Earlier today, the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education named Dan McMinimee, a Douglas County school administrator, as the district’s sole finalist for the open superintendent position.
McMinimee, who currently serves as Dougco’s assistant superintendent for secondary education, is no stranger to Jeffco schools. He attended Jeffco schools until his family moved to Littleton (before he entered the seventh grade). His son graduated from Columbine High School and his daughter attends Chatfield Senior High School.
We briefly caught up with McMinimee via phone as he was on his way to celebrate Mother’s Day with his family. He said he wants the community of Jeffco to know he’s “a very positive person,” and that he considers leading the district an “opportunity of a lifetime.” Below are some highlights from our conversation with him.
On why he applied for the job
“It was a very easy decision for me,” McMinimee said. Becoming superintendent would allow him to grow professionally and give back personally, McMinimee said. “As a resident, former student, and proud parent of Jeffco students, I want to give back to this community. I want to make sure we have great schools for our kids.”
On a fractured community
The growing friction between the Jefferson County school board and its community has been making headlines for months. Most recently, hundreds of teachers, parents, and students rallied outside a school board meeting demanding, among other things, the board honor a commitment (made by a previous board) to restore teacher pay, raises, and bonuses. The board’s decision to appoint a superintendent with direct ties to Douglas County, which critics in Jeffco claim is as a model of excessive and unnecessary school reform, is likely to raise eyebrows.
But, “I welcome the hard questions and the opportunity to share who I am,” McMinimee said.
The district is currently arranging multiple public appearances for the finalist. And he’s sure to get an earful. But that’s OK, McMinimee said. He wants to hear the concerns of parents, teachers, and other community members.
“The 3-2 vote gives me the motivation to prove I’m the best candidate for the job.”
On how he plans to meet the board’s education objectives
McMinimee declined to discuss specific strategies he hopes to employee if he’s hired to lead the state’s second largest school district. He said he would need to be briefed by district staff and take an assessment of current programs before he made any changes. However, more broadly, he said meeting goals takes building collaborative teams of talented people and making sure effective resources are targeted.
On collective bargaining
You might remember McMinimee from two years ago when he served as Dougco’s lead negotiator during heated contract negotations with the district’s union. Those conversations led to the Dougco board declaring an end to negotiations, flirting with the idea of asking voters to sever ties with the union forever, and the district becoming the largest in Colorado not to have a collective bargaining agreement with its teachers. McMinimee said he found a lot of compromise with the union during negotiations, but it was the board’s ultimate decision to end negotiations.
“I respect the right of any board to make a decision around any contract,” McMinimee said. “That’s what they did, so.”
(According to previously published reports by Chalkbeat, the negotiations were more heated then McMinimee portrayed them during our recent interview. However, McMinimee is rarely mentioned by name in those reports. Most of the recorded criticism was directed to the Dougco board and not district staff.)
“I want to be very clear that I value teachers,” McMinimee said. “I can’t comment on the specifics of Jeffco, yet. But I look forward to working with community and building on its great traditions. I currently have great relationships with my teachers in [Douglas County]. And I’m going to do whatever I can to support teachers in Jeffco.”