Ken Witt

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Ken Witt
Ken Witt.jpg
Board Member, Jeffco Board of Education, District 5
Incumbent
Term ends
2017
Years in position 1
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 5, 2013
First electedNovember 5, 2013
Next general2017
Term limitsN/A
Education
Bachelor'sUniversity of Colorado Denver
Personal
ProfessionInformation technology professional
Websites
Campaign website
Ken Witt campaign logo
Ken Witt currently represents District 5 on the Jeffco Board of Education in Colorado. He won election to the board against fellow challenger Gordon Van de Water on November 5, 2013.

Julie Williams, John Newkirk and Ken Witt are the governing majority on the Jeffco Board of Education. The board has withstood significant controversy and backlash following the implementation of a merit pay plan and a board proposal for a committee to review the content of the AP U.S. History curriculum.

See also: History censorship claims

Biography

Witt graduated from the University of Colorado – Denver with a degree in Mathematics. He is an information technology and business management professional. He and his wife, Deb, have four children.[1]

Elections

2013

See also: Jeffco Public Schools elections (2013)

Opposition

Witt defeated challenger Gordon Van de Water on November 5, 2013.

Results

Jeffco Public Schools, District 5 General Election, 4-year term, 2013
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngKen Witt 58.1% 78,943
     Nonpartisan Gordon Van de Water 41.9% 56,948
Total Votes 135,891
Source: Jefferson County Board of Elections, "2013 Coordinated Election," November 27, 2013

Funding

Witt reported $11,302.05 in contributions and $8,114.93 in expenditures to the Colorado Secretary of State, which left his campaign with $3,187.12 on hand.[2]

Endorsements

Witt was endorsed by the Jefferson County Republican Party, Denver radio host Mike Rosen and the Colorado Women’s Alliance.[3][4][5]

Campaign themes

2013

Witt listed his campaign priorities as the following on his website:

Educational Choice
Jeffco families have a variety of excellent public education choices. From great neighborhood schools to amazing charter and option schools, there are many choices for Jeffco families. However, many families have shared their frustration that their children were not able to get into the school of their choice. Jeffco is experiencing declining enrollment partially due to an aging population but also because many families are choosing to send their children to surrounding districts. The board must ensure that the programs that are experiencing wait lists are evaluated for the possibility of expanding programs, and must focus on replicating the best school successes in Jeffco.

Fiscal Responsibility
Jeffco voters have been generous in voting to provide an additional $39 million dollars a year to support the public education of all of our Jeffco students.The board must make certain that these resources are spent attracting and retaining the most highly effective teachers and that the resources are spent directly supporting the work in our classrooms. Looking for efficiencies and the ability to spread best practices should be embedded in the Jeffco culture of excellence. Having run profitable businesses I know the importance of listening to all stakeholders and valuing all thoughts on process improvement.

Academic Performance and Goals
It is the duty of the school board to set academic goals for the district, to engage the community, establish priorities and set policy that enables staff to meet the goals set. Jeffco school board members need to work with one another and the community to ensure that every child in every class has the best chance to achieve a year or more growth in each classroom. We must establish measurable goals in strategic milestone areas to empower every student to graduate and have the skills they need for a successful future.

Safe and Secure Learning Environment
With technology integration everywhere it is as important to ensure cyber and data security as it is to ensure safe physical and emotional environments. Our children’s data and that of their family, our staff and teachers should be protected with the same level of attentiveness as Jeffco has for other safety and security issues. I have led the information security efforts in Fortune 500 companies, including responsibility for the protection of data. I know that it takes careful planning, involvement of content experts, deep involvement of community and stakeholders and contingency plans that are tested as much as possible. Our students’ and staff’s data must be treated with the same respect and planning to ensure the risk of compromise is minimized and privacy is ensured.[6]

—Ken Witt campaign website, (2013), [7]

Issues

History censorship claims

Proposed curriculum review

Julie Williams, a member of the Jeffco Board of Education's curriculum committee, proposed the creation of a nine-member "Board Committee for Curriculum Review" in a special meeting of the board on September 18, 2014. Her proposal describes the purpose of the committee as the following:

The charge to the committee is to review curricular choices for conformity to JeffCo academic standards, accuracy and omissions, and to inform the board of any objectionable materials. The committee shall regularly review texts and curriculum according to priorities that it establishes, however, at any time, the Board may add items to the list for review. The committee shall report all comments (majority and minority) to the board in writing on a weekly basis as items are reviewed. Board members may move for discussion or action on items reported when matters warrant public discussion or action. The committee’s initial projects will be a review of the AP US History curriculum and elementary health curriculum.

