My Letter to Dan McMinimee, Superintendent Jefferson County Public Schools

Dear Mr. McMinimee:

A lot has happened since we met at Jefferson Unitarian Church this past summer.  At that time, you asked that we not look back at Douglas County and that you be judged by what you do here in Jeffco.  I imagine it won’t surprise you that I am so disappointed, perhaps most especially by yesterday’s Super News sent to Jeffco Public Schools employees.

I agree with you that every student should have an effective teacher.  Of course that’s true.  Who could ever disagree? The fact-finder did not suggest that this should not be the case.  What the fact-finder said was “The totality of the evidence at the fact-finding hearing establishes that teachers in different schools are treated differently in their evaluations. To a significant extent the District’s evaluation process lacks the degree of inter-rater reliability necessary to make valid salary distinctions.”  In other words, the means by which the district is determining who should get a raise, who should not, and who should get an even greater raise is flawed.

Of course, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, and that is the truly disappointing thing.  You know that an independent third party said the means by which the district is determining who is effective is flawed, and yet you sent out a message to teachers everywhere stating that you are disregarding the fact-finder’s recommendations because “One of my fundamental beliefs…is that there should be an effective teacher in every classroom,” as if you had any reason to believe the evaluation system currently in place measured this accurately.  It comes across as disingenuous, Mr. McMinimee. Last summer I wanted so much to trust you; to believe that you would do what was in your power to rebuild trust in the district.  This is not accomplishing that goal.

Lest you think I am complaining about my personal compensation, please let me clarify that I was rated highly effective last year.  Modesty aside, I believe I have earned that distinction.  I got it, in part, because my principal had been my principal for 17 years.  He has been in my classroom 40 or 50 times.  As he checked off indicators, he used 17 years of knowledge to assist him.  While it seems fair to reward me monetarily, I have spoken to other teachers for whom a single indicator made the difference between “effective” and “highly effective.” They were not evaluated by administrators who knew them so well.  Because they were told that last year was a “hold harmless year,” that this subtle distinction would not make any difference to them, they did not fight to change their rating. Rather than waste precious time chasing down documentation to change ratings on indicators, they used their time planning great lessons, grading papers and providing much-needed feedback, and working one-on-one with kids. How is it fair that I, whose administrator drew upon over a decade of knowledge, get more than another outstanding teacher whose administrator rated her based upon a mere two observations of her classroom last year?

Again, let me clarify that I do not believe I am telling you anything of which you are currently unaware.  This is what I find so devastating.  To me, this looks less like trying to get the best teachers into every classroom than it does like trying to turn teachers against one another, perhaps in an effort to dilute their collective voices in the direction of Jefferson County Public Schools.  Teachers are the ones working with students every day.  No one in this district knows better than we what students and schools need.  We have disparate opinions on a number of things, but in those areas upon which we agree, it is not in students’ best interests to ignore us or try to pit us against one another.

It is the beginning of the school year, Mr. McMinimee.  It is not too late for you to be the healing influence you told me in July that you wished to be.  I suppose that might jeopardize your position as superintendent.  I have been told by more than one Douglas County teacher that by speaking out on behalf of students I am jeopardizing my job as a teacher.  I hope that you and I can agree upon this: The fate of the students in Jefferson County is bigger than either of us.  Let us do all we can together to make a difference of which we can be proud.

In fairness to you, I want to let you know that I will be posting a copy of this letter on my blog.  I would like to able to post your reply, as well; however if you ask me to keep your reply private, I will honor your request.

Sincerely,

Paula Reed

Columbine High School

About admin

Paula is an author of historical fiction as well as a wife, mom, and teacher.
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38 Responses to My Letter to Dan McMinimee, Superintendent Jefferson County Public Schools

  1. Mama Bear says:

    After my interaction with MM this summer it is clear he can only say the words his puppet master gives him.

  2. Kim Fulcomer says:

    What beautiful words. Thank you for lifting up all of the teachers in Jeffco, the ones that love thier jobs, and the kids. Hopefully the disctrict leadeship will do what is right.

  3. Martha says:

    Thank you one million times over. Such a beautiful letter from all of our hearts.

