The South Jeffco Community Organization (which I founded) has been trying to persuade Jefferson County Public Schools to implement a community volunteer tutoring and mentoring program in Jeffco Schools. I spoke at a School Board meeting on the subject, had an article featured on it in the Columbine Courier, and finally met, last June, with the area superintendent for South Jeffco, Holly Anderson, to discuss it.

In that first (and only) meeting, Holly told me that I, a Jeffco resident and home-owner, the father of a Jeffco second grader, a former Jeffco teacher, the founder and president of a non-partisan community organization, and an independent policy consultant trained in law and social sciences, was disqualified from being directly involved with Jeffco Schools as an interested community member by virtue of being a candidate for our citizen legislature (though it’s hard to imagine that the sitting state representative, who has no children in, nor has ever taught in Jeffco schools would be similarly disqualified). I accommodated the district’s insistence on behaving with actual political bias, in the name of avoiding the appearance of bias, by putting Holly in touch with another representative of the South Jeffco Community Organization, and by getting my Republican opponent in my house district race to agree (at least in private) to come on board in our efforts to implement a community volunteer tutoring and mentoring program.

Despite these accommodations, after months of being strung along, Holly sent the SJCO member who has been working with her the following suggested letter for us to send to potential volunteers interested in helping to improve Jeffco Schools:

Dear [NAME]

Thank you for expressing an interest in volunteering in a Jeffco school. While the school district is not involved in our South Jeffco Community Organization in any way, they are receptive to volunteers in the schools. Because you know your talents, interests, and schedule best we have been advised that it would work best for you to contact a school principal directly. We have attached contact information for the south area Jeffco schools.

If volunteering is still of interest to you at this time, we would encourage you to look at the attached list and give the appropriate school principal a call. They will inform you of their needs and discuss what possibilities for volunteering exist at their site. Together you can develop a mutual agreement regarding the process for volunteering at their school based on the schools’ requirements/needs and your availability. Please be advised that you may be asked to provide references and/or background information prior to being invited to volunteer. You will need to present proper identification and follow all security guidelines at the school site.


Translated: “You’re free to do what you’ve always been free to do, and we don’t care enough to encourage you to do it.” Essentially, Jeffco Schools made it clear that it is not willingly going to form a partnership with the members of the community begging to help it improve the quality of education we deliver to OUR children.

Jeffco Schools has demonstrated once again that it is more committed to preserving a dysfunctional but comfortable status quo than to providing our kids with the best possible education.

It’s time to break free of the ritualized kabuki theater of modern American education. It’s time to do more than invest in school improvement plans and “best practices” research, the products of which are then shelved and forgotten, swept away by the combination of overwhelming inertia and petty local politics that seem to define American public education today. It’s time to start exploring robust and meaningful alternatives that could dramatically improve the breadth and depth of education that our children receive. A good place to start is by expanding the human resource base on which our students are able to draw, by utilizing the free and abundant community resources that are available.

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