JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — The Jefferson County Schools Board of Education voted Tuesday night to make Daniel McMinimee the next superintendent.
It was not a unanimous decision and one that came with a lot of controversy. The board’s vote was 3-2 to hire the only candidate it presented for the job. The board then went on to debate the five-year contract at a salary of $280,000 per year. Members decided to take up the contract again at the next meeting, so the hiring won’t actually be final until the contract is approved.
But several thousand parents, teachers and community members had signed a petition hoping to convince them to change course.
Some people in the crowded meeting were escorted out after speaking out of turn. Some described the scene as “rowdy” at times as people in the audience disagreed with the board’s actions.
Last week the board agreed to listen to public comment before voting on their only finalist for the job. On Friday a sign-up sheet for public comment, which is limited to 45 minutes, filled up within a few hours.
There was a debate among board members to extend the comment period, but the motion to do that was voted down, 3-2.
For months, protests and packed meetings have become more and more common in Jeffco, after the conservative, three member majority on the board began asserting their power in a series of 3-2 decisions.
Though many in the vocal opposition consisted of people who oppose their conservative, reform agenda, and the recent announcement of just a single finalist for the superintendent job has drawn criticism from a larger group of people.
“We are quite concerned about a lot of things going on right now,” said Michael Clark, a Jeffco resident who voted for the conservative members of the board.
Clark says he voted for the new board members because he believed they would bring accountability and a watchful eye on spending. Now he is speaking out against the recent decisions they’ve made in regards to superintendent.
“It’s a wide spectrum of people that are disappointed with the current majority,” Clark said. “Several republican friends that I know are actually supremely disappointed because they’re not being fiscally responsible.”
Clark started an online petition on Monday calling for the board to rescind their finalist and name three new ones. He argues that they squandered a $40,000 national search by not selecting more than one finalist. He is also troubled by the fact that the entire board did not agree on that decision.
He is far from alone in his frustration. In a day the petition had generated 4,700 signatures.
Some of those shared their concern during Tuesday night’s meeting.
“We don’t know why they chose this person, we don’t know how this person stacked up against the other candidates, and with only one candidate this is all we have to go by,” said Ami Prichard of the Jeffco Education Association. She’s concerned about what some criticize as a lack of transparency.
The finalist for the job, Daniel McMinimee, is an assistant superintendent for Douglas County Schools. McMinimee also has two children that have gone through the Jeffco school system. During a recent interview with FOX31 he said he brings his own perspective to the job and isn’t interested in simply copying the reforms that Dougco has been known for.
“I think there’s people who have this picture of somebody just coming in and rubber stamping things,” McMinimee said. “I think I’ve made it pretty clear that that`s not what I`m all about.’
“I’d like to think that people will give the candidate a chance,” said Sheila Atwell, Executive Director of Jeffco Students First.
Atwell says she supports the conservative board and the decision to hire McMinimee, but she does have lingering questions about the draft of his contract made public last week. She says she’s concerned about McMinimee’s proposed $280,000 contract that would last five years.
“I would very much like to see a performance component be part of this pay because if we’re going to expect our teachers to be accountable,” Atwell said. “Then the superintendent ought to be.”
McMinimee has already faced many harsh questions from residents who are upset about the hiring process and skeptical of his background in Dougco. Clark says it’s the board that should be facing the criticism instead.
“Actually I think he’s one of the ones the board has offended and harmed,” Clark said. “By not having other candidates for him to stack up against, he can’t really prove himself publicly that he is the best candidate for the position.”