  4. Mark says:

    Here is my reply to the Denver Post editorial support the Koch 3’s decision.

    I grew up in Jeffco schools, and though I teach in a parochial school I fully support the teachers. What the 3 Koch majority board members, puppet master lawyer, superintendent, and misguided editorial board of this publication can’t see is the upcoming disaster that they are creating/supporting. Much like what is already happening in Dougco, the best teachers will leave, the top job seekers will avoid, and the children will pay the price. But, hey with the rapid turnover salary costs will drop leaving the budget looking oh, so pretty!

    The independent fact-finder put his/her decision in the clearest possible terms, “The totality of the evidence at the fact-finding hearing establishes that teachers in different schools are treated differently in their evaluations. To a significant extent the District’s evaluation process lacks the degree of inter-rater reliability necessary to make valid salary distinctions.” The Post editorial exaggerates to claim the fact-finder was looking for perfection.

    If the Jeffco board wants all schools to have nothing but highly effective and effective teachers end this thinly attempted destruction of the JCEA, and roll up their sleeves and investigate and promote those programs that brings out the best in all students.

  5. Claudia Roark says:

    Thank you, Paula! Beautifully stated!

  6. Terri Straut says:

    Beautifully written. I encourage you to send this letter to the Post. We need to make sure that the coverage is balanced. Jeffco is not Dougco. I am a parent, just a parent not a teacher, and I will fight this Board majority to the bitter end. We must save our Jeffco schools.

    • Mary says:

      You are not just a parent, you are a tax payer, you are a stakeholder in your child’s education and you are the voice that they will listen to. We greatly appreciate every parent that stands with Jeffco and you are one of those parents. Thank you. #standup4kids

  7. JMG says:

    I agree the public needs to see this excellent letter to the superintendent, thank you Paula for your insight and support of teachers and students in Jeffco.

  8. Miranda Hayes says:

    Thank you for your words, Paula. I know myself and many Jeffco community members and educators share your sentiments. I certainly plan on continuing to work together to make a difference for my students. Teachers, staff, and community working for students side by side -not against each other- is what makes Jeffco schools an amazing place to be from and now employed by. Educators like you are the heart and soul!

  9. Rhiannon Wenning says:

    Thank you Paula for your passion, your words, and wisdom. It’s an honor standing with you in our fight to #standup4kids!

  10. Brad says:

    I am a 22-year veteran of Jeffco Schools and am evidence of the changes to the evaluation system. Two years ago, I had a distinguished evaluation and last year I was only deemed effective. I had the same evaluator both years and he was in my classroom a total of four class periods. I don’t blame the principal, as the system requires that he thoroughly evaluate 17 teachers plus perform his other assigned tasks. I checked around and none of the seventeen teachers were deemed beyond effective.

    • Jean Shelton says:

      In my school we keep changing admin and I get to reeducate every one of them to try and get a fair and balanced eval.

      I also blame the system, not just the administrator. I have no proof, but I think they are being told to reduce costs by only giving a certain percentage of highly effectives, esp. to older teachers…the way strat comp was initially supposed to be. The old bell curve. I also believe that the board wants to attract a lot of beginners with the new salary so they can continue to replace their workforce with them. They will be too afraid or less informed to speak up/fight back as there wages continue to stagnate.

  11. admin says:

    Many thanks for all your kind comments, folks.

  12. CMT says:

    There are always two sides to every story. The Post was negligent in reporting just one side ;-(

  13. CMT says:

    There are always two sides to every story. The Denver Post was negligent in just reporting one side. Get input for the teachers next time!

  14. Raye Bassett says:

    Beautifully stated. I also sent Mr. McMinimee an e-mail saying basically the same things, no response yet. Thank you for your bravery.

