So, what is the big hurry at Westminster Public Schools? Superintendent of Schools Pam Swanson announces her retirement quite recently and then the School Board delegates their responsibility to Swanson to determine who might be qualified for her position within the school district personnel.

Now the school district announces that Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Gotto is a “finalist candidate” for the Superintendent’s position.

Swanson isn’t leaving until the end of the current school year so why did Gotto get named so quickly? There are eight-plus months before Swanson cashes in and says her goodbyes. Where was the announcement that a national search firm would be hired to recruit and evaluate candidates who applied for the position? Furthermore, where was the Board decision to do a national search to secure the very best person for this important position?

Oh, and let’s not forget where was the opportunity for the public to do be involved in the process and participate in a “meet and greet” with the final candidates (yes, that is plural).

I will tell you why the actions outlined in my three questions did not happen is because the current full School Board and Superintendent of Schools quietly behind closed doors decided that Jennifer Gotto would make a fine Superintendent. No need for a national search using a search firm and no need for punch and cookies for the public to meet the final candidates (yes, that is plural).

No muss. No fuss. A slam dunk and Swanson has her protégé in place

Why does the school board have to name a new superintendent now?

Simply put, they do NOT have to select a replacement for Superintendent Swanson now. As I said, the School Board has more than eight months to do a thorough, well thought out process using a national search process to assure the best possible person is selected. Plus, the NEW School Board should make the decision on the NEW superintendent; not the current cronies.

I have nothing against Jenni Gotto. In fact, I am impressed with her. A friend of mine and I recently met her and had a wide-reaching conversation which demonstrated her depth, knowledge and pleasing personality.

Would I say that I was so impressed to automatically name her as the next school superintendent? Not hardly. I would encourage her to apply and compete with all the other candidates who might be interested in this well-paying job.

So, again, what is the rush to complete the ill-conceived process? The answer is quite simple and plain as day. The control of the WPS School Board is up for grabs with two diverse slates of candidates. I have written about them previously.

Incumbent Christine Martinez with candidates Mary Beth Murphy and Audrey Yanos have stated they favor a “status quo” approach with keeping the “momentum” going. They like keeping school gymnasiums and sports fields for the school district to use in their athletic programs. They are labeled as “MMY.”

The opposing slate of candidates consists of Brenda Gallegos, Charles Gallegos and Anthony Sisneros known as the ABC slate. They stand for change in a positive way. They campaign for transparency, accountability, more interaction with parents of the students and increased cooperation with Hyland Hills Park and Recreation District.

The latter would have the school district allowing Hyland Hills to once again use their school gymnasiums and sports fields. Perhaps at one time (a week or so ago), Swanson’s and the Board’s strategy was to process Ms. Gotto later in the school year as the sole “finalist candidate.” However, the ABC slate turns out to be a serious contender that could insert a new direction and so they had to rush the process of naming Gotto as the sole “finalist candidate” now and get her appointed the next superintendent BEFORE the Nov. 7 election.

Ahhhhh, you now see the strategy they hatched.

What a sad state of affairs at WPS

My, how things have changed over the years. Having lived here in Westminster for 55 years and having our daughters go through Adams 50 School District from kindergarten to graduating from Westminster High School as honor graduates, I have observed so much change and it has not been for the better.

There used to be much higher academic achievement from graduating classes. Cooperation among the school district, City of Westminster and Hyland Hills District at one time was the norm and not the exception. Tax dollars were saved.

At one time, having a diversely educated school board with different backgrounds was seen as a positive, creative force as compared to touting having all five board members being Westminster High School graduates. In the past, transparency was evident. Now, very little of district mailed material mentions the low academics which have existed for more than seven years. And what about financial matters including approving contracts with a current school board member.

It’s a shame district leadership lost its way with the students being the casualties.

Was it designed as a campaign brochure or not?

All you Westminster Public School District taxpayers, did you receive the quite recent fluff piece sent out by the school administration? What prompted the piece with such positive terms as “innovative, “valued”, “unique”, “caring” and “fun”?

It didn’t have hardly any hard facts or figures to back up the “feel good” piece. Why go to the expense to produce and send such a communication about five weeks before the school board election?

It’s the same administrative team who contributed personal funds to help incumbent Christine Martinez and fellow running mates Mary Beth Murphy and Audrey Yanos get elected. It involves the same slate of candidates who have accepted $10,000 in state teachers’ association campaign funds.

Where are the cold facts about the school district’s lack of meaningful academic progress? The reason is they do not exist. For at least the past seven years, the district has been in the lower part of statewide academic rankings. At the same time, the “fluff piece” boasted about having the highest starting salary for teachers in the state.

Do you see a disconnect here? The Westminster Public Schools Board of Education needs a change in direction and its integrity and then change the “corporate culture” of the administrative staff.

Colorado housing crisis reflected in calls for assistance

Brothers Redevelopment, Inc., a non-profit housing organization operates the Colorado Housing Connects (CHH) which is a vital “connection” for people and families in need of housing assistance, preventive-eviction information, housing counseling, address tenant-landlord concerns and secure affordable housing options. In August alone, the team of navigators at CHH handled over 8,000 inquiries.

This is an all-time high volume for the organization and is indicative of the magnitude of the statewide problem. As stated by Jeff Martinez, Brothers Redevelopment, Inc. President/CEO, “The scale of this challenge is immense, and we recognize that we cannot do it alone. That’s why we’re also requesting help from and consulting with our public and elected officials across the state. We need your help in maintaining capacity for Colorado Housing Connects, so that we may ensure that the resource will be available to everyone who needs it, wherever they live in the state.”

Colorado is especially hard hit in coping with people’s housing needs given the above-national housing costs and above-national inflation rate.

In my mind, the housing problem cannot be resolved by politicians who want to usurp local zoning and land use laws. It cannot be resolved by building the thousands of apartments which liberal-thinking folks believe will do the job. Mortgage interest rates and the cost of building materials and labor costs play a huge role in the Colorado housing crisis.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. You can contact him at

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