3A and 3B: A Matter of Trust in Leadership

If you’re still on the fence about 3A and 3B, the Jeffco Schools’ mill and bond initiative, don’t underestimate the importance of leadership and trust for the current school board in your decision-making.

One year ago, the previous school board majority was ousted by huge margins in favor of a “Clean Slate.” Readers of Jeffco School Board Watch will remember vividly that our formation was closely tied to the shenanigans of the previous board majority. Simply put, they were untrustworthy. Yes, the three of them lived in Jeffco, but it was clear that they were answering to ideologues, and often outside interests, rather than to what the majority of the community was saying.

Fast forward to today: hasn’t it been refreshing that the new school board has been in the news…so little? The five “new” board members–Ron Mitchell, Amanda Stevens, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, and Susan Harmon–do in fact represent their communities, govern responsibly and cautiously-yet-boldly, and have restored a great measure of professionalism and trust to traditions of Jeffco Schools.

During the course of the year, they have done yeoman’s work quietly but thoughtfully rebuilding foundations of trust in the community. Complaints have been few. The bottom line is that they are doing their job with a level of seriousness and community engagement that we have come to expect of our district leaders.

Having shorn up the relationship with our hard-working teachers, parents, and taxpayers, now they are asking for the community to reinvest in the schools again. They recognize that Jeffco’s aging buildings are in real need of repair and updating if we are to remain a first class district. They realize that many of our best teachers have left, and are still tempted to leave, because of wage stagnation, especially relative to other neighboring districts.

Most of all, they see that Jeffco kids suffer the brunt of the state’s underfunding, not just through deteriorating facilities and underpaid teachers, but also through many other cuts and restrictions to enriching parts of their education, such as music and athletics programs, technology investments, and more.

The numbers and stories behind Jeffco 3A 3B ask make sense in and of themselves, but undergirding those reasons is that we trust this board and their leadership. They have worked hard, made the case to us, and we urge everyone to vote “Yes” on 3A and 3B, not to reward the board of education, but because the case they’ve made to the community has been sensible, clear, and inspiring.

JeffCo Proud!

Jeffco 3A & 3B Basics: Understanding the Mill Levy Override

3A3B

This fall, we’re going to post a series of articles explaining the basics of the mill levy override and bond, 3A and 3B, so you can understand how the board members came to their decisions. We support both measures.

Today, we’d like to spell out the basics of 3A, the mill levy override.

Funding — or lack thereof —is the primary driver. The short version is that state funding is a big challenge. Due to the negative factor, Jeffco Schools has received $481 million less from Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted.

NegativeFactor

Jeffco is also not receiving any of the marijuana money that was budgeted. That’s going to other districts, mostly small and rural, for facility maintenance and construction.

Several forecasts also suggest Jeffco Schools could be facing more cuts for 2017-18. If that happens, 3A dollars will be used first to backfill those cuts and maintain programs.

The mill levy override, 3A, would provide an additional $33 million in funding that would benefit all Jeffco Schools: neighborhood, option, and charter.

It will be split so that Jeffco neighborhood and options schools receive $29.7 million, and charter schools receive 10 percent, $3.3 million. Those numbers mirror the percent of Jeffco students enrolled in neighborhood, option, and charter schools.

If state funding remains stable, the $33 million will be used to expand learning opportunities, update security, and to retain and attract excellent teachers. Here’s what the board prioritized in their meetings this summer:

  • $12.6 million – compensation to retain and recruit excellent teachers
  • $3.7 million – mental health support for schools, including a half-time counselor at every elementary school
  • $800,000 – additional support for security and emergency management, including increasing personnel, supporting ongoing crisis prevention and intervention training programs, support supplies, and software purchases
  • $12.2 million – increased Student Based Budgeting funding in all schools, including extra support for small schools who are challenged by the current SBB process. This will allow schools the flexibility to enhance education for their students.
  • $400,000 – increased support services, like the additional custodians and supplies that will be needed when the new schools open, and additional district building techs
  • The remaining $3.3 million will go to charter schools, whose boards will decide how to allocate the funds to enhance teaching, programming, and more.

