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.”