COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., February 9, 2014 — The Superintendent of the Jefferson County School District, Dr. Cindy Stevenson, announced Saturday morning that she will be leaving her position before the end of the month. Union supporters took the opportunity to display their bad behavior.
The scene at the Jefferson County School Board meeting wasn’t as bad as when Wisconsin unions occupied the state capitol in Madison and caused over $2 million in damage, but school board members had to be escorted out by security and the meeting cut short.
Board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams were elected on a reform platform of transparency and accountability on November 5. The district had been plagued with issues surrounding its use of bond money under Stevenson. Also at issue this fall was the district’s relationship with InBloom, a technology company associated with the data-gathering requirements of Common Core.
Following the election, Stevenson announced that she would leave the district at the end of the school year. In the intervening months, she’s apparently been job hunting: she will occupy a newly-created position at the Colorado Association of School Executives, heading up a leadership Initiative.
The Thursday after the election, the new board voted to sever its relationship with inBloom; on the following Wednesday, the Colorado Commissioner of Education informed the State Board of Education that Colorado would be terminating its relationship with inBloom.
The board is making good on its campaign pledge. It set a new tone by moving their seats to the same level as the audience. There are new rules allowing more public comment and regular school board meetings are held around the district. Their focus is student achievement.
At the start of Saturday’s budget study session, Stevenson asked the board to be let out of her contract early and they obliged. The meeting grew contentious when supporters of Dr. Stevenson began shouting at the board. Security requested that the meeting be adjourned for the safety of all. Union leaders had sent out a memo to their membership requesting them to show up wearing black shirts and prepared to shout “No” and “Recall.” About 200 supporters answered the call.
“When an executive announces her retirement, announces she has a new job, and asks to be released from their contract, it is prudent to honor that request.” — Sheila Atwell, Executive Director Jeffco Students First
After Feb 21, Dr. Stevenson will be on administrative leave pending the final negotiations of her contract termination.
The situation in Jefferson County is just the latest in the education reform movement taking hold in Colorado. Also in last November’s election, reform candidates were re-elected to the Douglas County School Board. Reformers there first won a majority in 2009 and have been under attack by unions ever since. They decertified the teachers’ union when the union refused to negotiate, implemented a voucher program and pay for performance. Applications to teach in the district now far outpace openings.
Elsewhere in Colorado, smaller school districts are implementing reforms as well: charter schools, voucher programs, school choice, and pay for performance. Parents’ groups like Jeffco Students First are organizing to demand better education for their children by taking on the education establishment.