It was a night for the changing of the guard at the Jeffco School Board, as an entirely new board was seated, and board attorney Brad A. Miller announced his resignation.
“Tonight we swear …
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“Tonight we swear in five new board members, who will work hard to exceed all of our expectations and most importantly continue to rebuild trust in this board,” outgoing board member Leslie Dahlkemper said during her farewell thoughts. “It’s a very tall order for a volunteer position and it impacts the lives of 86,000 children they need our support and our very best thinking, they’ve got big issues to tackle ahead.”
In a packed board room, members of the board of education — Ken Witt, Julie Williams, John Newkirk, Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper — relinquished their duties to the newly elected directors — Ron Mitchell, Susan Harmon, Brad Rupert, Ali Lasell and Amanda Stevens. The hand-over gives the state’s second largest school district of 154 schools to a clean slate of individuals who promise to work together, collaboratively to restore the district to its former glory.
“The campaign and election are behind us, and it’s time to begin the hard work of serving the needs of our district,” Mitchell said. “We can listen and consider diverse opinions in a respectful manner … Jeffco faces many challenges; we will listen and work collaboratively to all our stakeholders to move forward in a positive direction.”
Following this, each of the directors unanimously elected directors to different positions on the board, including president (Mitchell), first vice president (Lasell), second vice president (Harmon), secretary (Stevens) and treasurer (Rupert).
“The tone in this board room needs to change, and that starts with the six of us up here” Lasell said in her introductory comments, counting district superintendent Dan McMinimee. “It all comes down to trust; trust that we will make decisions that are in the best interest of all students, trust that we will be fiscally accountable with our taxpayer dollars.”
A study session filled with ceremonial tasks, the new board faced one issue, the resignation of Brad Miller, the board’s former attorney. On Nov. 16, Miller sent a resignation letter to the district, shortly after announcing his resignation from the Thompson School District which covers areas of Loveland, Berthoud and Fort Collins.
“Mr. Mitchell conveyed to me that the incoming board members have determined that they do not intend to retain board counsel, but instead will rely chiefly upon the district’s general counsel for their legal needs,” Miller said in his resignation letter, citing this as the sole reason for his leaving the district.
Miller was hired in December 2013 by the former board majority after the district’s Executive Director of Employee Relations Alan Taggart resigned. Miller was paid a monthly retainer of $7,500, to the annual tune of 90,000 a year.
Superintendent McMinimee recommended the board utilize the district’s Executive Director of Employee Relations, Craig Hess and Jim Branum of Caplan and Earnest (the district’s contracted counsel) as well as consider rejoining the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB), and taking advantage of their legal resources.
The board said it will rely on the counsel of Branum and Hess. Members of the board also requested that a scope of work be discussed in an executive session for their legal counsel, the possibility of having multiple attorneys, as well as access to unredacted invoices of Miller’s work.
The new board then discussed the coming months, highlighting teacher and staff compensation, facilities, and assessments.
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