4.15.15 New changes to BOE retreat speakers

cipherIn our last post, a Jeffco parent questioned why GOP Chair Steve House had been tapped to speak about innovation in education at a JeffCo School Board retreat this Thursday. We had the same question.

On Monday, Colorado Pols reported that House had withdrawn from the retreat.

But in true board majority spirit, new speakers have been added since Monday. In addition to the already-scheduled speakers, Tony Lewis and Scott Fast, three others have been added:

Michael Cushman, senior fellow, DaVinci Institute
John Evans, Ph.D., J.D., executive director, School Leaders for Colorado
Tammy Thorn, School Leaders for Colorado

School Leaders for Colorado is an alternative licensure program for principals. One new initiative they are touting is “Troops to Principals,” which they describe as a principal leadership training program former members of the Armed Forces of the United States. “Potential candidates may hold the rank of colonel, lieutenant colonel, or master sergeant with thirty to thirty-five years of military experience. They may come from the National Guard or the Reserve. They may be recently retired or have working experience in other careers. Their military experience has taught them one important thing—leadership.” Even better, they can complete the program in just 9 months!

Their presentation for the board is here.

A reader also inquired about Scott Fast’s education qualifications. Here’s what we do know. Fast has an education blog, and is a nationalist strategist for innovateducate. Rumor also has it that the Accenture Foundation, of which he is a retired executive director is a major contributor to the KIPP charter schools. He provided this document to the board as “pre-meeting reading.”

Never a dull moment here folks!

The meeting will be streamed, or you can attend it live in the Education Center board room in Golden.

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

4.11.15 When did Steve House become an education expert?

 In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards.

― Mark Twain, Following the Equator: A Journey Around the World

A JeffCo parent shared this letter to the Jeffco School Board majority members with JCSBW about the fact that Steve House, the new Colorado Republican Chair, is on the board retreat agenda under the item “Guest Panel on Innovative/Creative Practices in Public Education.”

If your memory needs a refresher, the board retreat is being convened because Julie Williams said she wanted to hear about innovations in education before she could approve spending millions of dollars to build any new schools.  We’ll let the letter explain more:

Dear John, Julie and Ken,

I just received the email from Helen Neal with the link to the agenda for the Board Retreat next Thursday. I am disheartened and disappointed that Steve House remains on your Retreat Guest Panel on Innovative/Creative Practices in Public Education. On the agenda, Mr. House is listed as the Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. I see nothing that would even remotely connect him to education in his professional role. I even looked over his profile on LinkedIn. Here it is:

 
Summary
PROFESSIONAL:
 
Lead a team with responsibility for technology evolution for developing ACO’s, CIN’s, and some MSSP’s.
Worked on HIE Sustainability models.
Working knowledge of Big Data, Analytics, and Business intelligence platforms and outcomes.
Worked on TeleHealth and patient engagement strategies.
Consulting work on many different IT and strategy projects.
Well studied in healthcare reform.
Familiar with product lines from most major IT vendors in healthcare.
10 years in Imaging involving Radiology, Cardiology, Nuclear, and Oncology.
 
PERSONAL:
Adams County Republican Party Chairman
Published author for Beauty and the Business 2010
Senate Aid in Colorado Budget Committee.
Graduate of the Leadership Program of the Rockies 2010
Graduate of the class of 2012 in The School of Persuasion
Award winning toastmaster
 
Nowhere in his “experience” does his list anything even remotely connected to education. Nor does education appear in the 50 skills he has listed.
 
Could you please explain to me (and the myriad other taxpayers who are concerned at this line-up of “innovation experts”) what Steve House has to do with education innovation? Why are you wasting taxpayer time and money on this farce? Consider the district staff who must attend your meetings. Why are you wasting their time? From what I can tell, I have more education expertise than Mr. House. What I don’t have, however, is a “certificate” from the Leadership Program of the Rockies. It seems that’s all it takes to make it in Jeffco these days. From our communications director to a guest panel on education innovation – educational expertise is no longer required to guide our school district, just participating in a right-wing organization one of whose main goals is to destroy public education.
 
We live in an amazing county, state and country – surely there are ACTUAL experts on education innovation that could provide useful information to the Board of Ed and the district. Mr. House has no credentials to be participating in the panel, and the three of you, in supporting his participation, are an embarrassment to public education. For people who rely so heavily on data, I can see none to support his role on the panel.
 
