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June 08, 2015 04:42 PM UTC

Jeffco Schools PR Staff: From Bad To Worse

  • by: Colorado Pols

crean1We wrote just over a week ago about the sudden departure from the Jefferson County Public Schools communications department of Lisa Pinto, the highly controversial GOP operative-turned district chief communications officer whose brief tenure was marked by disastrous press for the school district and conservative board majority, rapidly escalating tensions with district staff and teachers, and most recently several ugly incidents of alleged bullying of minor students by board members that also involved Pinto.

Since last week’s resignation announcement, there’s been total radio silence from the normally talkative Jeffco school board regarding Pinto and the state of relations between the conservative board majority and district employees, parents, and students. The exact reasons for Pinto’s sudden departure have not been revealed by the district, leaving observers to speculate. It hasn’t been revealed even whether a replacement for Pinto is being sought.

One of the major points of contention from Pinto’s time as chief communications officer was the hiring of outside paid public relations consultants from Republican comms shop Novitas Communications. And based on a memo on administrative staff hires from late last month, it appears that Novitas employees may be moving in to stay:


A. Specialist, Marketing and Communication Crean, Devan 05/18/2015


Devan Crean will lead the development and implementation of marketing strategy and execution for all Jeffco Public Schools increasing awareness of available school options. Education Information: 2012, M.P.A., University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming. 2013-present, Revealing Politics, Denver, Colorado.

crean2That’s right–Devan Crean, former employee of Republican-aligned advocacy group Revealing Politics and subsequently with Novitas Communications, is taking a full-time communications position with Jeffco Schools. Our readers will recall a scandal that erupted last February during the GOP state chairman race, after Crean came to the defense of a fellow Revealing Politics staffer with fellow Republicans by insisting that her organization “ONLY tracks politicians and policy makers who are left-leaning. We DO NOT track fellow Republicans.” This was a rather large problem for Crean’s employers since Revealing Politics is technically a nonpartisan organization–and soon after this incident, Crean’s name quietly vanished from Revealing Politics’ staff page.

A short time after that, Crean appeared in Novitas’ staff directory–just as that firm received a contract from Jefferson County Public Schools to run PR for the board majority. It’s therefore quite curious that Novitas, with its big contract to supply communications services to the district, is not listed in the memo above as Crean’s past employer. Maybe because this arrangement would have raised eyebrows?

Obviously, school district employees are allowed to have political opinions. But Crean is not just opinionated, she is a full-time conservative political operative much like Lisa Pinto was. Crean’s hiring by the district, given everything we can find about her, seems even more questionable than the hiring of Pinto, which ended in disgrace for everyone concerned–especially Superintendent Dan McMinimee, who by most accounts selected Pinto over a number of more qualified candidates for the job of chief communications officer.

Perhaps the only silver lining to be found here for longsuffering opponents of the Jeffco school board’s right wing majority is that Crean, like Pinto, is probably not going to be very good at her new job. That may in turn reflect poorly on higher-value targets like McMinimee and the board in the end, but not until after Crean draws her taxpayer-funded salary for at least a few months. Regardless, it is a curious decision for McMinimee to hire someone whose resume would indicate the same general problems that he had with Pinto.

Call it a lesson unlearned.


12 thoughts on “Jeffco Schools PR Staff: From Bad To Worse

  1. Who is calling the shots? McMinimee is doing the hiring, but I can't figure out why he would hire people that are best, marginally qualified. Is he simply doing what Witt has told him to do? I understand the agenda: get rid of the teachers union, promote charter schools. But aren't there communications professionals that can promote that message? Why the hacks?

    1. Crean is at least a better writer than Lisa Pinto, judging by her posts on Revealing Politics and The Education Reform Bulletin. Granted, that's a low bar. In Crean's Ed Reform Bulletin posts, she is an unabashed cheerleader for Douglas County school reform.

      She is very savvy with social media, better than Pinto was. Her Linkedin profile says that she has been the Jeffco Marketing and Communications Specialist for 2 months – was hired in May. Interesting…. Her math skills, as well as her grammar skills, might be open to question, as it is less than one month since May 18, her hire date.

      I think we need to raise a big stink with the board – ask them not to hire Crean, as she is way too partisan, pro-charter, and anti-union, for the position she would be filling. And her education credentials are lacking; although she is an alumni of  Independence Institute's Education Policy Center, her background is in business, right wing policies,  and public relations, not education.

      Dan McMinimee's email:

      Jeffco Board of Education email:

      Next regular board meeting is this coming Thursday, June 11 at 6:30 pm, with a special executive meeting at 5:30 pm.


  2. Clearly, McMinimee thinks the only problem was that last time, HE DIDN'T GO FAR ENOUGH.  

    So McMinimee is doubling down on the same thing, all over again, with someone pulled from the same right-wing training bubble, but more abrasive and political and extreme this time.  Because that's what the public needs, and it is going to get it (good and hard).



    1. She's not replacing Pinto, she's heading up the district's charter school promotion. Basically her job is to trash neighborhood schools and make charters look good.

      Your tax dollars at work!

      1. from what I have read of her stuff, this job description …

        her job is to trash neighborhood schools and make charters look good.

        does kind of match her resume…

        just sayin'…

  3. Looks like she is not being hired as Pinto’s replacement. Her job title is not communications director. Her job is to increase awareness of school options (read charters). Maybe what is happening is Pinto’s mistake in hiring a subcontractor (Nonitas) is being remedied by bringing Crean in house.

    1. I heard they may not hire a replacement for Pinto at all, just use Novitas.

      This hack is definitely a fit for the new front office under Mini Me though.

  4. Pols, you'll be glad to know that you have a dedicated reader in Ken Clark of Freedom560 talk radio. On his June 9 Hour 1 show, at around 24:58, Clark said that "The war being waged by the left against the Jeffco Communications Office is "the most vitriolic in history". (hyperbole much?)

    His claim is that "the left" is attacking the Jeffco Communications Office because the office was "invaluable" to the left as a resource in 2012. 

    In support, Clark cites a Colorado Peak Politics article which purports to show that, during the campaign for school funding Amendment 66, the teacher's unions used the Communications Office as a campaign office. This "breaking news story" is three years old; besides that, every school district: DPS, Jeffco, Cherry Creek, Pueblo, every school district in Colorado – tried to at least inform the public about what Amendment 66 would do. These communiques came from the district administrations, not the teacher's unions, much as teacher's unions are the preferred bugaboo of the right wing chattering class.

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