  15. Shelly Seymour says:

    Thank you for speaking my exact sentiments Paula. I am so disappointed in how the tables have been turned on us. After listening to administration at my school saying repeatedly to not “worry” about our evaluations last year, the purpose was to provide growth producing feedback. I missed highly effective by 1 or 2 indicators as well and let it go. Even though the year before I was rated highly effective by a different administrator. Now more than likely I will be considered as “over market” paid. I feel so minimized as a professional. I don’t feel that the district values me an an experienced educator, my voice feels muffled. Thank God the parents and students show their appreciation to me daily…I’ll continue to work hard for them…

  16. LaRene Wolfe says:

    I’m a retired Jeffco teacher and now a volunteer in two schools. I visited one last Friday. Teachers are doing their best to focus on the children, teach them and nurture them so they learn. The BOE majority is not nurturing these fine teachers. Furthermore, valuable funds are being wasted by hiring a fact-finder and then not using that information. I am highly offended by the role-modeling which Mr. Witt is demonstrating by being disrespectful to teachers.

  17. Matthew landon says:

    Great words Paula…

  18. Brian Rivera says:

    I attended Jefferson County Public Schools from 1969 to 1982. At that time the school district was one of the highest rated in the nation. During that period of time I had a very thorough and well-balanced start. I continued on to a private college and was able to succeed there amongst my peers who had been fortunate enough to attend private preparatory schools.

    I rememember no permanent teacher in my entire experience in Jefferson County who was lacking in any way. Many of the teachers in the system then encouraged and guided me with great understanding, humility and respect. The experiences I had there were mostly very very good.

    Teachers should be credited with contributing far more than our society could ever repay. Teachers might never be paid as much as they are worth to society. The minimum teachers deserve is our respect and appreciation.

    I value and admire the teachers I had growing up. They were amazingly gifted and dedicated and they were able to be effective without interference from administrators and outside testing organizations.

    The problems our schools are facing today are complex and far ranging. The least significant of all of the problems I can imagine in our society and our schools today is the ability of teachers to teach. The supposed issue of teacher incompetence is a distraction from the far more serious issues affecting student performance today. Issues like poverty, increasing uncompensated demands on working parents, inability of parents to find work at their level of competence or even below that provides just compensation, privatization of schools, and so forth.

    If children are failing to learn, then the true sources of the problem need to be untangled and sorted for progress to be made. Focussing attention and responsibility on teachers is unfair scapegoating of dedicated, caring, underpaid and overburdened professionals who work harder and longer each day to improve our future than most of us ever will.

  19. L.N. says:

    As a Douglas County Schools employee, I am sorry to tell you all that you have seen just the tiniest tip of the iceberg. I do not hold Mr. McMinimee responsible for what has transpired in this district, but the fact that Jeffco School’s Board of Education has expressed a desire to emulate Douglas County should make you nervous – very, very nervous. I would predict than in about three years you won’t recognize your district as you know it today, at least those of you who won’t have fled to other districts or careers – by choice and otherwise.

    • alison huskie says:

      I am hoping L.N. that we will vote these people out in 3 years and can start to heal our district. I’ve worked in Jeffco for almost 30 years.

  20. alison huskie says:

    Hi Paula,
    You are an awesome writer! I wrote a letter to McMinimee also. I hope that my job is not in jeopardy for expressing myself in a constructive way. I believe we should be able to do that. I also know there have been posts of other teachers who have written letters. Let’s hope this is not true about our jobs being in jeopardy.

  21. Kc says:

    I attended jeffco schools and I am a dougco employee… My heart
    Goes out to the teachers and parents who are fighting a tough
    Battle! If you don’t think the same words and concerns
    Were not voiced in Douglas county… You are wrong.
    We are still fighting the fight and losing amazing
    Wonderful teachers! It is the students who
    Will suffer and people like Dan and the board don’t care! Keep fighting
    For your kids and the ones who educate them!