Review criteria shall include the following: instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage. Content pertaining to political and social movements in history should present balanced and factual treatment of the positions.[6]

Julie Williams, (2014), [8]

Williams also suggested that each board member be allowed to nominate three candidates for the committee, and that the board as a whole then vote on which nine people to appoint. In that same meeting, board member John Newkirk submitted a revised draft of the proposal reducing the number of nominees to two candidates per member, removing the elementary health curriculum as an initial project and eliminating the second paragraph of the original proposal. This limited the committee's initial projects to only a review of the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum.[9]

The board tabled the initial proposals, which were later criticized as a plan to censor the history education received by students. In response to protests by students and teachers in the district, Board President Ken Witt criticized what he considers an effort "to use kids as pawns" and added that, "I'm disappointed in the actors in this — the union message coming down through the teachers to get kids to deliberately get out and protest something they don't have any facts about whatsoever." Jefferson County Education Association President John Ford insisted that it was "insulting" for Witt to claim that students were being misled by their teachers on this debate. Ford also added that the board committee would be redundant due to the existence of the resource review committee, which includes both residents and educators who are appointed by the district's chief academic officer.[10]

Williams, Newkirk and Witt ran together as a slate in the 2013 school board election.[11] Together, they form the governing majority of the five-member Jeffco Board of Education. In an interview with The Denver Post, fellow board member Lesley Dahlkemper labeled Williams' proposal "deeply troubling" and suggested that, "It's unclear to me what problem this resolution is attempting to solve — other than pushing through a political agenda."[10]

The AP U.S. History curriculum was revised for the 2014-2015 school year by the College Board, which develops and administers the exam. The College Board issued a statement criticizing the Jeffco Board of Education for its "blatant disregard for the facts" and insisted that, "the most vocal critics have prioritized their own agenda above the best interests of teachers, students and their families."[12] In a separate statement following the outbreak of student and teacher protests against the proposed curriculum review committee, the College Board said in support, "These students recognize that the social order can — and sometimes must — be disrupted in the pursuit of liberty and justice."[13] Stanley Kurtz, a writer with the National Review Online, published an opinion piece denouncing the new AP U.S. History curriculum as "a radically revisionist approach to American history" and claiming that the curriculum makes American history about "our capacity for self-delusion, our endless attempts to justify raw power grabs with pretty fairy-tales about democracy."[14]

In a meeting on October 2, 2014, the board voted 3-2 to revise the district's procedures for handling curriculum reviews using a compromise proposal developed by Superintendent Dan McMinimee. Williams, Newkirk and Witt voted in favor of the proposal and both Dahlkemper and Fellman voted against it. The approved proposal did not specifically refer to the AP U.S. History course or order a review of its curriculum.[15] According to The Denver Post, the plan "would reorganize existing curriculum review groups in the district to involve more student, teacher and community voices." Reporter John Aguilar noted that Dahlkemper and Fellman did not seem opposed to McMinimee's compromise itself, but that they still voted against it on the basis that they did not have sufficient time to review the proposal.[16]

Superintendent Dan McMinimee

Superintendent Dan McMinimee, who was appointed by the board in 2014, has argued that the board would be best served by using existing mechanisms to review the curriculum instead of creating the proposed committee.[17] Prior to his appointment, McMinimee served as an assistant superintendent with the Douglas County School District (DCSD) in Colorado. The board voted 3-2 in favor of his appointment, with Williams, Newkirk and Witt in favor and Dahlkemper and Fellman opposed.[18]

McMinimee's background with the DCSD, whose conservative school board implemented school choice and eliminated collective bargaining, proved controversial when he was hired.[19][20] Jeffco StudentsFirst President Sheila Atwell, who supports the conservative governing majority on the Jeffco Board of Education, acknowledged that McMinimee's affiliation with DCSD would make it more difficult to get support for his appointment from the entirety of the board.[21]

At the time of his appointment, some community members voiced concerns that the new superintendent would bring reforms in the vein of DCSD to Jeffco Public Schools.[22] John Newkirk defended McMinimee from these claims and insisted that, "The fact he was at Douglas County for years and then for years after this new board (was elected in Douglas County) demonstrates he can work with a wide variety of constituents."[23]

