Two more Jefferson County (JeffCo) public high schools were shut down Monday due to an organized teacher “sickout,” in which large numbers of teachers called in sick late Sunday night, according to the Denver Post. In addition, students said they had also planned a district-wide protest this week, pushing the unrest in JeffCo into its third straight week.
Lynn Setzer, a district spokeswoman told the Post that about 81 percent of teachers at Golden High School had called in sick, and an unknown number had done the same at Jefferson High School. Classes were also cancelled on Wednesday, September 17, due to a large number of teacher absences.
“I stand with my fellow teachers who are ‘sick’ of the board majority’s actions,” said Tammie Peters, an English teacher at Golden and spokeswoman for the teachers. “While we need some reforms in Jefferson County, the board majority is not providing the reforms we need or want. The board majority continues to show disrespect to the voters, the taxpayers, the teachers, the parents and the students of Jefferson County.”
Rachel Hilbrecht, a senior at Golden High School, told the Post she has been protesting every school day since last Monday.
“Instead of seeing it as a day off school, we decided it would be better to come out here and voice our opinion to the public,” Hilbrecht said, adding that student leaders at high schools throughout the district are now planning their next moves.
“I think Facebook is our friend on this issue,” she said.
Junior Manuel Wilson of Jefferson High School said, “We want to make this national,” and sophomore Angelica Dole also at Jefferson said students are 100 percent behind their teachers.
“This is our own time. This was all students,” Dole said, denying teachers fueled the student protests. “No teachers are here, look around.”
Students and teachers claim to be protesting a proposal by JeffCo board of education member Julie Williams that called for a review of the new Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) framework, which was developed by the College Board under the direction of David Coleman, the “architect” of the Common Core standards.
However, Peters’ claim that the JeffCo board has shown “disrespect to the voters, the taxpayers, the teachers, the parents and the students” seems far-fetched, given that the board, in considering a proposal to review new curricula was following not only the Colorado Constitution, but also its own policies.
To stage teacher walkouts and student protests based on a normal function of a local board of education – to review curricula – appears less than credible to many in the community.
According to the Colorado Constitution, Article IX, Section 15, it is the duty of local boards of education to review and select curricula for that district:
The general assembly shall, by law, provide for organization of school districts of convenient size, in each of which shall be established a board of education, to consist of three or more directors to be elected by the qualified electors of the district. Said directors shall have control of instruction in the public schools of their respective districts.
VALUE SYSTEM AND EDUCATIONAL EMPHASIS TO REFLECT WILL OF PEOPLE. It is legitimate for the curriculum of the school district to reflect the value system and educational emphasis which are the collective will of those whose children are being educated and who are paying the costs. Cary v. Bd. of Educ., 598 F.2d 535 (10th Cir. 1979).
Additionally, JeffCo school district policies state specifically that all curricula adopted by the board are to be reviewed, and professional staff as well as parents are expected to participate in the review process. The APUSH framework for the new A.P. History exam is new material:
The district expects its faculty and administration to regularly evaluate all components of the instructional system and to recommend modifications and changes as well as additions and deletions.
Board adopted curriculum shall be reviewed by professional staff and identified parent/citizen advisory committees at least every five years and major changes in the curriculum shall be approved by the Board. Curriculum shall be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure alignment with Colorado Academic Standards (CAS).
All professional staff members are expected to contribute to the development and the successful implementation of the district’s instructional system.
In light of the fact that review of instructional curricula and materials are part of the JeffCo school board’s duties, numerous individuals believe that the real issue fueling the organized teacher walkouts and student protests is the board’s decision to move toward a merit-pay teacher system.
Peters seemed to acknowledge the same when she told the Post that JeffCo teachers feel they are being treated unfairly by the board.
Sheila Atwell, director of JeffCo Students First, however, wonders why, when “all but 66 teachers” received a raise when the board decided on a 4.2 percent raise for teachers rated “highly effective” and a 2.4 percent raise for those rated as “effective.”
“In addition, new teacher salaries will be increased to a minimum of $38,000 a year, meaning a raise of between 1.3 percent and 13 percent for many,” Atwell wrote. “All of this is in addition to the district picking up the retirement cost increases for all employees.”
“It has been said, ‘a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,'” Atwell continued in another blog last Tuesday, “and that quote pretty much sums up the controversy surrounding the Jeffco board seating a curriculum review committee whose first project would be to look at the new framework for AP US History.”
As Breitbart News previously reported, in an address at a National Education Association (NEA) convention in Denver in July, Colorado Education Association (CEA) president Kerrie Dallman referred to the JeffCo school district as one of three in her state in which the teachers’ union was “working against hostile school boards.”
Dallman also acknowledged the assistance of NEA to organize CEA’s efforts against “the crisis in our largest local, Jefferson County.”
“I also want to say thank you to the staff and leaders from the 18 states around the country who were sending in 48 staff under the NEA shared staffing agreement to help with the crisis in our largest local, Jefferson County,” Dallman continued. “These staff will join our leaders and staff to conduct member to member home visits later this month.”
“I’m very disappointed that some of our instructors have chose not to turn up for work today,” Ken Witt, JeffCo board president, told the Post. “It is not appropriate for adult matters to impact the education of our students.”