I strongly urge you to remove him from the panel on education innovation – his participation makes a mockery of the Board of Ed of Jeffco.
 
-Wendy R McCord

From the April 16 agenda:

PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to hear about innovative/creative ideas in public education from invited guests.

BACKGROUND: The Board discussed having a retreat focused on innovation and creativity in the delivery of public education.  The guest panel is the second of a two-panel discussion set.

Each speaker will provide at least a 15-minute presentation on his thoughts regarding innovation in public education, leaving an hour for discussion with the Board of Education.

 

The other two presenters on this panel are Tony Lewis, executive director of the Donnell-Kay Foundation, and Scott Fast, parent, Columbine High School, retired executive director, Accenture Foundation. The meeting also includes an agenda item for innovation within Jeffco Schools — an item that is only there because Lesley Dahlkemper insisted that it was important to hear and recognize that innovation is already happening right here in Jeffco.

The retreat starts at 5:30 pm this Thursday, April 16 in the board room. It will be streamed: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310.

This is a meeting well worth attending or at the very last, watching. Why IS Steve House on the panel? Why did the board majority keep him on the agenda even after Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper questioned his complete and utter lack of educational experience whatsoever? And what on earth will he say in his presentation? Will it relate at all to whether NW Arvada and the Solterra area are able to build schools to accommodate their new development?

Keep watching, keep fighting JeffCo!


 

4.2.15 BOE meeting preview

writers_forum

Don’t miss these exciting discussions at the BOE meeting on Thursday April 2nd.

Strategic Compensation – This is a report back to the board about how strategic compensation, which went to 20 trial schools as part of a special grant program, have performed.  Does extra money make a difference for student performance, or teacher performance?  Find out, at least as regards these schools.  By the way, this grant, has NO relevance to compensation negotiations because the amount of money needed to roll this out to all schools simply does not exist.  $39M over 5 years to 20 schools means almost $60M per year across our 150 schools, per year.  On the positive side, here are the take away findings from the report.

Research findings from 2014 analysis found:

– Higher levels of implementation of quality practices were associated with higher levels of student growth.

– High-implementing schools outperformed low-implementing schools:

• in reading by 1 percent

• in writing by 5 percent

• in mathematics by 15 percent

The Consent Agenda is long, and covers many, many contracts being awarded from behind the scenes computer support, to security and safety.  This author made no attempt to read them all, but you can though here.

Budget Survey Results – The biggest item of the night that is completely relevant for all citizens of Jeffco is the outcomes of the budget surveys and public meetings.  Top priorities for one time money was Facilities/Capital and Reserves.  For ongoing money it was Compensation Increases and Facilities/Capital.  It is worth noting that the community really started getting outraged in 2014 when a similar survey was ignored, and the board pushed for its Charter Funding Equalization.  Will they listen this time?

The main outcome of the survey questions for priorities are:

Question #1: Operating Needs – Top 3

Competitive employee compensation (58 percent)

Targeted focus on improving early literacy (39 percent)

Increase staff (37 percent)

Question #2: Capital Needs

Maintenance of existing facilities (59 percent)

Question #3: Percentage of Funding

50/50 split between operating and capital (40 percent)

Question #4: High Growth

Recommend redrawing boundaries (35 percent)

Of course there are many, many other questions that were asked, and answered in this presentation.  Hear them firsthand at the board meeting, or read more here.

Budget requests from staff are also out.  With regards to compensation, there are some modest increases,  such as a proposal of a 1% increase for most employees.  The pool of money to negotiate increases is quite small, and charter schools are getting a very small increase of almost 0.1%.  Some highlights are here:

  • PERA increase – Supplemental Amortization Equalization Disbursement (SAED) inc .50% $ 2,025,000
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) additional benefits $ 3,000,000
  • 1% Compensation increase $ 5,200,000
  • Compensation increase for targeted employees $ 1,152,000
  • Substitute teacher pay changes $ 763,000
  • Subtotal employee compensation package increase $ 12,140,000

Or, read the whole presentation, or better yet, come to the board meeting! Or attempt to watch the the live stream, assuming it doesn’t freeze, lose the sound or otherwise malfunction as has happened to several of our viewers. The study session begins at 5:30 and the regular board meeting at 6:30.

On the Discussion Agenda are four items that may be of interest to our readers.  They include:

  • Legislative update
  • Outdoor Lab
  • Boundary modification for Stober and Vivian Elementary
  • Declaration of Surplus Property on Green Mountain

Click this link to found out more.

