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Open Letter to Mr. McMinimee: Jeffco Schoolss Superintendent

Dear Mr. McMinimee:

I am a parent with two daughters who attend Jeffco Schools. Yesterday I received the Super
News update from you in my e-mail with some explanation about the closures at Conifer High
School and Standley Lake. As you explained the situation you concluded with this statement,
I’m not going to speculate on why teachers were absent.” This statement has left me confused
about your awareness of what is going on in your organization.

I have a little experience with district and teacher issues. Might I suggest a few reasons why
teachers might have called in sick or taken personal days on the same day?

1. The election of the schools board brought a promise of better fiscal transparency and
stewardship of public funds. However this board has given money to charter schools with
proven records of mismanagement of budgets, and no record of increasing student
achievement. Teachers working in schools that have increased achievement in reading and
math might have felt a little disrespected.

2. After the Board forced Mrs. Stevenson out, the search for your position was a sham.
Thousands of dollars were put into a national search-ironically to replace a nationally recognized
superintendent with a track record of improving student achievement. After taking consecutive
pay cuts and salary freezes for the past few years in an effort to keep the organization fiscally
afloat, teachers might have felt a little disrespected.

3. During this search, President Witt mentioned that the incoming superintendent didn’t need to
be in touch with issues of diversity. Teachers with diverse backgrounds, who teach students of
diversity, have their own children who are diverse might have felt a little racially attacked.

4. As we look at the legal initiatives that public schools are required to implement, you have still
not hired a district lawyer to support this work. However, the board has hired their own personal
lawyer and provided an outrageous salary for a lawyer; his billing for a few hours is more than
what a teacher will make in a week. Teachers may be feeling a little undervalued.

5. Despite the agreement of the teachers union to open up negotiations, the Board still acted in
bad faith. When an agreement was reached, the board refused to approve it, despite the
agreement of a district and union negotiating team. Teachers left for the summer without a
ratified agreement and may have been feeling a little frustrated.

6. Ms. William, Mr. Newkirk and President Witt have hidden behind the rhetoric of “wanting an
effective teacher in every classroom.” Jeffco embarked on this goal with integrity, recognizing
that this is a very difficult thing to measure and that teaching is a profession where people will
always need to be growing and learning. Last year the district made it clear that the evaluation
process would start as a “hold harmless year” so that measures of teacher effectiveness
were…well effective. The board majority turned these assurances into lies as they insisted that
the evaluation system would not only count, but also determine teacher salary increases.
Teachers may be feeling like their incomes are based on lies.

7. After the fact-finding process over the summer, the board rejected the findings of a neutral party that recommended agreement reached in the spring. President Witt created his own nebulous plan based on a mystery market compensation package. Teachers might feel like they have no control over their livelihood at this point.

8. This past week Ms. Williams has gone after the Jeffco curriculum with a proposal that made
me reflect on the McCarthy era where patriotism was celebrated through blacklisting and
propaganda. Teachers may be feeling like they are forced to teach censorship and limit critical
thinking in any way.

You mentioned in your e-mail, “I’m not going to speculate on why teachers were absent.” Let’s
be honest, Mr. McMinimee, this comment is disingenuous. As the leader of your district, if you
are unaware of the issues facing teachers and the Jeffco system at large, I have some
questions about your ability to lead. As a parent, I don’t mind if my kids miss a few days so that
Jeffco teachers can stand up for their rights to be treated with dignity, to be paid fairly and to
stand for their students’ rights to a fair and equitable public education that celebrates critical
thinking and diversity.

I can thank you for your dismantling of a really good system. Surrounding districts will benefit
from the loss of educational talent as people leave for better places.

Henry Roman
President, Denver Classroom Teachers Association

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