New Report: Massive Teacher Exodus From Jeffco Schools

While they can.

While they can.

A disturbing story from 9NEWS’ Nelson Garcia last night about a parent group in Jefferson County tracking the departure of teachers and staff from Jeffco Public Schools–according to Jeffco Exodus and new data from the Colorado Department of Education, a mass departure of teachers from what was once one of the state’s highest-performing school districts is now underway:

As both the teachers union and school district expect the teacher turnover numbers to increase this summer, a website run by parents is chronicling the stories of why teachers are leaving.

“What we’d like to do with JeffCo Exodus is to give them a chance to voice their opinions to get their feelings out in the open so that they feel people are listening to them,” Tina Gurdikian, JeffCo Exodus co-founder, said…

She says many teachers say they are leaving because they don’t feel respected. Gurdikian blames the actions of Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams who were elected to the school board in 2013. She says the actions of this conservative board majority are driving teachers away from the district.

Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk

Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk

The last two years in Jeffco have been fraught with battles between the new conservative board majority and the community they were elected to serve. In addition to annual fights over teacher and staff contracts, Jeffco schools have been beset by controversies that have nothing to do with the much-maligned “teacher’s union”–the questionable hiring of Dan McMinimee from the far-right Douglas County school district, McMinimee’s hiring of controversial now-ex communications director Lisa Pinto, the literal global news coverage of Julie Williams’ politically-tainted “review” of AP History curriculum–and recently, highly troubling incidents of bullying by board members against underage Jeffco students.

But in all of those incidents, as embarrassing as they were to the board and district as a whole, one could at least make the argument that for most students, nothing had really changed. Jeffco kids still went to the same schools every morning, to learn the same subjects from the same teachers.

As of yesterday, you can’t say that anymore:

The Colorado Department of Education tracks turnover numbers and says in the 2014-2015 school year, 710 teachers left the district, which signifies an increase in the turnover rate of about 50 percent compared to the previous year. [Pols emphasis]

Superintendent Dan McMinimee says he expects the turnover numbers to top 800 for the 2015-2016 school year.

The story quotes a conservative Jefferson County parent in support of the board majority downplaying this tremendous spike in teacher turnover, but for parents who send their kids to Jeffco schools every day, these numbers are nothing short of disastrous. This throws staffing decisions for next year into chaos, potentially resulting in larger class sizes. For students, this means the loss of trusted mentors and advisors. For some, the loss of a favored teacher could mean the difference between staying in school and dropping out.

And there’s nothing the board majority can point to as a positive effect. Right-wing public education opponents will assert for boilerplate reasons that these teachers “deserve to go,” but there’s nothing we’ve seen to indicate the teachers leaving are poor performers. There’s just no positive way to spin an attrition rate that’s up 50% from the previous year, with another big spike anticipated this year.

Bottom line: you can make the case that nearly two years of controversy in Jefferson County under the new school board majority have been foreshadowing this moment. This massive departure of teachers from a school district previously held up as a high-performing model is immutable proof of the harm being done by the conservative board majority. Real harm, affecting real people on a large scale. It’s the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back, except more of a sledgehammer.

And if this isn’t enough to push Jeffco parents to take action, we don’t know what is.

14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Davie says:

    You can bet that the Right-wing board members and McMinimee look on this as a highly positive trend.  They laid their stinking cowpie out in the sun hoping to attract like minded flies to lay maggots to build their army of small-minded followers.

    Look for political litmus tests on the Jeffco job applications coming soon to a school near you.

    • BlueCat says:

      Do they imagine there are enough hard right fundamentalist teachers out there to replace the ones they're driving away? 

    • Big Time says:

      Yep – they do the same thing with guns …. they pass "guns everywhere and for everyone" legislation hoping the libruls will clear out … it's kind of a "soft" Ku Klux Klan, ie, Jim Crow Jr. Esquire. 

      Does anyone know if the JeffCo Board takes money or advice or support from the Conservative Citizens Council? That's the group founded in the South as a response to the Civil Rights movement that was originally the White Citizens Council and worked with the KKK to intimidate blacks and progressives/liberals to flee the state. 

      In 2015, that objective is accomplished by trashing school curriculums and passing "guns everywhere and for everyone" legislation.

      The white hoods may be gone, but the white supremacy isn't.

  2. JeffcoBlue says:

    Standing by to collect some recall signatures. Just do it!

  3. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    Pols wrote:   "Bottom line: you can make the case that all the years of controversy in Jefferson County under the new school board majority………"

    “This massive departure of teachers……..,.”

    What years ???  The three have been in office all of a year and a half. And JeffCo Exodus knows for sure the exact reason(s) for each teacher leaving? A little too much exaggeration here for my taste, regardless of how one might feel about their performance.

    I took the liberty of going back and checking the vote count. Witt and Williams won by a large landslide each. Newkirk was closer, but still almost 8 percentage points. I recall being singularly un-impressed by the three opponents. So, like it or not, my conclusion is that the "unholy threesome" won by a combination of lousy candidates who got out-organized big time. 

    The three won my vote in 2013. I'm less impressed now, but unless someone really pushes a recall, we'll have to wait to see what happens in fall, 2017. 

    • bullshit! says:

      You're not normally this obtuse.

