Keeping ‘advisory’ role

Dan McMinimee out as Jeffco superintendent, ending awkward period after board vote to search for replacement

PHOTO: Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post
JeffCo Public Schools Superintendent Dan McMinimee, at his office, in 2014 during his second week on the job.

Dan McMinimee has stepped down as superintendent of Jeffco Public Schools effective immediately, but will take an advisory role through the end of his contract, the district announced Thursday.

The announcement portrayed the move as a mutual decision of McMinimee and the school board, which voted nearly two months ago to launch a search for a new superintendent while allowing McMinimee to finish out his contract.

“The Board thanks Dan McMinimee for his service and commitment to Jeffco Public Schools and wishes him the best in his future endeavors,” board president Ron Mitchell said in the released statement.

Mitchell spoke to Chalkbeat later calling the change “an agreement that’s largely a role redefinition.”

Mitchell said that after the board’s vote to start a search for a new superintendent, the parties “felt pretty good,” but then, “I think that became somewhat uncomfortable for Dan.”

McMinimee said the new agreement came from “mutual conversations.”

“It became apparent there are distractions in terms of what my focus is moving forward,” McMinimee said. “With some of the pressures, I have trying to secure another position.”

But he said the change should be a benefit for him and for the 86,000-student district, the second largest in Colorado.

“Making sure the day-to-day operations are being taken care of is everyone’s priority,” McMinimee said. “It just felt like this was a great opportunity.”

McMinimee’s precise role in Jeffco until his contract ends June 30 is unclear. The release said McMinimee would serve in an “advisory capacity” and will “assist as needed in the transition.”

McMinimee said Thursday that he and Mitchell will work out the details of the “special projects” he will work on during the next few months.

Terry Elliott, Jeffco’s chief school effectiveness officer, will serve as interim superintendent.

But he won’t stick around past June, either. Earlier Thursday, the School District 27J in Brighton announced Elliott would be principal of the district’s new high school. The role starts July 1.

McMinimee was hired in the summer of 2014 by a split board. A year later, the three members who approved McMinimee’s hire were recalled.

The newer Jeffco school board voted in January to start the search for a new superintendent, and a firm just completed public meetings to get input about what qualities they should look for in candidates. The job is being advertised with a base salary of $300,000.

When the board voted to launch the search for a new superintendent, board members said they didn’t have specific problems or concerns with McMinimee’s performance but wanted to see if they might find a person who could be better for the job.

According to McMinimee’s contract, if he is released before his contract expires at the end of June, he is to receive a year’s worth of his base salary, which is $220,000. If McMinimee chose to break the contract to leave on his own, the district could charge him for damages.

The school board held a closed session Feb. 16 to seek legal advice about the superintendent’s contract, according to the district. No details of that meeting were made public.

It’s not immediately clear what agreement the board reached with McMinimee. The district’s announcement said the board will vote on a new agreement at their March 9 board meeting. The agreement is not to be released before it is signed and finalized, according to McMinimee and Mitchell.

Hello Again

Debora Scheffel chosen by acclamation to fill State Board of Ed vacancy

State Board of Education member Debora Scheffel at a campaign event in 2016. (Photo by Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat)

A Republican vacancy committee unanimously selected Debora Scheffel to fill the opening left by Pam Mazanec on the State Board of Education.

Mazanec, a staunch defender of parental rights and school choice who represented the 4th Congressional District, resigned at the end of January to focus on her other obligations. Scheffel previously represented the 6th Congressional District on the board but lost that seat in 2016 to Democrat Rebecca McClellan.

McClellan’s narrow victory gave control of the board to Democrats for the first time in 46 years. Scheffel, who serves as dean of education at Colorado Christian University, moved to Douglas County, and ran unsuccessfully for school board there in 2017.

Scheffel’s selection does not change the balance of power on the state board because she replaces another Republican. Scheffel faced no opposition at the vacancy committee meeting, which took place Saturday in Limon.

Scheffel has said she wants to continue Mazanec’s work on behalf of rural schools and in support of parent and student choice, as well as work to protect student data privacy, a cause she previously championed on the board.

The district takes in all of the eastern Plains, as well as the cities of Longmont, Greeley, and Castle Rock.

the search

As chancellor search continues, Weingarten dismisses Orlando schools chief as ‘Joel Klein type’

PHOTO: Dr. Barbara Jenkins 2013 Award Video/YouTube
Barbara Jenkins has been floated as a possible candidate for New York City Schools Chancellor.

After several months of searching for a new leader for the nation’s largest school system, Barbara Jenkins, the superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Florida, emerged this week as a contender for the job.

City Hall is still courting the Orlando schools chief, according to a source. But there are several big reasons why Jenkins might not be New York City’s next school’s chancellor — as well as some unusual behind-the-scenes discussion that could help draft Jenkins or other out-of-state superintendents.

One is that Jenkins has voiced concerns about taking the job, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the search. Some said she signaled weeks ago that she was not interested.

Another is that she may not have the union support that has proven valuable to Mayor Bill de Blasio. She definitely doesn’t have the support of Randi Weingarten, the influential leader of the American Federation of Teachers.

Weingarten told Chalkbeat this week that she was “surprised” to hear Jenkins’ name surface, and compared her to leaders of the so-called education reform movement who have had contentious relationships with teacher unions.

I think that Barbara Jenkins is much more in line with the Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee types than she is in line with the Carmen Fariña types,” Weingarten said, comparing the polarizing former schools chiefs of New York City and Washington, D.C. to the city’s current schools chancellor.

Fariña, who has held the top job since 2014 and announced she was stepping down in December, was brought in partly to undo Klein’s policies and has taken a friendly stance toward the city’s United Federation of Teachers. (UFT President Michael Mulgrew declined to talk about discussions he has had with City Hall about Fariña’s successor.)

A third potential issue: compensation. Jenkins made $310,000 in 2017, according to the Orlando Sentinel, while Fariña’s salary is roughly $235,000. A move could mean Jenkins, who is in her late 50s, would have to forfeit some of her future pension, after spending years in the same district, and contend with the high cost of living in New York City.

Those factors could be a problem for many potential candidates, says Kathryn Wylde, the president and CEO of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City, which serves as the business community’s lobbying group. That’s given rise to conversations about whether the chancellor’s compensation could be supplemented — perhaps by a third party, such as an individual who is interested in education. (The Partnership for New York City is not working to find additional funds, she said.)

“It’s understandable that it would be difficult to attract somebody to the city because of our high costs,” Wylde said. “Perhaps that’s something we ought to be trying to address.”

Still, Jenkins generally fits within the profile de Blasio has sketched out for the next schools chief. She has years of experience running a school system with over 200,000 students, and the district has earned praise under her leadership. If chosen, she would be the first black woman to lead New York City’s school system.

Jenkins and Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to comment.

Patrick Wall contributed reporting.