You can read more about the mill levy override priorities here and read the full ballot text here.

Together, 3A and 3B will cost $4.12 per month for every $100,000 of home value. For a $300,000 home, that’s about $150 a year.

We’ve waited a long time for state funding to bounce back after the economy recovered. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s not going to happen.

Now we have a choice. We can create our own solutions and vote to support our Jeffco students in safe, well-maintained classrooms and buildings. We can vote to provide funding that allows us to attract and retain excellent teachers. We can make a difference.

Vote yes on 3A and 3B, and remember to tell your friends. Spreading the word on your social media of choice also helps, so please share this post.

We’d also like to remind everyone that the Yes on 3A and 3B campaign need volunteers to help in the coming weeks, as well as donations to help pay for signs and other campaign materials. If you can help, please head over to the Support Jeffco Schools website and sign up there.

Jeffco Proud!

Special Jeffco BOE meetings: July 28 & August 2

UpdateDear readers,

It’s hard to believe it’s almost August—which means it’s time for the Jeffco School Board members to start making decisions about a mill and bond issue for the November ballot.

They are holding two special meetings to gather public input on a mill and bond:

  • Thursday, July 28, 5:30 pm
  • Tuesday, Aug. 2, 5:30 pm

Thursday’s meeting is your first opportunity to comment on the proposed mill and bond and it will be followed a board discussion about potential ballot language and priorities for a $33 million mill levy override would fund and a $535 million bond package. If you want to sign up to speak on July 28, follow this link.

The Aug. 2 meeting will also allow the community to comment and ask questions, and will be followed by a vote to approve the ballot language. Public comment signup for that meeting will open on Thursday morning.

At issue is this ugly reality: state budget cuts. Jeffco has received $481 million less from Colorado than was supposed to be budgeted during the last five years, and more budget cuts are projected. Despite this, we need to support our students and teachers in safe, well-maintained schools.

Jeffco Schools staff started to look for solutions this spring when they put together a proposed master plan, some of which aims at creating facility efficiencies to free up money for classrooms. Staff then presented the plan at multiple community meetings and gathered feedback late this spring. That community feedback was incorporated into the plan and informed the priorities for the proposed bond package.

At those meetings, two messages were very clear:

  • Jeffco values its small neighborhood schools and wants to avoid closures or consolidations
  • The community is open to the idea of moving to K-5, 6-8 configurations to free up space in already-crowded elementary schools, but the new reconfiguration needs to be implemented district-wide.

The revised plan, and proposed bond, prioritizes these issues.

We’ll write more in the coming days, but for now, please keep these issues in mind:

  • The 2012 bond fixed the most urgent repair needs to keep our students warm, safe and dry, and did so within budget. However, continuing state budget cuts have caused a growing backlog of repairs, including leaky roofs, faulty wiring, and out-dated fire alarms.
  • The average Jeffco Schools building is 45 years old. Replacing dated and inefficient HVAC systems, boilers, and plumbing could save the district tens of thousands of dollars on utility bills.
  • Jeffco must continue to attract and retain excellent teachers, and continue the district’s commitment to high academic standards and accountability — but when other districts pay as much as 19 percent more, we’re quickly losing our ability to be competitive.
  • We must provide students the skills and technology necessary to prepare them for 21st-century jobs.
  • We must address the growing mental health needs in our schools with more counselors and in-school mental health programs.

We urge you to please attend the July 28 or August 2 meeting to tell the Jeffco School Board what you will support so they can make an informed decision. They want and need to hear from us.

And as always, you can stream the meeting: http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Jeffco Proud!

 

 

What you need to know for the 6.16.16 BOE meeting

The World Is Run By Those Who Show UpThe Jeffco School Board met on Tuesday to talk about feedback regarding the proposed facilities master plan and give direction to the staff. It was a 7-hour meeting and nearly impossible to briefly summarize, but we’ll do our best.

Why do you need the summary? Because they’re going to vote on these items tonight at 5:30 pm. You can sign up for public comment, and we encourage you to do so if you have strong feelings about any of these items.

