Superintendent Dan McMinimee has served Jeffco schools well»
Jefferson County schools superintendent Dan McMinimee’s fate was probably sealed on that November day a year ago when the three board members who hired him were decisively ousted in a recall election. Now the concluding act in the drama is about to unfold, with a board vote scheduled next month on whether to launch a search for a new superintendent.
The January agenda item “essentially means they are not offering Dan a contract extension,” district spokeswoman Diana Wilson told Chalkbeat.
That’s the board’s prerogative, of course, but they at least should be straightforward about what the action means rather than try to sugarcoat it. Board president Ron Mitchell released a statement claiming, implausibly, “if the board decides to begin the search for a new superintendent, that action should not be viewed as a commentary on the board’s estimation of Dan’s abilities or his performance in the role of superintendent.”
That’s hard to take seriously. Of course the action should be viewed as a reflection of the board’s assessment of McMinimee’s performance. If board members were entirely satisfied, they would be foolish to launch a search.
Some on the board obviously believe they can find a more effective leader and advocate for their agenda.
For the record, we think McMinimee has performed admirably under incredibly trying circumstances since he was hired in 2014, with critics unfairly attacking his qualifications and luridly misrepresenting his salary during the recall campaign. Few observers would have been surprised had the new board moved to replace McMinimee almost immediately. Instead, it appears they will wait until his contract expires in 2017 to complete the district’s transition to new leadership.
Whether McMinimee stays or goes, the Jeffco superintendent will face the daunting task of bolstering lackluster public support for the district’s goals. Just last month, Jeffco voters rejected two ballot measures designed to upgrade facilities and keep teacher salaries competitive. Both a bond request and a mill-levy override were fairly close votes, but a loss is still a loss.
By contrast, across the state voters approved two-thirds of school bond requests and 60 percent of mill-levy tax hikes. And those successes included big districts like Denver, Cherry Creek and Boulder.
The next Jeffco superintendent will have many challenges, but he or she should be someone who can start the process of convincing a broader swath of voters that the backlog of district needs, which include replacing 250 aging portable classrooms, cannot be fully met with existing resources.
Although the rancor and namecalling that characterized Jeffco schools politics for two years quickly subsided after the recall, most voters apparently remain wary of entrusting the district with more of their hard-earned income. And their future support will have to be earned by a leader with an ability to unite the community — who appeals not only to teachers and education insiders, but to skeptical residents, too.
Jeffco schools superintendent Dan McMinimee appears to be on his way out, as the school board is planning to discuss a search for a new chief.