Three Jefferson County school board members recalled

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. -- Voters in Jefferson County recalled three controversial school board members Tuesday night. It happened in an election that turned turned ugly and contentious, and drew national attention.

Much of it began a year ago when students began walking out of school. They were upset over a proposed change in the curriculum for the high school AP U.S. history class.

The three board members -- Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams -- wanted a more patriotic approach. Teachers held sickouts. Since then, the board members battled with parents over things such as charter schools and merit-based pay for teachers.

RELATED: Election results

A lot was made nationally of the attempt on both sides to gain a political edge in the swing county.

The recall effort also had its supporters, including the teachers union, but on Tuesday, parents and teachers maintained the election was about transparency and getting back to a board that worked together.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the election results tonight because it means a return to a culture of working together to improve teaching and learning for all kids,” said John Ford, a middle school teacher and president of Jefferson County Education Association. “Quite honestly, the old board lost their seats because they didn’t respect the community’s voice and rammed through an unpopular agenda.”

Ford also said the group celebrated the election of the “clean slate” candidates Ron Mitchell, Susan Harmon and Brad Rupert, as well as open seat candidates Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens.

Jeffco Public School Superintendent Dan McMinimee released a statement that said, in part, "I’d like to welcome our new board members to Jeffco Public Schools. I look forward to working with them to collectively do our best to deliver an excellent education for our children. Finally, we hope that our Jeffco community can heal its rifts and reunite to focus on ensuring that every Jeffco student is well-equipped and prepared to excel in his or her college life or career.”

McMinimee additionally spoke on "greater transparency and accountability."

Outgoing board president Ken Witt and he said he was still proud of what he and the majority accomplished in their two years.

"Change is difficult. I believe we will have a lasting impact on Jefferson County education and I'm more than happy to see others take the helm as long as they're driving to improve education," Witt said.

"I think a lot of what of what’s wrong with the board majority is not what they’ve done, it's how they’ve done it," parent Tina Gurdikian said. "The conversation that took place between the district and the union about merit pay, they want to be part of the conversation."

Opponents said the recall was driven by the teachers union. A lot of outside money was funneled into the race. Spending was expected to top more than $1 million.

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