Tuesday’s meeting started with a review of TABOR, led by a representative from the Colorado State University Colorado Futures Center. You can look at the presentation here, but the long and short of it is that TABOR has negatively impacted school funding and in districts like Jeffco, taxpayers are now paying more taxes to fund schools than they would have if TABOR hadn’t been enacted. In addition, our schools are being funded at lower levels than they would have otherwise.

Then board members dived into the meat of the discussion: directions for staff regarding the proposed Facilities Master Plan. Two main points stand out:

  1. There is support for moving to a K-5, 6-8 model, but only if it’s done across the district at the same time. Feedback indicated that the community was open to a district-wide change, and board members largely indicated they would support it as well. Staff adjusted the plan accordingly, and with the exception of Jefferson and Alameda, the new plan reflects a K-5, 6-8 configuration, with additions or new buildings planning for that configuration as well.
  2. Board members are very reluctant to close any schools yet, though they are also concerned about balancing budget concerns with the budget challenges posed by smaller schools in aging buildings. Most wanted to see the district work with the school, perhaps to offer programming that might draw kids from the neighborhood back, or to do other work to otherwise give them a chance to grow again.
  3. Budget projects for the future are concerning and funding cuts may be on the way. Jeffco’s lobbyist told the board earlier that he thought funding that reflected inflation + enrollment would be an “optimistic” projection. As a result, the desire to be proactive and financially efficient while also meeting the needs of learning communities is a central point of this conversation.

A few other notes: according to Jeffco’s Communications Director, Diana Wilson, about 800 people participated in the 12 community forums and about 1,100 participated in the telephone town halls. She also pointed out the questionnaire was only to solicit input. (Also note that her department was posting all of the feedback they received, usually shortly after receiving it, and those should all be available for the public to review on the Jeffco Schools facilities master plan page.)

Now, the play-by-play, in an abbreviated fashion.

The board first talked about the proposed K-5, 6-8 configuration. Opportunities include the opportunity for sixth graders to have more access to clubs, electives, advanced math, access to teachers with degrees in math for struggling students, science classrooms, more art, music, theater, and more opportunities that better reflect the “whole child” concept in the Jeffco 20/20 plan.

Concerns include budgets and social readiness, among others. However, staff is recommending a two-year transition plan that would start with a school’s 4th grade students and families. That would allow families time to think about choice enrollment and also allow schools time to plan for what their budget will look like as a K-5 school.

Specific dates for grade reconfiguration weren’t mentioned, though the two-year transition plan suggests that the earliest date for reconfiguration would be 2018-19. If the reconfiguration is to roll out district-wide, that could be even later, since some of the middle schools would require an addition in order to fully accommodate the 6th graders. Terry Elliot mentioned a “rolling implementation,” though board members said they didn’t want to see “piecemeal” reconfigurations.

Student-based budgeting concerns were also addressed. The short version is that SBB models would continue to be flexible. The current model works best with schools of about 500 students and is problematic with elementary schools under 300 students; however, both Superintendent McMinimee and board members made it clear that they didn’t want to see schools negatively impacted. McMinimee said those numbers might change, and that the district might nee to find additional money in other places, perhaps from efficiencies in the district level or a mill levy override, to put additional dollars into SBB.

Board members were especially interested in hearing about how details like art, music, and PE teachers would be accommodated if schools lost a grade, and making sure that elementary schools don’t take a hit with the new reconfiguration. Ron Mitchell accurately noted that the devil is in the details, and that a lot of work will need to be done to make sure we’re not leaving 6th graders in limbo.

Amanda Stevens also asked how this change would affect schools in the Jefferson and Alameda areas that adopted a K-6, 7-12 model last year. The short answer is that those schools would maintain that configuration. There are no plans to move 6th graders to the 7-12 schools.

Here’s the area-by-area breakdown of BOE recommendations. We’re only noting the areas where board members disagreed with current staff recommendations or areas where the staff specifically asked for directions from the board.

  • Alameda

The board wants to keep both Patterson and Kendrick Lakes open, and recommended deferred maintenance for Patterson and a new 576 seat K-5 school for Kendrick Lakes.

