Category Archives: Politics

Racism and Jefferson County

Once again race is part of the national conversation this weekend based on comments President Trump made regarding NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem. For those of who are white the tendency can be to look away and try and rationalize that the issue can’t be as big as they are making it out to be. Or we can get angry that the players aren’t respecting the flag or our country.

I would recommend the harder option. For white folks like myself, the harder option is to listen and dig deep to find the elements of racism that are all around us. There is a racism that is inherent in the systems around us.

Here’s a video on how systemic racism shows itself:

We can explain away racism and say it isn’t in our community, but it is. We have to own up to our own biases around race. How do I react differently to a black man walking down my street than a white man doing the same thing? I grew up in Indiana in a very white elementary and junior high school. Then we moved to Littleton, Colorado and I attended a very white Arapahoe High School. Then my college experience at Taylor University in Indiana was once again very white. How do these experiences impact me and my views on race?

We live in a county that is 80% white (2010 Census) and our county does have a racist past. Jefferson County was the place of major KKK rallies in the 1920s. Jefferson County grew in the 1960s as Denver Public Schools started busing students and white families fled to our county.

How does the whiteness of Jefferson County and the racism of the past impact our county today?

Our local schools in Edgewater are 80% Latino. We have heard people in the neighborhood call our schools “brown schools.” Our students hear racist comments at sporting events at other schools in the county. Our daughter Anna heard racist comments made toward her Latina friends at a Young Life camp this summer. Edgewater is 45% Latino (2010 Census) but all our City leaders are white. All the Jeffco School Board members are white. How do people of color have a voice in white leadership structures?

We need to start a conversation around race in Jefferson County. How does race impact school choice and education in our county? How many of our teachers and school leaders are people of color? How does race impact what schools are renovated and which ones are not? How do we encourage local and county leaders who aren’t white?

The conversation starts with looking at ourselves and reflecting on our own racial beliefs and prejudices.

Racism is alive and well in the United States and Jefferson County. Let’s start talking about it.

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Jeffco Schools and the Search for Leadership

Children

I am a parent of two daughters in a Jefferson County elementary school. My wife is a paraprofessional at that school. I substitute teach in Jefferson County Schools on occasion. The nonprofit I lead trains and mobilizes reading tutors to work with K-3rd grade students who struggle in reading.

Though I am not a Jeffco graduate myself (Go Arapahoe Warriors!), I care deeply about Jeffco Schools and want to see all 85,000 children succeed in school and in life.

Since the election of three conservative Board of Education members in November and the early resignation of Superintendent Cindy Stevenson this weekend, things are starting to get interesting.

The divisive climate of politics has become local and it is very hard to stay in the middle. The camps are forming. Either you are supportive of the new board majority or you are not. You are with the unions or you are not.

The sad part is that many of us are in the middle. We don’t think charter schools are the magic antidote for education and we support our neighborhood schools.

But we also think that education is due for some reform. Any organization or company needs to remain on the cutting edge to innovate and keep ahead of a changing culture.

I also believe in education innovation when I look at our Edgewater schools. At our three Edgewater schools, over 90% of the children receive free or reduced lunch because of poverty in their families. Yet when you compare the test scores at these three schools with three schools in southwest Littleton where we used to live, you see a big achievement gap.

This is a moral wrong. Children growing up in poverty have every right to a great education. The achievement gap should not exist yet in reality it does.

We have some great teachers and school leaders here in Edgewater but we can do better. I believe that if we can rally our community around our schools and change the education paradigm, we could see the achievement gap bridged.

Continuing to do things the way we always have done it doesn’t cut it anywhere. My daughters’ friends deserve better. Don’t lower your expectations just because we are poor. Right now a Jefferson (our local high school) graduate is on the Colorado Supreme Court, another is a Congressman and yet another is the bodyguard for Peyton Manning. With a great education, imagine where the next Jefferson High graduate might end up.

So circling back to the events of the weekend, I am frustrated on many levels with what happened. What I am most frustrated with is that the focus is now away from the 85,000 kids in our district. Union members are spreading fear and rumors. The three board members are demonized and any change they bring up is automatically thrown out. And because this new majority is silent on their agenda, then people assume the worst.

Finding common ground is possible. I’ve seen it happen in Jeffco Schools in the last month. I am part of the Choice Enrollment Steering Committee and have seen people from different education philosophies work together for 85,000 kids in the district. We sit down and listen to each other without jumping to conclusions. We have built relationships and stay focused on the task that unites us.

To each of the current Jeffco Board of Education members, I implore you to lead and focus the district on the common good of 85,000 children. To the Board majority, build bridges and start to dialogue in public about your ideas for the district. Board President Ken Witt has already started to do this by appearing on KHOW on February 11 (listen here). To the unions in Jeffco, don’t fall to the level of spreading fear and speculation. To quote the wise Yoda, ““Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

What we need right now in Jefferson County Schools is a leader.

Someone to unite our community around the common good of 85,000 children with hopes and dreams.

At this point that leader needs to be one of you sitting on the Board of Education.

Ken Witt. Julie Williams. Lesley Dahlkemper. John Newkirk. Jill Fellman.

Which one of you will step up and lead?

Sharing My Love of Politics

I grew up reading presidential biographies and even at one point had pictures of every president adorning my bedroom. I’ve loved politics since childhood and my daughter Anna seems to be picking up the same love for presidents and politics. We can’t stand all the political commercials that are flooding our TV in the swing state of Colorado, but we still like studying the history of the presidents.

Today I took her to the Colorado State Capitol in Denver and we took a tour through the building. She loved the Colorado state history and especially the pictures and artwork of various US presidents. I always like it when my daughters seem to share my interests because it doesn’t happen too often.

Here are some of our pictures:

With a statue of her favorite president, Lincoln

Two of her other favorites, Obama and Washington

With a model of the State Capital

Standing on the Mile High step

View toward the Denver City and County building

Dishonesty, Politics and Its Effect on Children

At the dinner table last night our seven year old daughter Anna surprised us by saying, “I have to put on the belt of Truth when I am watching political ads on TV.” My daughter has already realized that she can’t trust the politicians and leaders of our country to tell the truth. This saddens me as a father and as a follower of Jesus.

My daughter watches the nightly news with me and is pretty informed about this election. She is observant enough to know that each side is blaming the other side for lies and half-truths. The reality of life is hitting her pretty early. Maybe it’s a pipe dream but I wish she could look up to her leaders as people she could trust and emulate. At this point, I would not want my daughter to grow up and emulate the dishonesty that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are both modeling.

The discouraging part for me as a follower of Jesus is that both these men say their religious faiths inform their political views. Mormonism and Christianity uphold honesty and integrity. Yet integrity and truthfully saying what they believe is not something they or their campaigns are known for. Their lies and half-truths have created new fact checking roles for the media. The massive SuperPACs and 501(c)(4) nonprofits on the right and the left are making the whole situation even worse.

Will this ever change? Should we just come to expect that all politicians stretch the truth and lie even those that say that they follow the teachings of Jesus?

As a parent this is very discouraging for me. Especially when we are trying to raise our daughters to value honesty and integrity. But I guess Anna is right, we have to train our children at a young age to test everything they hear and discern what is Truth and what is a lie.