  22. Trudi says:

    I don’t really believe that very many teachers, including Paula, have an open mind regarding the new superindentent or the Jeffco school board, WHO WERE CHOSEN BY JEFFCO VOTERS (to the person who hatefully refers to them as the Koch 3 – what an idiotic thing to say!). From all accounts, the teachers and their union were against the new board and the new super from Day 1 and have been fighting them every step of the way since then. Based on the comments on Paula’s blog page, I would say that attitude continues. Every teacher believes they are good and effective at their job. You would never EVER hear a teacher say, “I’m not very good at teaching kids,” because they all believe they’re great at teaching kids. But obviously, given the number of kids who cannot read, write, or do arithmetic at grade level, that is not true. Some female teachers do not like boys and boys suffer in their classrooms. Some teachers do not like the parents of some of the kids, and those kids suffer in their classrooms. Some teachers just don’t want to take the time to follow through with ensuring kids are understanding the work, and those kids suffer in their classrooms. I have seen all these things occur during my time as a parent in Jeffco. Who should evaluate the teacher? I don’t know. More than one person probably. Input from parents should be considered as well. A panel of nine perhaps, including administrators, fellow teachers, parents, etc. with a different person observing in the classroom every month throughout the school year. Toss out the three highest and three lowest ratings and average the three middle ones. Just an idea for what it’s worth. But don’t go bashing someone just because he isn’t perfect. Newsflash–Jefferson County voters wanted something different than what we’ve had for the past dozen years. All three of my kids have gone through Jeffco schools, and their education has left a LOT to be desired. It’s time to respect the choice of the voters and cooperate and work with the board and the superintendent. That’s what the left is always telling conservatives to do. Deal with it.

    • Steph says:

      Paula, excellent letter and thank you for being courageous enough to write it. Trudi, I don’t even know where to begin with your post. It’s baffling really. I better just stick with not feeding the trolls.

      • Trudi says:

        Thanks for the open-mindedness, Steph. Makes me feel so great having someone like you teaching our kids. “Agree with me or I will call you names.” Mature, thoughtful, and educated response. Very impressive.

  23. admin says:

    The letter above lists very specific issues. It is not a general condemnation of the superintendent. It would appear we both agree that there are problems with teacher evaluation.

    I will add, both of my kids went through Jeffco. One has since graduated with excellent grades from C.U. and now works in higher ed; the other is currently doing very well at C.U. They got a great education.

    • Trudi says:

      I am very happy for you, Paula, that your kids turned out so wonderful. I would guess that they are both very bright and learn easily. The perfect students whom teachers love and adore. Alas, my son was not an easy learner and posed a more difficult challenge for the teachers. Every fall I would speak to his teacher, explain what his issues were, what had been done to address the issues, and what I hoped we could accomplish during the coming year. Every single teacher promised me that they would work with him, guide him, help him, and hold him accountable. Not a single teacher followed through. He should have been held back, and when I suggested that, they refused.

      I remember specifically when he was in sixth grade. At back to school night the three sixth-grade teachers told all the parents that their main goal that year was to make sure that our kids would be ready for middle school by the end of the school year. My kid struggled and tried to keep up. He didn’t. He was passed anyway. I knew he wasn’t ready for middle school, and I was worried. I will never forget on the last day of school asking his teacher, “Well, is he ready for middle school?” I was hoping for reassurance. His teacher LAUGHED! “Ha, ha, ha! No way! Not even close! He’s going to have some major culture shock! Ha, ha, ha!” And she walked away, still laughing, with me staring after her in open-mouth disbelief. Not only had she not kept the promise she made at the beginning of the year, she was LAUGHING about it!!

      Long story short, in spite of ILPs, private tutoring, one-on-one meetings with teachers BEGGING them for help, my kid was passed from one grade to the next, with everyone fully aware that he was not learning. He knew he didn’t belong where they put him. Everyone else knew the material, and he didn’t. His conclusion: “I am stupid. Why even try?” Tenth grade was his last. I am the mother of a high-school dropout. And you, with your perfect easy-learning kids, have no idea how heart breaking that is. All I wanted was ONE teacher to care enough to reach out and let my kid know he was important enough to teach in a way that he could learn. But no one cared about him enough to make sure he learned. He wasn’t a trouble maker. He didn’t talk back. In fact, by the time he quit he was so beaten down he barely said anything to anyone.

      We are still dealing with the consequences of his stellar Jefferson County education. I don’t expect you or any of these other teachers here to care a whit about any of this. After all, according to Steph, I am nothing more than a troll and I have no skin in this game. But it’s that attitude that I have had to deal with for years that makes me angry and bitter toward Jeffco. I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know that teachers often think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. I don’t mean to be offensive, but I do not think that the status quo under a union-backed and financed school board was good for the quality of education in Jeffco. I’m tired of hearing about teachers harassing and bad-mouthing the new board without even giving them a fair shot.

