LAKEWOOD — Jefferson County mom Amanda Stevens first became suspicious of the county’s newly-elected board of education majority when she heard they planned to do away with a school readiness evaluation program.
“I wanted a tool to collaborate with my child’s teacher,” she said, standing at the corner of Wadsworth and Alameda with more than 100 other students, parents, and teachers.
The group, a microcosm of a much larger countywide rally, waved signs reading “stand up for all kids,” “honk if you support recall,” and “we love Jeffco.”
The aim of those gathered along the 30-mile stretch of Wadsworth Boulevard, a major traffic conduit in the Denver suburb, is to raise awareness for their concerns regarding Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk, who make up the new majority on the Jeffco school board.
Stevens has become a regular at school board meetings. She said she’s seen the board ignore the wishes of the public time and time again.
“First it was [the school readiness evaluation program], then it was full-day kindergarten, then it was more money for charter schools,” she said, continuing to list more controversial decisions.
Tension between the new board majority, which was elected by wide margins in November, and the public reached an all time high last month when thousands of students walked out of their classrooms in protest over a proposed curriculum review committee. Separately, teachers at four high schools staged sick-outs over a new compensation model.
Critics of the proposal, originally introduced by Williams, feared the committee would eventually lead to censoring an advanced U.S. history class.
On Thursday night, the board majority approved a sort of half-compromise on a 3-2 vote. Instead of creating a brand new committee, they amended current district policies that govern challenges to curriculum to include students and board-appointed community members to a panel to review materials. The committees will also now report directly to the board instead of the superintendent.
While that matter, which attracted international media, is mostly closed, it’s unlikely turmoil will ease.
The Wadsworth demonstration, organized by a loose network of parents, teachers, and the county’s educators union, was not in direct response to Thursday’s board meeting. Friday’s rally had previously been planned before the board took up the issue. A similar protest was organized last spring.
Supporters of the board majority have characterized the vocal community as a proxy for the teachers union. A new website, Jeffcotruth.org, launched this week with two videos critical of the union and student protests.
Asked when things might cool down in Jeffco, Stevens said, “your guess is as good as mine.”