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Jeffco superintendent finalist “doesn’t have all the answers” at tough open house

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Jefferson County Schools superintendent finalist Dan McMinimee faced a decidedly tough crowd Thursday, as dozens of people came to an open house at Wheat Ridge High School to set eyes for the first time on the man who more than likely will take the reins of the state’s second-largest school district.

Parents and teachers in this deeply divided district challenged McMinimee, who on Saturday was named by the board as the sole contender for the superintendent post, on a number of topics ranging from charter schools to teacher pay to community unity.

McMinimee, a 50-year-old father of two, is currently assistant superintendent of secondary education for the Douglas County School District. He has been with the district for 12 years.

“I don’t have all the answers,” said McMinimee, as a group of more than 50 people crowded in on him. “We all have to compromise — we’re not all going to get what we want all the time.”

Daniel McMinimee (Provided by Jefferson County Schools)

Daniel McMinimee (Provided by Jefferson County Schools)

He said his main focus will be on listening to the community, team-building, and implementing policies that make students successful.

McMinimee still needs to be formally hired by the board, which likely won’t happen until next month. Thursday was his first public appearance since being named the sole finalist for the job held for a dozen years by Cindy Stevenson , who stepped down in February.

A former Jeffco teacher warned McMinimee that he is walking into a “hornet’s nest,” with a community riven since three conservative members became the board’s new majority.

McMinimee, himself, was chosen as the sole finalist on a 3-2 vote of the board and several audience members complained about the fact that after a $40,000 nationwide search for a new superintendent, the community was only given a single name.

“My hope is you can bring us back together,” the man said.

McMinimee said he too hopes he can bridge the gaps that have developed, but he said it will take the effort of the entire community.

“We have to develop trust,” he said.

Many in attendance at Thursday’s open house voiced uncertainty about their future leader.

Julia Morgan , a teacher at Pomona High School, said the priorities being set by the board are not teacher-friendly. She said she wants to know where McMinimee stands on the issue of teacher pay and whether he is as determined as the board majority to steer more funding toward charter schools.

“I want to see what he can offer and maybe he can bridge this divide,” Morgan said. “Because it is not good for us as teachers, it is not good for the kids.”

Things got off to a rough start at the meet and greet when McMinimee announced that he would take questions on a one-on-one basis only, prompting some in the crowd to ask how that bolstered transparency. He later sat down at a table and answered questions in front of everyone.

Parent Todd Friesen said while he still had a lot of questions about McMinimee, he appreciated his long and rigorous academic background, which includes stints as a teacher, principal, coach and administrator.

Kelly Johnson , who has two kids in Jefferson County schools, said for now she has to take McMinimee “at his word.” But she said he will have to make it clear to the community that he has the well-being of district’s 85,000 students foremost in his mind.

“It’s going to take someone who truly believes in these kids,” she said.

McMinimee told the audience that while he serves at the pleasure of the school board, he expects to have input in policy decisions rather than just rubber-stamping directives.

McMinimee will appear at another open house at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Lakewood’s Carmody Middle School, 2050 S. Kipling St.

John Aguilar

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  • comment avatar Eve May 18, 2014

    Don’t listen to what mcminimee says, but rather what he has actually done. Research Dougco schools and you will learn very quickly who the real mcminimee is.

  • comment avatar Colorado Cathy May 18, 2014

    Why are JeffCo teachers so opposed to Charters and school choice? Are they afraid that they will be held to a higher standard??

  • comment avatar DC May 18, 2014

    Look at Dougco… good teachers are fleeing that district as fast as they can. Is that good for the kids? LOL. Havinga bunch of inexperienced teachers and ones who couldn’t find a job anywhere else….that’s good for kids? Lower salaries, salaries based on bogus evaluations tied to tests that kids might or might not even care about… if that is what this guy is bringing to Jeffco then sit back and watch your property values drop along with the level of education.

  • comment avatar AG May 18, 2014

    What do you mean by “good teachers fleeing”? The Denver Post and a couple of National Publications have cited DougCo as one of the most-improved districts in the country. I don’t believe thema t face value, just as I don’t believe your unsupported “good teachers are fleeing” claim, but would appreciate if you would substantiate it.

  • comment avatar Tammie May 18, 2014

    Jeffco teachers aren’t, as a whole, “opposed to Charters and school choice.” Jeffco has led the way with school choice, creating Jeffco Open in 1974. We have had lots of school choice and school competition since Colorado became an open-enrollment state in the early 1990s. We have 15 charter schools and numerous choice schools within the District structure: Warren Tech, Brady Exploration, D’Evelyn, Manning, Dennison, Longview, etc. We have competitive programs within schools: Gifted/Talented, International Baccalaureate, Academy structure, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), etc. High standards and competition are NOT the problem. What we oppose is a mentality that public schools are automatically considered to be “failing” kids and the “only” solution is more Charter schools, some of which are pushed by business interests as opposed to student need. This dispute is about so much more. We DO want community input and priorities used in this democratic system to matter and be respected by our elected officials. We DO want to know that money given or loaned to schools (such as charter schools) come with “strings” attached in terms of performance and/or accountability (just like it is for other schools). We DO want a School Board that can collaborate and compromise, not only with the community, but among its own members.

  • comment avatar DBS May 18, 2014

    From what I’ve heard so far, I think it would be a straw man to suggest that the new superintendent is opposed to most of those thing you listed. He doesn’t NOT want communication and involvement by parents. He doesn’t NOT want accountability. He doesn’t NOT want compromise. He doesn’t “automatically consider schools to be failing kids”.

    You’re trying to prop up a bogeyman that doesn’t exist.

