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Some community members praise the recent superintendent search process as more transparent than the one conducted in 2014.
Others, however, say they have an “icky” feeling about it.
“Unlike our last superintendent search,” said Arvada resident Jonna Levine, co-founder of the nonprofit Support Jeffco Kids. “I was so pleased to see the value placed on stakeholder input, as I watched the current board work with Ray & Associates and emphasize that community/stakeholder input would be the priority in describing the position.”
Throughout February, the district held 13 stakeholder focus groups, five community and six staff forums and conducted an online superintendent profile survey. Feedback from these meetings helped the Board of Education define the characteristics wanted in a Jeffco superintendent, district officials said.
Questions about the process arose with the naming of only one finalist.
“It just feels icky and suspicious,” said Lakewood resident Lisa Papke. “Especially when that opposition made such a stink when the previous board had the same process.”
In 2014, the board majority named one finalist, Dan McMinimee, then an assistant superintendent in Douglas County, after Ray & Associates had conducted a similar nationwide search and winnowed the applicants to five candidates. Community outcry about the process and selection was vocal. Despite the nationwide search, teachers and parents felt the board’s choice was ideologically motivated and pre-determined.
But for South Jeffco parent Tina Gurdikian, this selection process was vastly different.
“The difference between producing Dan McMinimee as the sole finalist in 2014 and Dr. Glass as the sole finalist in 2017 is three-fold for me,” Gurdikian said. “Dr. Glass was selected unanimously by all five board members. Dr. Glass meets the criteria stakeholders put forth for what we were looking for in our next superintendent. And the board has been transparent about the candidate selection process throughout the duration.”
Gurdikian said that because the board took the time to explain to the community why multiple finalists weren’t made public, she was OK with only one finalist.
The board’s reasoning behind not making candidates public earlier in the process was to protect their current positions. The board has said the anonymity was to create a deeper candidate pool.
The day after Dr. Jason Glass was named the sole finalist for the Jeffco Public Schools superintendent job, he attended an administrators’ meeting at the district’s headquarters in Golden.
“He addressed the group ... there was some good dialogue and some questions from the audience,“ Board of Education President Ron Mitchell told his fellow board members during the May 4 meeting. “In 15 minutes he built trust with our administrators ... and in that same amount of time he created an atmosphere in that room that was really positive.”
That enthusiasm about Glass is contagious: Parents, educators and community members are all expecting big things with his selection.
“This is the first time in a long while that I’ve seen so much positive excitement in Jeffco,” said Jonna Levine, Arvada resident and co-founder of the nonprofit Support Jeffco Kids.
On May 1, the board named Glass, superintendent of Eagle County Schools, as the finalist in a national superintendent search that started in in January. If approved by the board on May 16, Glass will take the helm of thestate’s second-largest school district, with 86,000 students, on July 1.
After voting Jan. 12 to not renew Dan McMinimee’s contract, which was set to expire in July, the board hired Ray and Associates Inc., an Iowa-based company that specializes in educational executive leadership searches. The search drew 69 applications, which the firm winnowed down a list to 11 “top candidates” from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
From that, the board chose six individuals to interview. Those names were not released to the public, despite a request to do by Colorado Community Media under the Colorado Open Records Act. Mitchell said they included four sitting superintendents, one assistant superintendent and a former superintendent now in the private sector.
“Because Dr. Glass rose to the top of an excellent group of candidates under consideration, we chose to name one finalist,” Mitchell said in a media release. “The goal was to find the very best superintendent for Jeffco, and we believe we have accomplished exactly that.”
Before leading the 7,000-student Eagle County school district, Glass was Iowa’s director of education, serving as the state’s chief state school officer. He has also worked as Eagle County Schools’ director of research and assessment, as vice president of quality ratings with Qualistar Early Learning, held several posts with the Colorado Department of Education and worked as a university instructor and high school teacher in Kentucky.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and two master’s degrees from the University of Kentucky in education and political science. He has a doctorate in education from Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
“Dr. Glass has an impressive resume and I have high hopes that he will be a strong, collaborative and visionary leader for Jeffco, which is just what we need after several years of turmoil,” said John Ford, social studies teacher and president of the Jefferson County Education Association. “The fact that the decision was unanimous and the Board of Education listened to all stakeholders and shared details at every step of the process was refreshing. We look forward to meeting and working with Dr. Glass to continue providing the schools Jeffco students deserve.
Others in the community also have high hopes for Glass’ leadership.
“I’m really excited about moving forward in Jeffco,” said Katie Winner, Arvada resident and Jeffco parent. “I got here in the fall of 2013, so I’m desperate to see this school district continue its bright future and move on. I want to see a great dynamic between the board, superintendent and staff. I’m desperate to see this district run on all cylinders.”
McMinimee became superintendent of Jeffco Schools in July 2014, replacing longtime Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. He was named the sole finalist of that search, which was also conducted by Ray & Associates. He was approved by a 3-2 vote, with the support of Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk. Those three board members, all elected in 2013 on a conservative reform platform, were later the target of a successful recall campaign in 2015, during which McMinimee’s hiring became an issue.
Since then, the district has faced a teacher sick-out protest over low pay, student protests over proposed changes to the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum, contentiousness over teacher evaluation and pay systems, and the recall election.
“Our community — until November 2013 — was used to having Jeffco schools considered a leader in the state and on a national front,” Levine said. “We take great pride in our schools, and for many of us, we felt some of that had been lost over the past few years. Our new board has made some significant gains in turning things around, and I believe finding someone of Dr. Glass’ caliber will be a huge step in helping our community to come full circle.”
Glass said that if he is confirmed as Jeffco’s next superintendent, he hopes to expand the Jeffco 2020 vision,whichdefines the characteristics of a successful graduate. Its corresponding strategic plan sets priorities for the district to provide all students — from pre-K to 12th grade — the educational experiences necessary to achieve
“It’s exciting work as it has to do with transforming the experience for kids and changing from that factory call to skill-based learning,” Glass said. “That’s the direction that the board has pointed Jeffco and I’m excited about that direction. I think it’s the right one.”
Glass spoke about the concept of making education relevant to learners in a TED Talk in Vail held April 1.
“The big idea is that there is this tension between fact-based and experience-based education,” Glass explained in a phone interview. “A big shift needs to be toward learning experiences where kids learn by doing. It’s the kind of education I think the board is striving for in Jeffco. And that’s what got me excited.”
If contract negotiations are successful, Glass said his first priority will be taking time to understand the issues facing Jeffco and build relationships with the Jeffco community.
“I will have to take some time understanding the culture and context and not make any sweeping decisions off the bat,” Glass said. “Seeking to understand first is a major step.”
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