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One finalist named in Jeffco superintendent search

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By Daniel Laverty

The Jeffco school board announced Saturday that Daniel McMinimee is the lone finalist for Jeffco’s superintendent position.

McMinimee is the assistant superintendent of secondary education for Douglas County Schools. 

The board voted 3-2 in favor of making McMinimee its only finalist, with board members Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk voting yes. Board members Lesley Dahlkemper and Jill Fellman voted no. 

State law requires that the board release its list of finalists 14 days before officially hiring a superintendent. Witt said he anticipates the meeting to hire McMinimee to take place sometime after May 26.

If hired, McMinimee will replace Dr. Cindy Stevenson, who spent 12 years as district superintendent. Stevenson left the position at the end of February amid friction with the new conservative majority on the school board. Stevenson currently holds a director position with the Colorado Association of School Executives.

“I think the board recognized my relentless focus on academic achievement,” McMinimee said Monday. “I also think my background in teaching and ability to bring results appealed to them also.”

The current Dougco administrator said he understands the divide in the Jeffco education community.

“I’m ready to have those tough conversations with the community about how we can come together,” McMinimee said. “I’m eager to meet with teachers, parents and students and have dialogue. We need to have the rich conversation to find ways to work together.”

McMinimee has close ties to Jeffco. His son graduated from Columbine High School last year, and McMinimee’s daughter is set to graduate from Chatfield High this month.

“I already have an appreciation for the uniqueness that is Jefferson County,” McMinimie said. “To lead the largest school district in Colorado is quite the opportunity. I’ve been looking forward to an opportunity like this since I started this profession.”

The decision

Members from Ray and Associates, the search firm the board hired to assist in finding Jeffco’s new superintendent, presented a list of final candidates to the school board during an executive session May 5. The board narrowed that list last Friday and Saturday, also during executive session.

The school board exited its closed session Saturday afternoon to make the announcement. 

“It would’ve been my hope that we would’ve been very thoughtful (during this process),” Dahlkemper said before the vote. “We’ll see how it goes moving forward.”

The board approved McMinimee 3-2 as its finalist. 

“I think Mr. McMinimee will bring strong leadership to the district,” Witt said after the meeting. “He has a focus on academic achievement and on bringing out the best in our students. We are delighted with the selection.”

Witt said he didn’t have the final number of candidates who applied, but that the board reviewed 63 applications that Ray and Associates presented. 

The next step will be planning meetings to give district employees and the public a chance to meet the board’s finalist. At press time, those meetings had not been scheduled.

Reaction

“I’m sad it was a 3-2 vote,” said Ami Prichard, president of the Jeffco Education Association. “We had really hoped that this was going to be a 5-0 decision.  The fact that we are still divided is concerning.”

Prichard said she was concerned about McMinimee’s current ties to Douglas County, a district that has ended collective bargaining with its teachers union and has plans to start a voucher program. 

After being sworn in last November, Witt announced that he had no intention of “being Douglas County.” Witt said he ran for the Jeffco school board and that Jefferson County schools would be his priority and concern.

“This is not a decision about Dougco; this is a decision about Jeffco,” Witt said, referring to McMinimee’s current ties to Douglas County Schools. “Mr. McMinimee will follow the direction of this board … and the goals that this board has set.”

Prichard said she wants to remain positive and hopeful, but that she also has concerns.

“It’s another indication that Ken Witt’s assertion that we don’t want to be another Douglas County is maybe not being followed through with actions,” Prichard said. 

The search firm

 Stevenson announced her retirement last November, the school board hired the Iowa-based Ray and Associates search firm earlier this year to find qualified candidates. The firm has more than 35 years of experience finding superintendents.

Ray and Associates charged $44,580 for its search, which included conducting community meetings, recruiting, screening, interviewing and selecting a final pool of candidates.

The board had advertised the starting annual salary at $280,000, not including benefits. McMinimee’s salary details and start date won’t be known until after he is officially hired. 

Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042 or  Daniel@evergreenco.com. Follow Daniel on Twitter @LavertyReports.