Student and teacher protests, merit pay implementation

Prior to Julie Williams' curriculum committee review proposal, district teachers were considering staging a "sickout" in protest of the district's teacher evaluation and merit pay systems. Negotiations between the school board and the Jefferson County Education Association over teacher salaries grew contentious earlier in 2014 after the board disregarded a review of the plan by a third party. The review criticized the teacher evaluation system and recommended that the district still give raises to teachers who are rated "partially effective," which the board did not do.[23] The implemented plan grants a 4.2 percent raise to teachers who are rated "most effective" and a 2.4 percent raise to teachers who are rated "effective." Only two percent of district teachers did not receive a raise under this system.[24]

On September 19, 2014, district teachers held a sickout that forced the closure of two high schools. A "sickout" is a form of protest that involves teachers calling in sick the night before a school day in order to make it more difficult for administrators to find substitute instructors. On September 22, 2014, Evergreen High School students protested Williams' proposal by staging a walkout from their classes.[25] The next day, hundreds of district students from at least five different high schools staged similar walkouts.[26][27] Jack Shefrin, one of the students involved in organizing the protest, insisted that the protests were entirely the work of students. An article by The Denver Post noted that several students attending the protests had been told by their teachers that they would not be punished for leaving their classes.[28]

A second teacher sickout that occurred on September 29, 2014, also resulted in the closure of two schools, Golden High School and Jefferson High School. In response, Superintendent Dan McMinimee announced that he was considering disciplinary action for the teachers involved. McMinimee indicated that teachers were violating district policy and their collective bargaining agreement by not giving sufficient notice for their personal days. Although the exact form the discipline would take was not certain, he suggested that the teachers involved may lose a day's worth of pay.[29]

Michelle Malkin, a conservative columnist with the National Review Online, published an article on September 26, 2014, claiming that union officials angry about the implementation of pay-for-performance were using the censorship controversy as a way to raise a student and community backlash against the school board. Malkin labeled the censorship issue a "red herring" that union officials have grasped for the purpose of "misleading kids, spreading falsehoods in the classroom, and instigating walkouts."[24]

Resignation of Superintendent Cindy Stevenson

Superintendent Cindy Stevenson announced plans to resign from the district shortly after the 2013 school board election. Stevenson left the district to work with the Colorado Association of School Executives after spending 12 years as superintendent. During a board meeting on February 8, 2013, the outgoing superintendent noted that the current board wanted changes in district leadership and she felt a lack of respect from the new board members, who were John Newkirk, Julie Williams and Ken Witt.[30]

Stevenson's speech drew cheers from supporters in the audience and boos for board members. Williams countered that Stevenson had not attempted to work with the board, citing her intention to leave the district shortly after the election. The board worked with district officials to handle day-to-day affairs through the remainder of the school year rather than appointing an interim superintendent. They later appointed Dan McMinimee as the new superintendent.[31]

What was at stake?

2013

Three seats on the board were at stake in this election in Districts 1, 2 and 5. All incumbents of those districts were ineligible to run for another term because of Amendment 17 to the Colorado Constitution, which states that no "elected official of any [...] school district [...] shall serve more than two consecutive terms in office." As a result, all board members voted in this election will be new.

Issues in the election

Stances on Amendment 66

Colorado voters cast ballots on Amendment 66, a constitutional amendment that increases income taxes to support public education. The following table lists the publicly stated position of each school board candidate on the amendment:

Stances on Amendment 66[32]
Candidate Stated position
Tonya Aultman-Bettridge Support
Jeff Lamontagne Support
John Newkirk Oppose
Gordon Van de Water Support
Julie Williams Oppose
Ken Witt Oppose

Amendment 66 was defeated at the ballot box on November 5, 2013.

