Jeffco superintendent finalist “doesn’t have all the answers” at tough open house
posted by: Guest Blogger
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.”
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.