  • Arvada

The board agreed with the staff’s new proposal to add six classrooms to Arvada K-8 so that all schools in the area could reconfigure to K-5, 6-8. Brad Rupert also said that Foster had specifically requested the opportunity to stay a K-6 school because of their dual-language program, and the board appeared open to that recommendation as well.

  • Arvada West

The board recommended keeping both Allendale and Campbell open, though this also presents challenges due to space limitations at one site and low enrollment at the other. Allendale’s capacity is 275, and Campbell’s is 365.

Amanda Stevens wanted to hear more about pathways to keeping the small schools sustainable. Ali Lasell wanted to make sure that closures are a last resort, done only after we’ve exhausted all other options. Brad Rupert also expressed concerns that those areas could start growing again as new families move into the area.

Deferred maintenance or a major renovation (though not addition) are possibilities for Campbell. Deferred maintenance, a new school, a major renovation or even an addition could be possibilities at Allendale. The board needed to know more numbers, but was pretty clear that they’re not ready to close schools yet.

  • Bear Creek

The board was comfortable with cabinet recommendations, though they suggested a new Green Gables School might be a better option than a renovation.

  • Chatfield

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Columbine

The board wanted to see more deferred maintenance done on Dutch Creek to make the school more competitive with its neighbors.

  • Conifer

OK with cabinet recommendations, though noted that Conifer HS is the only high school without an auditorium and that the addition of one is an equity item.

  • Dakota Ridge

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Evergreen

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Golden

Not willing to close Pleasant View yet. “Closing a school to me is a last resort, and it is a last resort after we have exhausted all efforts,” Lasell said.

  • Green Mountain

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Jefferson

Of note: a phased rebuild is proposed for Jefferson High School. Other suggestions included something like Warren Tech “East” offerings in the area for students.

  • Lakewood

The board recommends keeping Glennon Heights open and considering a boundary change from a nearby school that’s currently over capacity.

  • Pomona

The Little/Parr consolidation also met with a fair amount of discussion. Board members aren’t willing to close either school yet, in part because this is another area that might see growth in the next few years.

Parr attracts a number of students who live just across the street from the Jeffco boundary (in Westminster 50), for whom Parr is a much closer school. Parr also has approximately 100 preschool students. Little has more students and a vocal community that wants to keep that site open as well.

The board’s preference seems to be to keep both school open and build a new 576-seat school at the Parr site, which is a larger site that allows the district to build while keeping students in the current school during construction.

  • Ralston Valley

There was a question about whether an additional high school is needed, but the answer is no, not until there were enough new feeder schools to fill it. They also recommend keeping the proposed Leyden Rock school a priority for phase I.

  • Standley Lake

OK with cabinet recommendations.

  • Wheat Ridge

Here again, the board was reluctant to close any schools yet. Current recommendations are that Kullerstrand stays open and Prospect Valley gets a new school. The board was also in favor of keeping Vivian and Stober open, though those sites present some challenges. Among them: Stober students may need to go offsite for a year in order to renovate or build a new building.

  • Options Schools

Long View will have deferred maintenance for now, and they’ll begin longer discussions about that site in the fall.

 

The last discussion was about a potential mill levy override. Staff presented a list of funding priorities. The first was a potential backfill if the state does in fact cut funding in the next year or two. However, several possibilities were also listed for what the new funding could bring (assuming state funding remains stable):

  • mental health support for schools
  • security and emergency management
  • student-based budget (suggested at $200/student/year)
  • technology
  • compensation
  • charter school needs (note: charters will get full share of the mill levy override automatically; this would be an additional amount above that specifically dedicated to charter school needs)
  • activities and athletics
  • fees (athletics, Outdoor Lab, transportation)
  • full day kindergarten
  • support services

Tonight’s meeting starts at 5:30 pm in the Board Room. If you can’t be there, you can stream the meeting. We know these are big decisions, so we hope to see a lot of you there and voicing your opinion. If you think Jeffco should go ahead with a mill levy override on the ballot, board members need to know that. They also need to know what you would support (or wouldn’t support) as funding priorities.

If you think they need to stick to just asking for a bond to support construction, tell them. If you are concerned about one of the schools that was suggested for closure, be sure to tell them. There are big decisions and challenges ahead, and board members need to hear your voices to know how best to move forward.