About the district

See also: Jeffco Public Schools, Colorado
Jeffco Public Schools is located in Jefferson County, Colorado.
Jeffco Public Schools is based out of Golden, Colorado in Jefferson County. Jefferson County is home to 534,543 residents, according to the United States Census Bureau.[33]

Demographics

Jefferson County outperformed the rest of Colorado in terms of graduation rate, median household income and poverty rate in 2010. The average household income in Jefferson County was $67,827 compared to $57,685 for the state of Colorado. The poverty rate in Jefferson County was 8.5 percent compared to 12.5 percent for the entire state. The high school graduation rate in Jefferson County was 93.2 percent compared to 89.7 percent statewide.[33]

Racial Demographics, 2010[33]
Race Jefferson County (%) Colorado (%)
White 92.4 81.3
Black or African American 1.3 4
American Indian and Alaska Native 1.2 1.1
Asian 2.8 2.8
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander 0.1 0.1
Two or More Races 2.3 3.4
Hispanic or Latino 14.9 20.7

Party Affiliation, 2013[34]
Party Registered Voters  % of Total
Republican 109,453 33.7
Unaffiliated 110,176 33.9
Democratic 101,611 31.3
Libertarian 2,326 0.7
American Constitution 527 0.2
Green 722 0.2

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages, although rounding by the Census Bureau may make the total one or two tenths off from being exactly 100 percent.[35]

Recent news

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See also

External links

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References

  1. Ken Witt for Jeffco School Board, "About Ken Witt," accessed November 4, 2013
  2. Colorado TRACER, "Candidate Detail," accessed December 19, 2013
  3. Jeffco GOP, "Jeffco GOP Approved School Board Candidates," accessed November 3, 2013
  4. Facebook, "Mike Rosen," accessed November 3, 2013
  5. My Colorado View, "Colorado Women’s Alliance Announces their Endorsements in JeffCo School Board Elections," October 17, 2013
  6. 6.0 6.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. Ken Witt for Jeffco School Board, "Issues," accessed November 3, 2013
  8. Jeffco Public Schools, "Board Committee for Curriculum Review," accessed October 1, 2014
  9. Jeffco Public Schools, "Board Committee for Curriculum Review (Newkirk thoughts on Williams’ Draft)," accessed October 1, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 The Denver Post, "Jeffco school board curriculum committee idea latest divisive issue," September 25, 2014
  11. The Denver Post, "JeffCo school board: Conservatives land three open seats," November 6, 2013
  12. The Los Angeles Times, "Colorado students walk out to protest proposed curriculum changes," September 24, 2014
  13. The Denver Post, "College Board: We support the "actions," protests of Jeffco students," September 26, 2014
  14. National Review Online, "Why the College Board Demoted the Founders," September 9, 2014
  15. 9News, "Questions remain after Jeffco curriculum review vote," October 3, 2014
  16. The Denver Post, "Jeffco school board OKs compromise plan in curriculum review showdown," October 2, 2014
  17. Chalkbeat Colorado, "Jeffco superintendent vows “appropriate action” after second sickout closes two high schools," September 29, 2014
  18. Chalkbeat Colorado, "In split vote, Jeffco board hires new superintendent," May 27, 2014
  19. 9News, "Douglas County Schools votes for school choice voucher program," March 15, 2011
  20. The Denver Post, "Douglas County Teachers Union Sues District," February 15, 2013
  21. Chalkbeat Colorado, "The sense and sensibility of Jeffco superintendent finalist Dan McMinimee," May 15, 2014
  22. Chalkbeat Colorado, "Jeffco community says superintendent finalist proves their fears of “Dougco agenda”," May 10, 2014
  23. 23.0 23.1 The Denver Post, "Jefferson County Public Schools faces crisis over school board changes," September 28, 2014
  24. 24.0 24.1 National Review Online, "‘A’ Is for Agitation in Jefferson County, Colorado," September 26, 2014
  25. The Denver Post, "Evergreen students protest proposed history change," September 22, 2014
  26. The Denver Post, "Jeffco students protest proposed "censorship" of history curriculum," September 22, 2014
  27. The New York Times, "In Colorado, a Student Counterprotest to an Anti-Protest Curriculum," September 23, 2014
  28. The Denver Post, "Jeffco students walk out of 5 high schools in school board protest," September 23, 2014
  29. The Denver Post, "Jeffco schools superintendent threatens to discipline absent teachers," September 29, 2014
  30. 9News, "Jefferson County Schools Superintendent: 'I will be gone by the end of the month'," February 9, 2014
  31. The Denver Post, "Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson will leave post early," February 8, 2014
  32. Colorado Community Media, "Jeffco: Candidates' views differ on Amendment 66," accessed November 4, 2013
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 United States Census Bureau, "Quick Facts: Jefferson County," accessed October 28, 2013
  34. Colorado Secretary of State, "Voter Registration Numbers," accessed October 28, 2013
  35. United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014