      • admin says:

        I’m sorry your son had such difficulties, Trudi. I simply wanted to point out that Jeffco had provided an excellent education for my kids, as I was under the impression you were saying it generally did not provide a quality education for anyone. I teach at-risk students. I cannot say anything about your family’s experience, as I was not a part of it. I know we have excellent programs for kids who struggle for a variety of reasons, but ultimately, one size doesn’t fit all. This is why I support option programs (and teach in an alternative program), as well as some charter schools.

        • Trudi says:

          Well, I wish I had met you years ago because no one ever suggested any alternatives to me. All i received were promises that weren’t kept. I look back now and blame myself for being foolish enough to believe those promises and for not making different choices. At the time I did not realize there were so many options available – not a single person in the system told me. I finally found some options that we tried, but by the time we did, it was too little, too late. The kid was beaten down by then and had basically given up trying.

          Whatever. it’s over. It’s done. It’s not your problem. And at this point I don’t expect anyone in the system to really care about the losers who drop out. I try to give my youngest son’s teachers the benefit of the doubt and support them, but with people like Steph and “Bill Cinton” in our schools, I am not too optimistic about them improving any time soon. I appreciate YOUR reasonableness, though.

          • admin says:

            Actually, Trudi, what you’re talking about is exactly the problem with what the board majority calls “choice.” In one of my other blog entries, I talk about how there isn’t really a choice for all families. I love teaching in an alternative program embedded in a neighborhood school. For what it’s worth, I’ve known kids who’ve dropped out and found their way eventually. I hope your son does.

  24. Bill Clinton says:

    Trudi,

    ” I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know that teachers often think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. I don’t mean to be offensive…” No, no offense taken Trudi…C’mon, we are supposed to take you seriously with a comment like that?

    I don’t believe your story about the teacher laughing in your face. And if that story is true than I would love to hear the other side about how you made her life hell that year. Either get some help or a prescription for your anger and please stop blaming teachers for your son’s academic failures.

    • Trudi says:

      Well, I must say you open-minded educators certainly don’t like to be challenged, do you? In one sentence you call me a liar and crazy, and yet you expect me to be supportive of teachers. You are a self-righteous and judgemental snob, sir, without an ounce of compassion or empathy. You have no idea what it is like, do you? And FYI, I did NOT make anyone’s life hell nor am I laying all the blame on Jeffco teachers. But they all, like you, offered NO help, suggestions, recourse, or support. Do you never second-guess yourself, sir? Are you so cocksure of yourself that you never feel you need room for improvement? Is there no student you have ever had that you wish you would have done something differently to help him or her? Or has your entire career been mistake free? Pat yourself on the back then and fill your ego with even more of your hot air. You probably would have been first in line to ridicule and humiliate my son and feel good doing it! You are part and parcel of why our schools are failing, you with your arrogance, smugness, and disdain for parents and students.

      • Bill Clinton says:

        1) I am not a teacher.

        2) Here is a suggestion. Seek some help for your anger.

        3) I have no disdain for parents or students. I am a parent with kids in the system.

  25. admin says:

    Okay, I’m going to step in here. This just isn’t helpful. Most parents like me and feel I have done a lot for their kids, but every now and then, one decides I’m a horrible person because I can’t fix their kid. More than once, I have dealt all year with a parent who constantly sabotaged their kid trying to protect him. I know that side of the coin. There have also been times that I have heard teachers say some pretty terrible things about and to kids I just think the world of–unconventional, “difficult” kids that find places in my heart anyway. I don’t know Trudi or her child, and I’m unwilling to make a judgment.

    Let’s get back on track. Whatever happened with Trudi’s son, this board majority isn’t going to help. Their ultimate agenda is privatization and profit for the people who funded their campaign. This is where the Koch brothers reference comes from Trudi. Those of us who have been watching this movement unfold across the country know this. There isn’t much profit in truly helping kids like Trudi’s. He would get a barely trained fresh college grad who doesn’t really want to be a teacher but needs a stepping stone from their college gig at Starbuck’s and their “real” career.

  26. Pingback: My Letter (2.0) to Dan McMinimee, Superintendent Jefferson County Public Schools | Paula Reed's Blog

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