Jefferson County Board of Education's board majority — John Newkirk, Julie Williams and Ken Witt — voted to revamp the district’s current curriculum review practices Thursday, Oct. 2.
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“I’m delighted we were able to come up with a compromise,” Board President Ken Witt said. “The district brought forth the processes they had in place for district curriculum review, but was able to also bring in the feedback we’ve heard from the community.”
Williams had proposed a new curriculum review committee resolution on Sept. 18 to review the AP U.S. History (APUSH) course to emphasize positive aspects of American history and “should not encourage or condone” civil disobedience, social strife or disregard of the law.
Instead, the board voted to amend existing district policies, IJ and IJ-R, which reference the processes and structure for district’s current content and resource review committees.
The changes add students, parents and community members to the two review committees, and names the Chief Academic Officer as committee facilitator.
The two committees, which already include teachers and content specialists, will now report directly to the school board. The committee meetings are required to be open to the public.
Seen as a "compromise" between the board and the district, the changes were made to address student, board and community concerns, and moved away from Williams original language about not presenting “objectionable” material.
“I think it’s a great compromise,” Williams said. “My goal of having citizen input and taxpayer input into what they’re actually paying for — our children’s education — it’s great; it was a great compromise. All of my goals were achieved.”
It’s unclear if the reconfigured committees will review the AP U.S. History curriculum.
“I think there’s potential either way (with the committees). The problem with this board though is it lost a lot of respect in the community that they can actually act in an open and transparent manner,” said Michael Clark, a community member who voted for the majority last November. “People would rather trust Mr. McMinimee and even the district staff because of how much respect they lost in the board.”
The lack of compromise and collaboration among the board was mentioned by both minority members, Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper, who saw McMinimee’s proposal as a stepping stone to collaboration, but ultimately voted against it, noting it was received on Thursday morning, less than 12 hours prior to the meeting.
“Once again, we’re breaking board policy,” Dahlkemper said. “It’s simple, this is yet another example of when an issue has come to the board — what’s the rush?”
Since Sept. 18, the district has seen the absence of more than 128 teachers resulting in the closure of four district high schools, and a six-day streak of Jeffco students protests — the largest and longest protest in Jeffco history, according to district staff.
“I appreciate the fact that they were able to discuss and collaborate somewhat but overall I’m still very disappointed,” said Thomas Sizemore, a Lakewood High School junior who spoke during the meeting. “They used the advantage of a 3-2 vote to, once again, pass something I don’t believe should have passed.”
Prior to the decision, the board heard nearly three hours of public comment, where 30 individuals spoke in favor, and more than 80 spoke against the committee. Following the decision, several community members showed their discontent by asking for the board majority’s resignation.
“I’m very disappointed and kind of insulted,” said Ashlyn Maher, a senior at Chatfield Senior High School, and student leader. ”Even though they stated that they heard us they didn’t listen to us."
While many opposed the decision, several student leaders appreciated the compromise, but were disappointed in the vote and wished Williams would have withdrawn her original proposal.
“We think it’s definitely a possibility for everyone to collaborate on this decision,” Sizemore said. “We just really want something that works well for everyone involved, and that’s very hard to get thought out and received well.”
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