As always, keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

3.19.2015 – Notes from the March 5 meeting

We’ve already posted about John Newkirk’s surprise motion on the Jefferson Area plan, but would like to quickly cover some of the other topics from the March 5 meeting so you’re fully informed for tonight’s meeting.

There was a 4th quarter budget report and while most of it was typical, it’s worth noting that staff turnover is higher than expected. Also of note: the Two Roads charter school paid off its district loan. Two other charters who were approved for a loan and a loan increase last year, Mountain Phoenix and Collegiate Academy, respectively, are not borrowing currently.

There was also a compensation update—which is a topic on the March 19 agenda too. HR Director Amy Weber told the board that while it’s impossible for the district to make up for years of not having pay raises, they are talking about strategic compensation adjustments to recognize those staff members. Weber also suggested the board commit to some of the district’s proposals that night to help retain staff. (And no, they didn’t, which is why it’s on the agenda again.)

The district’s recommendations include the following:

  • adjusting salary ranges and individual salaries of principals
  • standardizing assistant principal work day calendars at 215 for high schools, 210 for middle schools and 205 for elementary schools
  • adjusting salaries for existing teachers in hard-to-fill positions so that new hires are not making more than existing staff
  • adjusting salaries for existing teachers who have a masters degree but are not being compensated for it. That only affects 75 teachers throughout the district, but those 75 teachers either came to the district or earned a masters degree during the period in which the district has not compensated for it.

One major — and deserved — recommendation is that substitute teachers see a compensation increase. Weber said that substitute teachers saw their pay cut by 10 percent in 2011, and they have remained at those compensation levels. The increase, if approved, would affect 1,700 substitute teachers.

Another major recommendation was that Weber pushed for compensating for master’s degrees. She told the board the district would be unable to hire the talent they need if they refuse to do so.

Staff recommendations for the hiring season include compensation for up to seven years of experience (bundled beyond that), for master’s degrees, pay for designated hard-to-fill positions that the district has consistently struggled to fill because pay is not competitive (i.e., speech pathologists. According to Weber, one speech pathologist who interviewed with Jeffco found that she would receive a $17,000 pay cut by moving from her current position to one in Jeffco. Needless to say, that’s not the kind of offer that attracts top-notch professionals). Weber’s team also recommended compensating teacher librarians and counselors for additional workdays.

Response from WNW was tepid at best. Witt warned that compensation increases need to be viewed as one-time events. Because potential cuts are forecast for net year, he said the district should be careful with their commitments.

Witt, unsurprisingly, is also opposed to master’s degrees that are not in a teacher’s content area. Weber was quick to point out that the district doesn’t intent to comp teachers if they their master’s is unrelated to what they do, but Witt continued to press his point. In fact, he repeated his assertion that teachers shouldn’t be compensated for unrelated master’s degrees that it was hard to tell if he couldn’t hear Weber saying that the district had no plans to do that, or whether (more likely) Witt was trying to throw suspicion on paying any teachers for a master’s degree by insinuating that tons of teachers got random, unrelated master’s degrees just to get a pay raise. As if!

Dan McMinimee jumped in to point out that there should be opportunities for teachers to be compensated for master’s degrees and also pointed out that the district was already into the hiring season, so they need to make themselves attractive to potential hires.

Witt requested more information, hence compensation’s reappearance on the March 19 agenda. The new March 19 presentation includes more information about what the district considers to be related master’s degrees and some other clarifying details.

Public comment included many of the usual cast of characters, both friend and foe. Of note: several people speaking in favor of the Jefferson Area plan (the original one, not Plan B).

The Alameda Plan was approved with no surprises. Also, since there’s been some discussion of why a new school isn’t being suggested to deal with overcrowding at Stein: at the February meeting, Terry Elliot explained that Jeffco Schools doesn’t own any land in the Alameda articulation area. Building a new school would require them to buy land and then pay to construct a school.

In northwest Arvada, both the Leyden Rock and Candelas developments have donated a parcel of land that is set aside for a future school. That’s been the policy for most Jeffco communities since about the 1970s (earlier in some places) and those land donations are what produced many of our amazing Jeffco neighborhood schools today.

