Third time definitely not the charm for Jefferson County

Column by Greg Romberg
Posted 4/13/21

I’d hoped the third time would be the charm. But the Jefferson County Board of Education disappointed me and insulted all Jefferson County taxpayers by naming a single finalist for its …

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Third time definitely not the charm for Jefferson County

Posted

I’d hoped the third time would be the charm. But the Jefferson County Board of Education disappointed me and insulted all Jefferson County taxpayers by naming a single finalist for its superintendent.

For the third time in less than seven years, Jefferson County public schools needs to hire a superintendent. Colorado law requires public bodies hiring chief executives to name finalists at least 14 days before filling a vacancy to allow time for finalists to be made available to taxpayers for public comment prior to a final decision. While Colorado law does not define how many people are finalists (it does say that when there are three or fewer, those people are finalists), common sense suggests that unless only one person was considered for a job that there was more than one finalist.

The school board has now cynically manipulated the process to deprive the public from any insight into who was considered and why the selected candidate was the best choice three times in less than seven years. We deserve a clear understanding of why this decision was made. The Board has disrespected all of us by hiding the rationale of this very important decision.

Unfortunately, our school board is not alone in this action. Education and higher education institutions frequently do the same thing. Cherry Creek schools just named a single superintendent finalist and both the University of Colorado and Colorado State University did the same thing the last time they hired presidents. A Boulder District Court judge found CU violated the law by doing so, the court of appeals disagreed.

Before the Supreme Court could issue a final decision, legislation was introduced, passed the House of Representatives and is currently pending in the Senate that would explicitly allow designation of a single finalist. Passage of the bill, HB 1051, would be a terrible mistake that would reward bad behavior by our school board and other government organizations and allow all governments in Colorado to make important decisions without public input, knowledge or understanding.

There was one ray of sunshine compared to the darkness the Jeffco school board and House of Representatives have placed upon the public’s right to know. The Douglas County Board of Education recently named four finalists for its superintendent position and announced multiple opportunities for people to meet and hear from the candidates and provide feedback to the Board of Education before a final appointment is made. The Douglas County process proves a truly transparent process that allows public input does not keep qualified candidates from applying. The Senate should kill HB 1051. The Jefferson County Board of Education should never hide the rationale for choosing a superintendent from us again.

Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.

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