  • comment avatar Stephanie May 18, 2014

    Very strange to spend $40K of tax payer money to find a person they could have found with a single phone call. Doesn’t sound ‘kosher’ to me. Meanwhile, is he going to bring fresh ideas and perspective or is he going to bring Douglas County ideas and perspective. Pardon me, but if I wanted to live in Douglas County and deal with those citizens and their conservative policies, I would move there. I live in JeffCo for a reason. And I don’t want JeffCo to become DougCo II.

  • comment avatar Keirsten May 18, 2014

    We will find out what Jeffco really wants when there is a recall. You can defend this new school board all you want. The voters will decide for themselves if they want their Jeffco Schools to be just like Dougco schools. For the record, I was a big critic of Cindy Stevenson. I want reform, not turmoil in Jeffco Schools. To say that WNW is improving Jeffco Schools is in complete contrast to what is really happening on the ground. Many Republicans are also turning against this school board. Only the extreme of the extreme see the chaos in Jeffco Schools as a good thing.

  • comment avatar BJ May 18, 2014

    Let me give you a couple facts as well. As a former principal I have worked with many excellent teachers who worked miracles in the classroom with their kids. I would guess the large majority of them were members of their teacher’s union as is their right. Your child would have been lucky to have had any of them as a teacher. I can’t say I always agreed with every single workplace rule that was part of their contract but it never kept me from doing my job, which was to make sure good teachers were doing their job with kids. If I had a teacher who couldn’t cut it, I followed due process and removed them. In my experience, unions aren’t the big problem you seem to see them being.

  • comment avatar Terri May 18, 2014

    I was there at WRHS yesterday. I am a parent and community member. I asked him what he could tell us to alleviate the fears of the people in the room that Jeffco was going down the same path as Dougco. His answer was about the whole community owning the problem and communication, team work, etc. It did not alleviate my fears. Many times he said that the superintendent follows the direction of the Board. And as I read the Chalk Beat article that goes deep into his tenure in Dougco, it appears that he often is quoted saying that he had to implement what the Board wanted. That also did not alleviate my fears. Here is a bit of the Chalk Beat article,

    “Dougco contract talks fall short,” June 29, 2012: As the clock ran out on negotiations, union leaders became increasingly frustrated when McMinimee reiterated he was unable to agree to any compromise before clearing it with the Dougco board of education. Discussion on key issues — including whether the Federation could be the only union in the county, compensation, dues deduction, and union leaders as district employees — never evolved.

    “I am not in the position to say yes, we accept that and we move forward.” — Dan McMinimee.”

  • comment avatar SchoolGal May 18, 2014

    I drove up Wadsworth from 6th ave. yesterday and saw demonstrators at every major intersection, waving signs saying, among other things, ‘honk if you love kids’. It did appear to be grass-roots (none of the signs looked pre-printed)., But in my experience , ‘…for the kids…’ are codewords for ‘…more money, more perks, more job security for teachers,…’. It sounds like the new candidate for School Superintendent isn’t going to be a pushover for the teachers’ union and they realize it, so they’ve mobilized their supporters. Teachers’ pay is modest, compared to many other college-degree-required jobs. I get that. But I think what they miss is that a dwindling number of private-sector workers have the kind of job security and benefits (i.e. pension) that teachers have, often work a much greater number of hours, and haven’t seen a raise in the last several years. Could they be a little more honest about this and quit dragging out the old ‘for the kids’ smokescreen?

  • comment avatar LC May 18, 2014

    @Keirsten – A recall based based on what exactly? What have they done that warrants a recall? I admit that them finding only one acceptable candidate in a nationwide search that just happens to be from Dougco doesn’t pass the commonsense test, but is he truly unfit for the position? You tell me why he is an unfit candidate. Reading as much as I can find about this issue, it sounds like the two big complaints against this new board is that they would not extend the union contract through 2018, and will not provide employees with automatic salary increases based on seniority (step increases). I have read that a step increase program would leave 16% of teachers, and more than a third of other employees with no raise at all, while the more senior employees would get raises of 4 to 7 percent. How exactly does help the kids? How does their current proposal that gives everyone a 2.5% increase, and increases starting teacher pay harm the kids?

  • comment avatar Amy May 18, 2014

    It doesn’t matter who is superintendant as long as the Tea Party and the exclusionary charter schools run the district.

  • comment avatar Katherine May 18, 2014

    Kids are NOT a smokescreen! They are the sole purpose for teaching. If I work “to the contract” that I signed, I would be letting down my students and making myself look selfish, too. If I do what I feel is right by my students, then I show the public that I am willing to work for less than I am worth so why should they pay me. Catch-22! Hurt the kids or hurt myself (and look really selfish at the same time). No matter who is on the school board, the kids will keep coming through the front doors and I will keep teaching to the best of my ability. The Demonstration I participated in on Friday was to make people aware of actions by the Jeffco Board majority that do not serve ALL students. The education system is not perfect and change needs to be made, but let’s pay attention to the board decisions and make sure that ALL STUDENT needs are being considered.

  • comment avatar Katherine May 18, 2014

    Why does 3/5 of the board feel the need to spend a “discounted rate” of $7,000 per month of taxpayer money on a lawyer that only represents the board? What happens when the discount ends? Why is the district attorney that is currently employed by Jeffco not able to provide this service to the board as they have done in the past? And why does the board lawyer feel the need to redact his invoices so that the taxpayers who are paying him are not able to see what their money is doing when the district lawyers do not? Think of this whent the board touts their “transparency”. This is why teachers, students, parents and concerned citizens lined Wadsworth Blvd on Friday!

  • comment avatar LC May 19, 2014

    @Katherine – Please refer to this Denver Post editorial for the answer to your question. The first thing that you will see is that the district attorney resigned and the new board was not informed until after they took office. Also, the previous board and superintendent have long hired attorneys without public input. ( )

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