It’s hard to see how the district could swing both a land purchase and construction costs give the current budget realities and the likelihood (or not) that voters would approve a bond for both. Remember, funds to expand Stein were part of 2008 bond proposal–which was voted down. A renovation is planned, and Board Docs mentions this:  “Conversations with facilities, district leadership, and community members will be scheduled for the Fall of 2015 to discuss the development of a new elementary school to serve the central Lakewood area.”

And now, a few notes on the March 19 agenda. Note that the board intends to vote on the remaining aspects of the Jefferson Area plan. The Wheat Ridge Alliance has withdrawn its support for Plan B, and from the news we’ve heard coming out of this week’s community meetings, the vast majority of parents aren’t interested either. We’ve seen reports that Newkirk himself said he wouldn’t vote for his motion, but we haven’t heard that he’s pledging to vote for the district staff’s recommendations either.

There’s also an update on employee negotiations at the end of the meeting that will be well worth watching.

The full agenda is on Board Docs, here: http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/Public

And the meeting will be streamed. Access to the link should be here: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

3.9.15 A New Surprise: Newkirk’s Jefferson Area “Plan B”

So by now you’ve hopefully heard about the Jeffco School Board member John Newkirk’s Jefferson Area “Plan B,” which he introduced (surprise!) in a motion at Thursday night’s meeting. In fact, it was one of a series of motions about the Jefferson Plan—one that took everyone by such surprise that even the board secretary, Marta Neil, had to ask Newkirk to repeat his motion because it wasn’t the motion she’d received in the board notes.

Here were the first motions:

1. Establish a 7-12 Jefferson High School.
2. Move grades 5 and 6 from Wheat Ridge 5-8 to Stevens Elementary.

Both motions passed unanimously.

And then, Newkirk’s third motion:

To move Everitt Middle School to Wheat Ridge 5-8, then move Manning Middle School to Everitt, and split Maple Grove into two schools. Maple Grove grades 4-6 would move to Manning Middle School and grades K-3 would stay at the current site.

The proposal was one suggested by the Wheat Ridge Articulation Alliance but has not been discussed with the Manning or Maple Grove communities, much less the Stevens, Everitt, and Sobesky communities.

District staff immediately pointed out that the third motion would make it impossible to carry out the second motion, because Stevens is already at capacity as a PK-4 school. They would be one classroom short starting out, and wouldn’t have room to grow.

Superintendent Dan McMinimee pointed out the third motion would make it impossible to move Sobesky to a new location and the district would lose both the opportunity bring Jeffco students back to Jeffco, and the opportunity to recoup some of the cost savings that would come with it. The current Sobesky campus is at capacity, resulting in some students being placed out of district. Between 40 to 60 Jeffco students currently placed out-of-district would be able to return. The cost to place a student out of district runs between $60k – $80k.

Julie Williams was obviously surprised by the motion and asked what would happen to Sobesky. Witt said they’d open a north campus. Williams asked where, and Witt dismissed her, saying the BOE would need recommendations from the district. Williams pointed out that a second campus would mean many additional costs, such as an additional principal.

Then she asked Newkirk why he supported the proposal, to which he responded that he wasn’t sure that he did, but thought it deserved a discussion because it had been brought forth by the community. Of note: only two people spoke in favor of this Plan B during public comment, though several spoke in favor of the Jefferson Area Plan.

Staff had also previously discussed the Wheat Ridge Alliance’s proposal but found it to be unworkable.

As a reminder, the proposed plan worked like this:

– Jefferson High School becomes a 7-12 school
– Stevens becomes a PK-6 school and moves to the Wheat Ridge 5-8 campus.
– The 7th and 8th grade GT Center Program moves from WR 5-8 to Everitt Middle School, and allows 6th grade students from Stevens to matriculate to Everitt for 7th or to Jefferson HS as a first priority choice enrollment
– Sobesky Academy moves to the current Stevens campus

The motion was tabled and community meetings have been scheduled. Here are the dates of the community meetings for Everitt, Maple Grove and Manning:

  • Monday, March 16th, 6-7 pm., Everitt Middle School
  • Tuesday, March 17, 6-7 pm, Maple Grove Elementary
  • Wednesday, March 18, 6-7 pm, Manning Option School

Please spread the word, especially if you know families at these schools or families at Stevens and Sobesky, where, as best we can tell, no meetings have been scheduled to discuss how the failure to do anything would impact those school communities.

There’s more to come about Thursday’s board meeting, but we wanted to get the word out about the community meetings. The board is expected to vote on the tabled motion at the April regular meeting.

Keep watching, keep fighting JeffCo!