kids? You wouldn’t know it by their unwillingness to listen to the public more than 45 minutes. Instead of trying to work everyone up by throwing in the “U” word, why don’t you just present the facts so your readers can make an informed decision about this very scary road the majority BOE is trying to drag us down (well, pretty much “bullying” us down). If anyone was disrespectful it was the President, Mr Witt. He was even so petty as to refuse to call Dr Stevensen “Dr.”. Sheesh, he needs to show a little more class & maturity than the kids who he is supposed to be making the best decisions for. This majority Board is a travesty. I felt like I was at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

  13. Tanya
    May 29, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    This article has it’s facts totally wrong! Please refer at an accurate article to get the facts correct. Thank you
    http://www.examiner.com/article/community-input-cut-short-as-jeffco-school-board-votes-on-new-superintendent

  14. Steve
    May 29, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    This article conveniently neglects to mention what had everyone so upset in the first place: the fact that the pro-privaitzation (I’m sorry, pro-reform) majority limited public comment to 45 minutes. After ignoring desperate pleas from the the pro-public education (I’m sorry, pro-union) minority to let the community’s voice be heard, the crowd understandably grew frustrated. Watching your elected officials argue AGAINST your right to engage in the democratic process is very frustrating, indeed.

  15. Amber
    May 29, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Yes, the board room is often filled with members of JCEA. I am a member. For the last several moths I’ve been in the audience at the board meetings. But last Tuesday I opted to skip. Why? Because I promised my 7 year old I’d make chocolate chip cookies (from scratch) for him to take and share with his class on the last day of school. He and his sister attend Lukas Elementary, our neighborhood school. It’s a good school. The teachers are caring and work hard. What the writer of this article and so many others have failed to realize is the Union they speak of is made up of moms and dads and tax payers. People who like me, use their JCEA negotiated personal days to chaperone field trips. People who are glad to have enough sick leave to manage when the school clinic calls. People who donate treats for the halloween parties and buy books at the book fairs. I’m grateful that JCEA negotiates a contract that allows me to have time to help my kids with their homework in the evenings and to stash away a bit each month for college. I am a mom, I am a Jefferson County property owner, I am appalled with the new board majority and I refuse to be dismissed simply because I belong to my professional association!

  16. MS
    May 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    The only activism at work is through the personal political agendas of three board members masquerading as public servants. This is not a news article, it’s right wing propaganda at its worst. This is a sham and blatant lies. Dig deep and see how much financial support was provided, whether directly or indirectly, to the board members. Especially Williams. RECALL.

  17. Anne
    May 29, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    I was at the Board meeting, and fail to see how you could publish such a misleading representation of the truth. I am not a union member, nor a teacher, but a concerned parent of children in Jeffco Schools. I went because I wanted to see for myself how the School Board would run the meeting, and was I disappointed. I fully expected the meeting to be run professionally. None of the microphones were functioning, and went on and off continuously, with feedback screeching and no one fixing the problem. The audience listened to Mr Witt hurrying through the agenda as quickly as he could brushing aside public comment, and behaving impatiently when discussions were started. Relevant questions were ignored, and the public speakers who did get to speak were not given any feedback or answers to their concerns. If the School Board runs a meeting that unprofessionally, then can they be trusted to run the Jeffco School District? I respectfully request you publish articles that reflect some legitimate concerns, such as the hiring of a sole finalist in a Superintendent search, the salary he gets, and the financial direction of the majority board.

  18. J. Coats
    May 30, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Who do you think “the union” is?? Last time I checked, the TEACHERS are “the union”… in fact, 70% of JeffCo teachers are the union. Just because someone is outraged by the overt lack of transparency, honesty & respect this board has displayed, does not make them a union thug or whatever disrespectful term you want to throw around. It is possible to be a parent, student, or community member and see through the smoke & mirrors this new board majority is fanning. AND, what the heck is wrong with being an activist?! They tend to accomplish things, you know like standing up to injustices and advocating for those who need support (the students!!).

    As iterated above: GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT & stop spinning propaganda.

  19. Jeffco mom
    May 30, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    I am a parent-voter-taxpayer in Jeffco. I am not, and never have been, affiliated with any union. I am not employed by Jeffco Schools. I have mixed feelings about unions and do not think charter schools are the enemy. My children are choiced into a neighborhood school but not in my own neighborhood because I found another school that better serves my goals for their education.

    I am outraged by the behavior of this new board majority, especially Ken Witt. I have seen him show an utter lack of respect for anyone who doesn’t agree with him, including his colleagues on the board. If enough Jeffco voters see through their smokescreens (making the association look bad, refusing to admit how difficult they made it for Dr. Stevenson to work with them, trying to pit neighborhood schools and charters against each other) and realize how irresponsible these 3 are being with our money, our teachers and our children they will be out on their kiesters. Let’s hope it’s soon.

  20. Tracy
    May 30, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    I was at the meeting. This is not an accurate representation of what happened. I am “just” a parent and tax payer. Here is a much more accurate portrayal of the events of the evening and the current situation in Jeffco.
    http://yourhub.denverpost.com/blog/2014/05/your-voice-public-cut-out-of-jeffco-public-schools-superintendent-hiring-process/43829/

  21. McCrady Kelly
    May 30, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    I am a fiscal conservative, parent of a Jeffco graduate, and a taxpayer. I was in one of the first groups of nine escorted up to the heavily secured Board Room on Tuesday night, and I stayed until all BOE members had left. I disagree with the perceptions of events related in this article. To call Lesley Dahlkemper “sarcastic” and Jill Fellman “disruptive” is laughable. These two experienced Board members attempted to maintain respectful discourse in the face of a Board President who did not uphold, or possibly even understand, Jeffco Board Governance Policies and established Board procedures. In the course of a three-hour meeting, Mr. Witt violated at least three governance policies pertaining to agenda, community engagement, and the President’s role. Both Ms. Dahlkemper and Ms. Fellman had to correct Mr. Witt several times regarding basic tenets of Robert’s Rules of Order, as well. As President, it is Mr. Witt’s responsibility to follow Board procedures and know protocols for running the meetings; his lack of adherence to the rules and his apparent insensitivity to the community’s request that he adhere to them provoked the concern expressed by community members in the audience.
    I’m not sure why the writer assumed that the majority of community members present were teachers and association members. What I saw was a gathering of community members who believe this new elected board majority is unwilling to listen to the concerns of the citizens who elected them to serve. More than 90 people signed up to speak. Of the 20 or so who were allowed to speak to the Board, there were teachers, business owners, parents, and Jeffco graduates. Yes, representatives of JCEA spoke, just as the father of an autistic son spoke. The conflict between the board majority and the Jeffco community is not driven by JCEA or CEA or the NEA; it is driven by those of us who are taxpayers and citizens. To “report” on this meeting as if it were a “union vs. district” conflict is unprofessional and inaccurate.

  22. Lyn
    May 31, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Not an accurate portrayal of events in this article.

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