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Jeffco parents seek recall of school board majority

A group of Jefferson County parents took the first step Friday afternoon toward a recall of three members of the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education.

The parents, part of the organization Jeffco United for Action, said they filed their petitions for recall because they believe that board members Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk, wasted taxpayer dollars, violated open meeting and records laws, and lost respect of teachers and parents.

In their petition language, they cited last fall’s controversy over a proposal to review an advanced history class that led to thousands of high school students protesting along busy boulevards in the suburban Denver county.

“For over a year, the board majority members have made decisions behind closed doors and violated their own rules as well as state and federal laws,” said parent Wendy McCord, in a statement. “All of this secrecy and lack of transparency has resulted in over 700 educators and countless families leaving Jeffco Schools – this is unacceptable.”

The parents declined to comment further than the statement they issued.

Chalkbeat explains: Learn more about the controversies in Jefferson County here.

Witt and Williams first learned of the petition filing from a Chalkbeat reporter.

Witt, in an statement, said he stood by his voting record and said he would continue to work toward achieving the platform he was elected to carryout.

“I am proud of the work that we have done on the Jeffco Board, including bringing greater equality to education funding, giving teachers $21 million in raises, opening meetings to the public, bringing free full day kindergarten to every child eligible for free and reduced lunch, and giving the community and principals greater control in their schools, among other achievements,” he said. “I recognize that change is difficult, but our students deserve a great education.”

Williams declined to immediately comment until she could review the petition language. Newkirk did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

If Jeffco United for Action is successful in obtaining enough signatures to force a recall of Witt, Williams, and Newkirk, that would mean all five seats of the Jeffco school board would be in play this November.

The Jefferson County Clerk and Recorder has seven business days to approve the language of the petition the parent group filed Friday. Following that, Jeffco United for Action has 60 days to gather 15,000 signatures for each of the three seats they are seeking to recall.

Witt, Williams, and Newkirk were elected — by wide margins — in November 2013. But rumors of a recall have circled through Jefferson County almost since the day they took office.

The board majority’s critics credit them with driving out Jeffco’s well known and respected superintendent and hundreds of teachers. They believe the board is bent on implementing similar policies as the neighboring Douglas County School District, including dropping the teacher’s collective bargaining contract.

The board majority’s supporters have thanked them for equalizing charter school funding, establishing student based-budgeting, and refusing to issue Certificates of Participation to build new schools.