The Jeffco Public Schools’ board president Thursday night requested an executive session to be held Saturday to discuss a personnel matter regarding Superintendent Cindy Stevenson.
The request caught some board members and Jeffco administrators by surprise. Rumors of the board president Ken Witt’s intent — to remove Stevenson from her post either by firing her outright or possibly buying out her contract — have swirled throughout the day.
“We feel like it has everything to do with firing her,” said one Jeffco central administration employee, speaking on the condition of anonymity to protect her relationship with the board. “They keep saying ‘we’re not going to fire her,’ but they’re just mincing their words.”
Stevenson was tight lipped.
“There’s no reason for conflict,” she said, declining to comment further.
The Denver Post this morning reported the board’s lawyer, Brad Miller, denied the board planned to fire Stevenson, who in November said she’d retire at the end of the school year. It was announced this week that Stevenson will join the Colorado Association of School Executives as a consultant upon her retirement.
Neither Witt nor Miller immediately returned messages from Chalkbeat.
Witt was among a slate of three new board members elected in November. Together, Witt, Julie Williams and John Newkirk make a majority on the five member board. Since being sworn in, tension and suspicion have risen about the board majority’s agenda. The crowd at Thursday night’s meeting lined the walls, while several parents and observers sat on the floor in the back of the room.
The board will meet at 8 a.m. at Jeffco headquarters. However, the board might not be able to enter an executive session if neither member of the board’s minority agrees to go behind close doors.
Both told Chalkbeat this afternoon they’re not planning on going along with Witt’s request.
“We’ll have to wait and see,” said board member Lesley Dahlkemper. “I need more detail. I think we need to be transparent with our public.”
Dahlkemper was cautious not to speculate what Witt what might want to discuss in executive session. But she said even the possibility of a conversation in firing Stevenson, who has worked her entire career in Jeffco, “incredibly short sighted.”
Board member Jill Fellman praised Stevenson.
“She’s done an incredible job leading Jeffco to incredible heights,” she said. “I don’t know why [the majority] would want to buy out her contract.”
Jefferson County students have historically outperformed state averages on state standardized assessments. It is the state’s second largest school distric.
Stevenson’s tenure, however, has not been without controversy. Most recently, Jeffco parents raised concern over the district’s participation in piloting student data software inBloom. Stevenson was featured in a New York Times article examining the controversy. Jeffco, as well as the Colorado Department of Education, have ended their contract with inBloom.