Jeffco Proud!

5.5.16 FMP & BOE Meeting Preview

Before we get into the preview of Thursday’s BOE regular meeting, we would like to remind you of the importance of reviewing the district’s Facilities Master Plan and then sharing your comments with the board. You can email the board (board@jeffco.k12.co.us), attend one of the 10 remaining community meetings on the FMP to provide your input, participate in a survey online to share your thoughts and/or sign up here to speak to the board at Thursday’s BOE meeting during public comment.

Visit the Jeffco Schools website for more information about the FMP, including Frequently Asked Questions, information on funding challenges, and info on potential funding options.

Your Childs Education

Now, onto the upcoming BOE meeting. The study session begins at 5 pm (note the change: this study session starts a bit earlier than the usual 5:30 pm) a meeting between board members and the City of Edgewater’s mayor and city council members to discuss items of mutual interest. We recognize and appreciate the effort of this board to meet with our local officials to strengthen the partnership between our communities and our schools!

The regular board meeting begins at 6:30 pm.Here’s the link to watch the meeting online:  http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Honors, Recognition and School Reports

The board will honor Manning School student Ellie Schwiker for her first place award in the Gilder Lehrman Institute and Civil War Roundtable of New York 2016 national Civil War Research Essay Contest! You can read her essay here.

That’s followed by individual member school reports and public comment. Sign up here to address the board during public comment part 1, but remember that this part is reserved only for items on the agenda. If you want to speak on other items, sign up for public comment part 2.

The board will also recognize Jeffco Schools’ Wrestling State Champions from Pomona High School, Lakewood High School and Jefferson High School; and Golden High School and Bear Creek High Schools’ Debate State Champions!

Columbine High School soccer coach, Peter Horvath, will be recognized for being inducted into the 53rd class of CO High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and Ken Caryl Middle School’s principal, Patrick Sandos, will be recognized for his “unanimous and enthusiastic endorsement” for the Distinguished Service Award from the CO Association of School Executive (CASE).

Last, but certainly not least, Green Mountain High School principal Colleen Owens has been named 2016 Colorado High School Principal of the Year by CASE!

Congratulations to all of Jeffco’s amazing students and staff!

Proposed 2016/2017 Budget

After board reports and public comment, district staff will present the 2016/2017 Proposed Budget to the board. You can view their presentation and the proposed budget, and you can sign up to address the board about the budget here. This is a separate public comment period that will occur after the the proposed budget is presented to the board.

Note that the budget will be adopted at the next regular BOE meeting on June 2nd. Current projections suggest that the negative factor remains unchanged, meaning that school districts across the state are receiving $855 million less than they should be receiving under a fully-funded school finance formula.

Consent Agenda

You can review the Consent Agenda items here. Among other items, the consent agenda includes monitoring reports on EL-2, EL-3, EL-4 and EL-10. EL-2 and EL-10, specifically, will be discussed later on in the meeting under agenda item 9.0.

A couple of items are especially noteworthy:

There is a request to change the name of the current Stein Elementary at O’Connell (formerly McConnell Middle School) to Emory Elementary School. The proposal also suggests changing the name of the Rose Stein Elementary campus (currently closed for construction) to Rose Stein International Elementary School when it reopens in Fall 2017. Numerous forums and opportunities for community input were made before proposing these name changes.

In separate news, this time last year the district saw 4 administrator resignation, 5 teacher resignations and 25 classified staff resignations. This year, we have 1 administrator resignation, 2 teacher resignations and 15 classified staff resignations. We are hoping to see this trend continue into the summer. We won’t see the numbers for those who resign this summer until the first regular meeting in September, but we are hearing a renewed trust in the BOE. The big concern remains whether Jeffco can be competitive enough with surrounding districts to attract and retain the best and the brightest!

Third Quarter Financial Report

The final item of Thursday’s agenda that we’d like to draw your attention to is the 3rd Quarter Financial Report. You can review the presentation and the report.

Graduation Season

Congratulations to all students in the Class of 2016! Look for School Board members and other District staff at numerous graduation ceremonies over the next few weeks.

JeffCo Proud!