Superintendent Cindy Stevenson resigned from Jeffco Schools Saturday amid expressions of dissatisfaction with the direction of the new school board.
Following the general election in November, Stevenson announced her retirement and had agreed to serve through June — allowing the district time to recruit a new superintendent — but with this morning's resignation, she will depart Feb. 21.
“I can't lead and manage, because I am not trusted or respected by this board of education,” Stevenson said at the start of the meeting. “Consequently, I did approach the board, and said this isn't working.”
Stevenson's decision came after three months of work with a board that contains three newly elected board members: John Newkirk, Julie Williams, and Ken Witt, who are credited with sharing conservative perspectives. Stevenson said the three do not respect her or allow her to make decisions or lead the district.
Throughout the meeting, which lasted less than 20 minutes, audience members shouted questions about the board's transparency, expressed adoration for Stevenson and eventually chanted to recall Witt, Williams and Newkirk.
Due to the crowd at district headquarters, the meeting was quickly relocated to the large meeting room before it began.
“It makes me sick to my stomach that we're losing such a quality leader in the middle of the school year, who already, graciously resigned her position in June,” said Karstin Sutton, an English teacher at Lakewood High School.
Following Stevenson's announcement, the board attempted to move on to its scheduled agenda regarding the district budget, but the audience wouldn't quiet down. Stevenson addressed the audience, and prior to switching topics, board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman expressed concerns about the workings of the new board.
“We just found out about this information this morning,” said Dahlkemper. “This is what becomes the headline, and it's not about the kids, it's not about our promises as a board or our student achievement, it's not about ensuring we have a strong, effective leader in place, it's about backroom discussions.”
Witt asked for a recess, and the three newly elected members appeared ready to walk out, but hesitated and, after conferring with legal counsel and security, Witt adjourned the meeting. He immediately left the building with Newkirk.
While they packed up, the crowd shouted “Recall, recall, recall,” and “We love you, Cindy.”
Williams attempted to console a tearful Stevenson prior to leaving.
Witt, Newkirk and Williams were not available for further comment.
“I think it's political, and he (Witt) wants control of the district, and she (Stevenson) pushes back on it,” Fellman said. “I am a big supporter of Dr. Stevenson. She's led our district to some great places, and we're leading the pack, and she led us there.”
Stevenson, who has had a long career in Jeffco Schools, including 12 years as superintendent, will continue through Feb. 21, which will be her final day with the district.
“Please remember, we have a tradition of excellence, and we need to sustain that over the next couple of weeks,” Stevenson said. “It's not going to be easy, but together we can do it.”