    • RunningOnEmpty says:

      It's not like the teachers are making a secret of why most of them are leaving: larger raises and better working conditions in other districts. I'm guessing you now want to know how that relates to the board, so allow me to explain: it's because this board has repeatedly make it clear that they do not value teachers and will prioritize other items in the budget (mostly charter schools, but also paying the superintendent a lot more than his predecessor, spent a lot more on a completely ineffective but political partisan communications staff, and on other completely unnecessary items like a private firm to administer the community budget survey the results of which, as was expected, were ignored. One might have thought that because they style themselves as "fiscal conservatives," that they could have let the communications department write and administer the survey themselves at no further cost, but no, they had to waste more taxpayer dollars only to come up with the same results. There had been a MOU in place regarding the plan to restore steps and levels when there was money available in the budget, but the board majority chose to ignore it, not negotiate in good faith, and waste more budget dollars in mediation, only to introduce a brand new compensation plan after the year had already started. Maybe you like the compensation plan, but shouldn't even you wonder why it is that Witt couldn't have introduced it in say, March, so they could have spent those months debating that plan? Or is there some kind of new fiscal conservatism that requires wasting taxpayer dollars and then implementing ideas written on a cocktail napkin when the spirit moves you? 

      This year, the budget is tighter than hoped, but that didn't stop anyone from suggesting that every administrator get a large raise. Pinto–who was clearly one of the least effective employees ever to work for Jeffco Schools–was slated for a 4 percent raise. Apparently whining about how people are being mean on social media qualifies as "highly effective" — so high that she should receive a raise 4x that of our teachers??? Charter schools got more money too, and the legal budget was, of course, increased. Every single one of these decisions was suggested and supported by the board majority, and it's extremely clear that they don't value teachers and don't intend to anytime in the future. The teachers who are leaving see the writing on the wall, and know there's little point in waiting to see if perhaps "next year" will bring a decent raise–especially when the board majority has repeatedly said that they cannot guarantee compensation increases for more than a year because they never know what the next budget will bring. 

      A teacher that my older child had is leaving specifically because of the board. She was an amazing teacher and I'm extremely saddened that my younger child won't have the opportunity to have her. I can think of several others at our school who might be in the same position, and every one of them is an amazing teacher. The problem is that too many people–possibly yourself included–aren't involved with the schools and have no idea. And when those of us who are involved, who talk with these teachers and our students on a daily basis, start pointing out the problem, it's far easier to decide we're probably exaggerating than to listen.

      • Conserv. Head Banger says:

        I suppose that if one longs for the return of the Board, as it was under the prior majority, then a statement that this Board does not value teachers makes sense.

        My long held opinion of the prior Board; and the reason I voted for the threesome; is that the prior Board did not seem to value taxpayers other than as marks to be fleeced, P.T. Barnum style. As an example of that history, I remarked a while back, in another thread, about Devinney middle school. It needed a small addition. Instead, after the bond issue passed in 2004 ("do it for the kids"), the entire school was gutted and rebuilt. During and after the Great Recession, former superintendent Stevenson had meetings of parents, teachers, and other employees for advice on cuts and other fiscal matters. No taxpayer groups were invited that I'm aware of.

        I've already stated that I have not been impressed with the threesome and they will need to do a lot more to win the vote of this fiscal conservative in 2017. Another point: I'm also not a big fan of their charter school position as charters all too easily can lead to vouchers used to siphon off my tax dollars to fund sectarian religious schools, in violation of the Colorado Constitution. Thankfully, the DougCo voucher scheme got tossed out in court. Almost every study that I've seen reference to is that vouchers do not work.

        "Too many people……aren't involved and have no idea……It's far easier to decide we're probably exaggerating than to listen."  How about listening to those who don't have kids in the system, but still get taxed to pay the bills? That sort of listening didn’t seem to be a priority for Ms. Stevenson.

        Bottom line is that while I'm not happy with the performance of the current Board majority, I also don't want to see a return to the "bad old days" prior to November, 2013. There has to be a better way.    C.H.B.

  4. Bullwinkle says:

    I suppose that the teachers who submit their stories to Jeffco Exodus could be lying, but they have all pointed out that the BOE3 play a huge factor in their decision to leave the district. It is a shame that the BOE3 continue to point fingers and lay blame on JCEA's door – it is the BOE3 themselves, and the nationally-funded campaign that backs them, that is deprofessionalizing and demoralizing some of society's most important contributors. I just hope we can fix this problem before our children suffer the nasty consequences.

  5. Big Time says:

    Is the JeffCo School Board going to suggest "enhancing" the history of the Civil Rights movement again? Maybe promoting the Confederate flag as a symbol of heritage and honor and perhaps cutting the paragraphs about Brown v. Board of Education?

    Isn't it fairly obvious to everyone that the JeffCo board would like to turn Colorado in Mississippi?

    • BlueCat says:

      But maybe not Alabama where the Governor has already ordered the confederate battle flag gone. Alafrickingbama. It's no coincidence that those flags all went up during the civil rights and desegregation struggle to make a point. Since the major state's right they were defending was the right to hold humans as livestock for forced labor to be brutalized, separated from their children and killed with impunity, I don't see African Americans being expected to be OK with having one flying over their state capitol or as part of their state flag as being any different than expecting Jewish Americans to be OK entering the Colorado State Capitol under a Nazi swastika flag. I don't see the difference. "Enhance" my ass.

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