Discord in the District: One JeffCo Parent’s View

I’ve been asked to write about what’s going on in the JeffCo School District, and I’m not sure how to approach it. It has the power to divide friendships to the point of breaking, and that’s unfortunate. Jeffco Purple Logo with TaglineThat said, here are my thoughts on the matter.

What’s happening? Things are changing.

Change is often rejoiced, rejected, feared, or misunderstood. This situation is no different.

What issues are at the core of fighting?

  • The political structure of the Board of Education (BOE) has shifted to a more conservative, non-union candidate majority.
  • The contract for the Teachers Union (Jefferson County Education Association or JCEA) has not yet been renewed.

What possible changes are afoot?

  • The way curriculum is reviewed.
  • The way teachers are compensated.
  • The way our children are being assessed.
  • The way teachers are being evaluated.

There are a multitude of articles and posts about these possible changes and what they mean for our district.

It’s hard to sort out this information, because it’s not just about the “facts.” Pieces of information are pressed out with the rolling pin of “experience,” dipped in a sauce of “why” and then sprinkled with a powder of “See? We must be right.”

My experience with this has been rolled out with my own pin. I personally attended and participated in BOE meetings that were extremely intense. I was astonished at the backlash and baffled that we couldn’t discuss things in a rational manner. I’d come home to read recaps that were not what I had witnessed firsthand. Because of this, it is impossible for me to take that experience out of my judgement of this situation.

You may have been at that very same meetings and felt the power of being swept up in the moment with people who believe like you do. It’s empowering to be involved in something for which you’re passionate. You may have read different recaps and been just as baffled by that spin. Because of this, it’s impossible for you to take that experience out of your judgement of the situation.

People you love and trust see things a certain way, and that sways your views. It really does. That’s a true statement regardless of the facts.

My “why” and your “why” should be based on the research we’ve done and the evidence we’ve seen, but it’s all emotional. We’re kidding ourselves if we think otherwise. Anyone who says they can lay all the facts out and not be emotional has to leave the “why” out of the conversation. It is possible to do so, but putting even a breath of “why” into it makes the facts about the person reporting and not the truth.

In a politically charged situation like this, the “why” changes based on point of view, motivations, and the particular audience.

Which opinion is more valid? They both are, and that’s what makes this so confusing. The same post or article can make one person say, “This has to be stopped!” while the other is thinking, “Finally someone is doing something about this!”
My advice during this tumultuous time is to go to the BOE meetings in person or watch them on Ustream. Be mindful of soundbites from all sides. Try to see what is playing well in the media and sort out what is based on emotion and what isn’t. Research the topics involved; look at the facts, and then look at the different versions of “why.”

My hope is that at the end of all this, everyone will stop shouting and realize we all have the same goal: We want a strong educational experience and foundation for our children.’

JoAnn Rasmussen is a JeffCo Parent, Voter, and Taxpayer.

Editor’s comment: We welcome rational discussion about this issue,  if you have a non-emotional response to this post, we’d love to have you submit a counter article. Please try to keep emotions to a minimum and facts at the forefront.

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5 comments

I couldn’t agree more that I think everyone’s objective is to ensure our kids have a great educational experience and opportunities, it is unfortunate that this can’t always be done with civility and courtesy.

So well said, JoAnn. While almost everyone seems to agree on the goal of educating our kids well, we all look through lenses that affect how we select and perceive facts. Good advice to witness goings-on first hand and be aware of agendas in soundbites.

And also to listen and speak respectfully about the issues.

Through this election season, I hope we can ALL avoid name calling, and find a way to state our beliefs without belittling others for their beliefs. While I would not discount any evil plans on either side of the political fence at a national level, for the most part, the people you and I call friends have good intentions and goodness in their hearts, even if our methods for carrying out goodness seem to differ.

Very well said. I would only add that we need to start working together and put our political views aside.

I also think it’s instructive to see where all the anger is coming from. The anger, frustration, and frankly, bad behavior, is almost all coming from the union-backed side…those who no longer have a majority on the board. I can understand being frustrated at losing control, but that does not excuse vulgarity, threats, and bad behavior. If a person responds to a loss of power like this, that informs my way of thinking about the side that person represents.

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