Dear Dr. Glass:
I have been in leadership positions myself a number of times and have always felt that it was vital to get community input as I crafted the way forward for whatever group I led. This is why I am so pleased to see you actively seeking input from stakeholders all over Jeffco as you assume the helm as the school district superintendent. Your thoughtful answers posted on social media show that you are actively listening and taking into careful consideration all that people have to say. This is such a heartening sign in a district that has felt so disheartened in the past.
You have consistently asked three questions, and I wanted to provide my own perspective. I grew up in Jefferson County, graduating from Pomona in 1980. I married a Jeffco grad and raised two Jeffco grads. I have been a teacher in Jeffco for 30 years at Columbine High School. I have been a member of JCEA since I came to Jeffco and was the Communication Action Team chair on the operational board for three years. I still consider myself an active union member.
Your first question is “what should we keep doing?” The district has been working to rebuild the shattered trust between educators and district leadership since the utter dissolution of trust brought on by an anti-teacher, anti-public school board elected in 2013 and subsequently recalled. One of the ways this trust is being rebuilt is through a true partnership between the school board and the union to make sure that Jeffco provides the Schools Our Students Deserve—a vision created by the union and other Jeffco stakeholders. It has taken the form of projects like the community school model at Jefferson High School. Teachers in our district want to be active participants in meaningful reform. Please continue to include us, especially through our association, in efforts to do right by our kids.
Your second is “what should we stop doing?” This is tough. I know you’ve seen a lot of “stop focusing on data” and “stop SBB.” Your responses have been thoughtful, showing how complicated these issues are, and I genuinely appreciate that. I am fortunate to work for a principal who really tries to look at multiple data sources, and I realize that SBB has helped many schools. I guess my biggest concern stemming from both of these is the competition aspect that arises. I know many people feel that competition among schools creates better quality, and maybe that’s true in some ways, but I see schools spending more and more time on marketing themselves—time that should be spent on educating children. I honestly don’t know how you stop this. I just don’t think it’s healthy or creates a better educational experience for kids, so maybe I’m not asking you to stop it as much as I’m asking you to be aware of it and perhaps be concerned about it.
Finally, you ask what we should start doing. I’m going to go back to my union experience here because data shows that districts with strong unions get better results for kids. Having served on the JCEA board, I know intimately what our union’s priorities are, and they are entirely wrapped up in what is best for kids. Because we work hand-in-hand with JESPA, I know their union has the same priorities. When we talk about compensation, we talk about attracting and retaining the best educators, but we also spend a lot of time figuring out how we can make sure our most vulnerable kids get books in their hands and food in their stomachs, and we invest time, talent, and treasure in these efforts. I would like a superintendent who vocally supports our unions and counters negative national rhetoric about teachers’ unions with communication to the community about the positive partnerships the district has with JCEA and JESPA. I would like to see the district make a truly concerted effort helping us recruit at new teacher induction. In general, I would like district leadership to really understand that our association can do so much to help them, but we need the strength that can come from leaders who vocally support JCEA and JESPA.
Once again, I thank you for asking these questions and taking time to consider the many and varied answers you have received. I have a blog, and it has been my practice to publicly post my letters to Jeffco’s superintendent, so I will be posting this at paula-reed.com/blog. If you find the time to reply to this letter, it would be great if you could reply there so my readers can see.
I am posting this exactly as I wrote it, but I should have said “anti-teacher, anti-public school board majority.” Leslie and Jill rocked during those hard years!