Parents urge new board to keep STEM expansion

10:14 PM, Jan 16, 2014   |    comments
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EDITOR'S NOTE: District officials initially told 9NEWS that the measure was passed in May 2013, when in fact, it was a proposal that the superintendent decided to move forward with without a vote which is within the authority of the superintendent's office, according to the district.

ARVADA - When the official results came in, the Jefferson County School District experienced a major shift in power. Three board members running together won the majority of the board.

Dozens of parents turned up at Thursday's meeting hoping to save a program that was moving forward.

"I think a lot of parents feel like we're being railroaded," parent Joanie Hendricks said. "It doesn't really matter what anybody else says."

Hendricks is planning on sending her son to Deer Creek Middle School where the previous school board had approved the addition of sixth grade and the expansion of the science, technology, engineering, and math program.

"We signed up for the STEM program. It was announced at our elementary school," Hendricks said.

However, new board members Ken Witt, Julie Williams, and John Newkirk may have different ideas. Hendricks and other parents fear that the STEM expansion will be eliminated.

"Apparently, the board is all for charter schools and is running on that," Hendricks said.

At the board meetings, community members also expressed concerns over the following:

  • The fact the board hired its own attorney separate from the district.
  • Concerns over the future of a student data-sharing project called "Classroom Dashboard" that had ties to a controversial organization known as InBloom.
  • Concerns over the new board's rejection of the Colorado Department of Education Readiness Grant which addressed the preparation of kids going into kindergarten.

Hendricks brought with her a petition of 159 signatures from parents supporting the program at Deer Creek Middle School. Parents were not the only ones to speak.

"I couldn't come up with a good reason why you would remove the choice for me to attend STEM in sixth grade," 5th grader Ethan Campbell said. "I mean, it's a choice right? You're not telling me I have to go STEM in sixth grade. You're giving me the option. So, why take away that option?"

New school board members, Williams, Witt, and Newkirk, all declined when asked for a comment.

"We are hoping that it's not just lip service to be able to speak today, and that we can actually really make a difference," Hendricks said.

Late Thursday night, the board approved the Deer Creek expansion 3-2 with one of the new board members, Williams, voting in favor of it.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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