Election 2015

Clean slate for Jeffco school board as voters favor recall

By Crystal Anderson
Posted 11/2/15

The Jefferson County School Board majority of Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk are out, recalled by an overwhelming majority of voters.

The results usher in an entirely new …

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Election 2015

Clean slate for Jeffco school board as voters favor recall

Jefferson County school board race pro recall supporters cheer as early results show their side winning on election night. The successful recall effort, and subsequent victory for all five of the pro recall candidates to the board marked a dramatic shift from the 2013 election.
Crystal Anderson
Posted

The Jefferson County School Board majority of Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk is out, recalled by an overwhelming majority of voters.

The results usher in an entirely new five-member board.

“I don’t have a word for it — it was breathtaking to see the results come in so fast,” said John Ford, president of the Jeffco teachers union, before hugging his family on election night with tears in his eyes.

Newkirk expressed his disappointment.

“I’m feeling good that I got two good years in,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be able to have another two years to finish the job that I was elected to do. But you do what you can.”

Slightly more than 45 percent of Jefferson County’s 399,918 registered voters turned out for the election. About 64 percent of those who cast ballots voted to recall the incumbents.

“Of course, I’m disappointed in the results, but I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in Jeffco the last couple of years,” said Board President Witt, who conceded soon after polling closed at 7 p.m. on Nov. 3. “Sometimes, it’s difficult to be the reformer even when the reforms are embraced.”

The recalled board majority was elected to office in November 2013 by approximately 39 percent of voters who cast ballots. Voter turnout then was 43.17 percent.

Over the past two years, the majority has championed charter school funding and tying teacher pay-for-performance with a controversial evaluation system. Critics, including the teachers’ union, have criticized a lack of transparency, the hiring of Superintendent Dan McMinimee and board attorney Brad A. Miller. Other contested issues revolved around the review of the district’s Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum, increased teacher turnover and a 10-month contract with the teachers’ union.

The recall effort, spearheaded by parents Tina Gurdikian and Wendy McCord, garnered more than twice the number of signatures needed in a matter of weeks. The group gathered more than 33,000 signatures from Jeffco voters.

McMinimee released a statement Tuesday night following election results.

“I look forward to working with them to collectively do our best to deliver an excellent education for our children,” he said about the new board. “Finally, we hope that our Jeffco community can heal its rifts and reunite to focus on ensuring that every Jeffco student is well-equipped and prepared to excel in his or her college life or career.”

Witt, Newkirk and Williams have said they stand by their record and see the work they’ve done as reasons why they should have remained in office.

On election night, Witt highlighted the pay-for-performance model, equalization of charter school funding and fiscal responsibility. “I believe these reforms are going to be long-lasting in Jefferson County and will make a difference in education for a long time to come,” he said.

Based on unofficial results, all five of the candidates supported by the recall campaign — known as the “clean slate” — were elected to office.

In District 1, Brad Rupert, who ran unopposed, will take over Williams’ seat. Susan Harmon grabbed 82.26 percent of the vote over Matthew Dhieux’s 17.74 percent to fill Newkirk’s seat in District 2. And in Witt’s District 5 seat, Ron Mitchell won 69.7 percent of the vote to Paula Noonan’s 19.78 percent and Regan Benson’s 10.48 percent. They will serve the remaining two years of the terms.

In the regular elections of District 3 and District 4, winners Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens, respectively, will serve four-year terms. Lasell took 57.7 percent of the vote to Kim Johnson’s 42.3 percent. And Stevens won 66.35 percent of the vote to Tori Merritts’ 33.65 percent.

“I’m feeling good, excited, hopeful and confident,” said Stevens. “The Jeffco community came together — I’ve seen it before, and it happened again.”

In his victory statement, Mitchell thanked voters for supporting teachers: “Tonight I want you to know that every single one of you have given teachers in this district hope. Thank you for all the work you have invested in Jefferson County’s education.”

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