2014

28 May 2014: Emphasis shifted from public good to ideology and profit

Emphasis shifted from public good to ideology and profit

I don’t have enough information to weigh in on the current debate before the Clear Creek School District about restructuring of the administrative process, but I’m happy the discussion among the teachers, administration, and the school board about it is ongoing.  It gives one hope the broad governance structure of board/admin/teachers is still an open, viable process here in Clear Creek.

I give all three parties, Superintendent Todd Lancaster, the Board of Education, and the teachers, due credit for that.  I value that especially in context of what has unfolded in Jeffco, our neighboring district.  I shudder to think what would happen if a putsch took place in Clear Creek as has happened in Jeffco with a bought-and-paid-for majority more interested in advancing narrow interest groups’ interests than in bettering public education taking control.

After longtime, nationally recognized superintendent Cindy Stevenson, facing the reality of a painful conclusion to her tenure, resigned in disgust over the shenanigans taking place in Jeffco, a “national” hunt for a new person to take the helm was announced.  The standard protocol is for a screening group of all stakeholders to winnow the field to nominate three or four to be given to the board for consideration.  I participated in such a process twice, once as a private citizen and the other time when I served on the BOE.

That didn’t happen in Jeffco.  The reality is the process was closed from the outset with Daniel McMinimee, an apparatchik of Douglas County Schools, becoming the sole nominee who “shall work on behalf of, and under the leadership and direction of, the Board.”  McMinimee will have his marching orders, to be sure, from a board that will allow for no deviation from its mission.

The Denver Post column summed up its story on it by stating, “Many in the community have said they wished that more than just a single finalist for the job had been named.”

I am surprised more by the eyebrow-raising about the recent farce of the superintendent hiring process orchestrated by chair Ken Witt, BOE members John Newkirk and Julie Williams and their attorney Brad A. Miller, now dubbed WNW + Miller by the folks at Jeffco School Board Watch, than the fact they pulled off a dubious process worthy of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

As Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Il Duce, ostensibly once stated, “You can elect anyone you want, as long as I do the nominating,” and with one nominee, there’s no doubt as to outcome.

In a different situation with similar hidden-process overtones, Gov. Hickenlooper has been trying to get the oil and gas consortiums and their business allies to unify on language for a bill that would allow for more local control of the drilling in their communities.  They’ll have none of it, however, despite the potential of several ballot proposals being on the November, perhaps even finding their way into our all-too-easy-to-amend state constitution.

Apparently, with millions of dollars available in dark money to swing—buy—the outcome, the G&O crowd isn’t too worried that any of them passing.

It is intriguing to watch political and philosophical conservatives, though, bounce all over the place, even squirm, trying to come to terms with their conflicting values.  In the Jeffco case, the conflict is about governmental transparency and accountability versus implementing a specific agenda, in this case the expansion of charter schools at the expense of the public schools, which are, unlike their charter-school counterparts, held to measureable standards.  So, conservatives are for openness and transparency when they’re not in power but not too keen on it when it might interfere with their efforts to create their version of public education.

With the fracking and drilling crowd, it has become painfully obvious profit trumps local control, or put another way, capitalism trumps democracy.  So, conservatives are for local control, such as in the Jeffco school district, unless it can potentially conflict with absolute property rights and cutting into profit margins.

Both demonstrate we continue losing sight of the commonweal, the concept from old English law about what is best for the public good.  From that ideal arose public roads, post offices, and public schools, now all under assault.  In this new era, emphasis has shifted from the public good to ideology and profit, which does not bode well for a sustainable and harmonious society.

In the end, it’s more than about who leads Jeffco or where and how deep-ground energy sources are tapped; our very democracy is at stake.

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