Jefferson County voters oust 3 members of school board
DENVER — Suburban Denver voters on Tuesday ousted three conservative school board members who changed the way teachers are paid and briefly considered reviewing a U.S. history curriculum to promote patriotism.
The high-profile political battle attracted a huge influx of cash from inside Jefferson County and from outside groups with an interest in what education reforms should look like.
By overwhelming margins, voters agreed to recall Ken Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk, who were elected into office in 2013 and made up the majority in the five-member board of the second-largest school district in the state. Voters also picked their replacements Tuesday, and two other school board members were also selected.
The new board is now comprised of officials who were against the old majority.
Those up for recall and the people who wanted them out of office each had the backing of heavy hitters who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars. Recall supporters included teacher unions, while Witt, Williams, and Newkirk were backed by the conservative powerhouse Americans For Prosperity.
All to compete for unpaid board positions.
The trio had cruised to victory two years ago and their arrival immediately drew the scorn of liberal groups and some parents in the district. They began implementing the reforms they campaigned on, including giving more money to charter schools and tying teacher pay increases to performance rather than seniority.
Witt, the board president, said he was disappointed by the result but not surprised.
“Sometimes it’s difficult being the tip of the spear enacting change,” he said.
The discord in the school district garnered national attention when the board majority considered reviewing new Advanced Placement U.S. history curriculum to emphasize patriotism.
Students protested the curriculum idea by walking out of school last year. The district claimed teachers staged sick-outs.
Ultimately, the board didn’t do anything with the class, an elective course that has been criticized by the Republican National Committee and the Texas State Board of Education.