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A superintendent appeals for civility in advance of a potentially bruising school board race

Author: Dan Njegomir - September 8, 2017 - Updated: September 8, 2017

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From left to right, Julie Williams, Ken Witt and John Newkirk were ousted from the Jeffco school board in 2015. (ballotpedia.org)

It’s easy enough to lay blame for our caustic political climate on last year’s presidential race and its aftermath, and that no doubt is a big factor. Yet, well before the Trump-Clinton cage fight, Jefferson County voters already had grown weary of election-time acrimony in their own backyard. The perennial grudge match over control of their local school board, in the state’s second-largest school district, had gotten about as ugly as anything on the national political landscape.

The 2015 Jeffco school board election, in which a three-member majority ultimately was recalled by voters, was simply brutal. Vicious campaigns — especially those waged by third-party political groups for and against the two warring slates of candidates — drew in hundreds of thousands of dollars in special-interest money. All of which came on the heels of a similarly bruising 2013 board race in which the majority recalled in 2015 had come to power in the first place.

With the candidates in this November’s board race now confirmed, new Superintendent Jason Glass is hoping to head off another slugfest. Which is why he took the unusual step of making an appeal this week for something the district hasn’t seen in a while: civility. In a post on his blog, Advance Jeffco, calls on contenders, incumbents and their respective supporters to aspire to something better than what the district has witnessed in the recent past:

…over the past few years, Jeffco has become (arguably) the nation’s worst example of hyper-partisan politics in education.

But, we also have the opportunity to be the nation’s best example of a community which puts the education of its children above the political fray. And, that needs to start right here … and right now … with everybody.

The people serving (or running) for our Board of Education are worthy of our appreciation. Let us commit to treating all of them with respect, allowing them to be heard, and to keeping our own dignity through this election process.

He also offers this timely reminder:

…public employees don’t check their Constitutional rights at the door when it comes to elections, but there are some important restrictions on their behavior when they are at work. These restrictions are laid out in Colorado’s Fair Campaign Practices Act. For the convenience of Jeffco Public Schools employees, we’ve put together a memo on this for your review.

…And these words of inspiration:

Let’s all commit to having a fair, nonpartisan, Jeffco school board race in 2017. Let’s work on putting the drama behind us, and working to understand (and get along with) our neighbors. This will be a critical next step for us in building a genuinely great educational organization.

Will he be heard?

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is a blogger and opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.


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