School board hires McMinimee as superintendent

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Board majority picks Dougco administrator over objections of many community members

By Daniel Laverty

The Jeffco school board on May 27 hired Daniel McMinimee to be the district’s new superintendent, despite doubts voiced by community members who packed the meeting room.

McMinimee’s hiring came on a 3-2 vote, with board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk and Julie Williams voting yes, while Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper voted no.

Before being hired, McMinimee was the assistant superintendent of secondary education for Douglas County Schools. His Jeffco contract will be finalized at the June 5 Board of Education meeting.

McMinimee’s first day will be July 1.

Public comment

Nearly 300 community members packed the Jeffco Education Center in Golden on May 27, and 30 to 40 people were directed to the Marriott Hotel next door to listen to an audio feed after the meeting room reached capacity.

Eighty-seven people signed up for public comment, but only 22 spoke. The board had set aside 45 minutes for public comment. 

Dahlkemper and Fellman made motions to extend public comment but were voted down by Williams, Newkirk and Witt. The board majority reasoned that many of the same concerns — for and against McMinimee — would be brought up, and that 45 minutes would be sufficient.

“I’m amazed after a nationwide search … there were truly no other qualified candidates,” said Gail Martin, a Jeffco teacher-librarian. “We deserve to know how many candidates there were and why McMinimee was picked.”

The majority of speakers voiced their disapproval of McMinimee.

“I feel this district has been hijacked,” said Eugenia Abbott, a Jeffco resident. “We have been blindsided by a board majority … that will not listen to the people.”

Christopher Lawson showed up to voice support for the new superintendent.

“(McMinimee is) a champion for our teachers and students,” Lawson said. “He can bring many voices to the conversation. I’m excited. This is a big moment for (Jeffco).”

Carol Baum met McMinimee at one of the two community meetings held to introduce him.

“I was impressed with McMinimee,” Baum said. “He has tremendous experience in teaching and coaching. I feel he would be a great fit for Jeffco schools.”

One speaker said the proposed $280,000 annual salary was too high for someone who has yet to serve as superintendent of a school district.

“An underqualified male will be making 40 percent more than (former superintendent) Dr. (Cindy) Stevenson,” Jonna Levine said, referring to Stevenson’s annual salary of $205,000.

By Sunday afternoon, a petition posted at www.change.org had gathered more than 6,000 signatures asking the board to reconsider its decision to hire McMinimee. The petition also asks the board to examine other candidates presented by Ray and Associates, the search firm hired to find Jeffco’s new superintendent.

An unruly crowd

The crowd at the May 27 meeting, which was about 90 percent against the hiring of McMinimee, interrupted the meeting many times with shouts and boos. Witt had to use his gavel many times to hush the crowd. 

Two attendees were removed by district security for shouting, which was met with applause from the crowd. 

At one point the crowd started chanting, “Stand up for kids!” Witt again had to use his gavel to regain order. 

Contract discussion to come

At the June 5 meeting, the board will discuss the specifics of McMinimee’s contract. 

The board will discuss offering a three- to five-year contract, incentives, benefits and a severance package. Witt said he would discuss reducing the salary to $240,000 and setting up $40,000 in performance-based incentives for McMinimee.

The process

The board met May 9 and 10 with members of Ray and Associates to review applicants for the superintendent position. Witt said the board reviewed 63 applications.

Colorado law required the board to announce its list of finalists 14 days before hiring. The board selected McMinimee as its sole finalist May 10, also on a 3-2 split vote.

Because only one finalist was selected, the board was not required under state law to conduct any public interviews. When finalists are narrowed to three, interviews must be done in the open.

Stevenson, who spent 12 years as district superintendent, left the position at the end of February amid friction with the newly elected conservative majority on the school board. Stevenson now holds a director position with the Colorado Association of School Executives.

The next Jeffco Board of Education meeting is at 5:30 p.m. June 5 at the Jeffco Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Building 27, in Golden. 

For more information, visit www.jeffcopublicschools.org.

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