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Hundreds line Wadsworth to protest controversial Jeffco School Board decisions

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Several hundred Jeffco teachers, parents, students and community members waved signs along Wadsworth Boulevard on Friday to call attention to recent controversial decisions made by the Jeffco School Board. Protesters at "Boots on the Boulevard" lined every major intersection along Wadsworth during rush hour, covering a more than 20-mile stretch from Chatfield Avenue in south Jeffco to 104th in north Jeffco.

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They waved signs with saying like, "Stand up for kids," "Save our schools," and "Honk for teachers." Several held signs stating that Jeffco is not Douglas County, a reference in part to the recent announcement that the sole finalist for the Jeffco Schools superintendent position is a top administrator in Douglas County.

Last week's finalist announcement prompted greater concerns that Jeffco's new conservative board majority might push through some of the same controversial decisions that Douglas County's school board approved, like vouchers and merit pay. Douglas County also severed ties with the teachers union after contract negotiations failed in 2012. Jeffco's superintendent finalist, Daniel McMinimee, was the district's chief negotiator in those talks.

Several other issues were mentioned on protest signs Friday afternoon. Some signs called for the school board to reverse a decision to not allocate money for free full-day kindergarten in at five schools with free and reduced lunch rates of greater than 35 percent.

The school board's decision to allocate $3.7 million to the district's charter schools while refusing to approve $600,000 for some of the district's neediest children has proven extremely controversial in the past few weeks. Hundreds showed up to the May 1 board meeting to ask the board to expand free full-day kindergarten to those schools, but a motion to expand the program was voted down by the board majority.

Other signs from today's event encouraged drivers to honk in support of teachers. An impasse in contract negotiations was declared in April, and mediation began in May. A tentative agreement was reached, but Jeffco School Board President Ken Witt asked for more changes after both sides had signed the agreement.

The signed agreement was approved by an overwhelming majority of the members of the Jefferson County Education Association this week and now goes to the Jeffco School Board for a final vote. It is not clear whether the three majority members of school board will approve the contract without the additional provisions Witt requested. JCEA expects the board to vote on ratifying the contract at the June 5 meeting.