Vote Now. You are our only hope.

Among the horrifying things we’re hearing these days, this stood out:

Jeffco currently has received the lowest number of ballots since 2009.

What does that mean?

It means we’re in danger of repeating 2013. As of Nov. 3, only 74,435 ballots were returned – and Jeffco has more than 450,000 registered voters. Four years ago, only 33 percent of Jeffco voters voted because too many people were complacent.

If you already have your ballot, please vote and return it to one of the many ballot drop-off locations around the county. You can see a list of those here: http://keepjeffcomovingforward.com/vote/. You can also look up a place to vote in person here: https://www.jeffco.us/elections.

If you’re really pressed for time, email teamjeffco2017@gmail.com and someone will arrange to pick up your ballot and deliver it to a drop-off location for you.

JCSBW supports the three candidates elected in 2015: Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell. Mitchell is running unopposed, but Rupert and Harmon both have opposition.

So why should you vote for Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell? We explained some of the reasons in this post, but here are a few more:

  • They have restored civility to discussions and listen to all voices
  • They have consistently listened to community feedback and used that to guide decisions
  • They are moving Jeffco forward

Why be concerned about the opposition candidates?

For starts, the District 1 opposition candidate is covering up his involvement with the Golden View Classical Academy’s PTO — as the PTO president — to the extent that Golden View actually deleted their PTO link from their website.

Here’s the cached version, as it used to look.

Here’s Van Gieson listed as GVCA PTO president.

And here’s what the GVCA website looks like now, with no PTO link on the website.

Why on earth would anyone go so far to hide their work as PTO president?

We have no idea. Every other candidate who has participated in their children’s PTA or PTO has included their involvement as one of their qualifications. Some don’t mention the name of the specific school their children attend — which we understand — but we can’t think of a single candidate who has gone so far as to convince the school to delete any reference to the (presumably still-existing) PTO on the webpage.

Why cover up your volunteer work with a Jeffco school? And if you’re covering up volunteer work like that, what else are you covering up?

Meanwhile, the District 2 opposition candidate has enrolled in the same program that brought us Witt, Newkirk, Williams, Boggs, and many of their supporters – Leadership Program of the Rockies.

Both candidates continue to lie about moving sixth graders to middle school, despite the reality that it was a decision made only after multiple meetings, surveys, and dialogue with the Jeffco community. For example, the cost to expand Drake and Dunstan Middle Schools in time for Fall 2018 is $14.5 million, as Superintendent Jason Glass explains in his blog.

The two opponents, on the other hand, either lack a solid grasp of math, or reality, and claim that the current cost is considerably more when that simply is not true. Perhaps this is because neither is on record as having spoken or written letters about moving sixth graders when the issue was being discussed?

Or perhaps it’s because we have yet to see either of them actually attend a regular board meeting?

One thing is certain: we can’t move Jeffco forward without strong, knowledgeable leadership, and that’s not going to come from either of the opponents.

Please vote for Brad Rupert in District 1, Susan Harmon in District 2, and Ron Mitchell in District 5, and then get those ballots in by 7 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Let’s stay

JeffCo Proud!

Want to Keep Jeffco Moving Forward? Walk This Weekend.

We know you’re busy. We are too (see, for example, how well we’re keeping up with this blog!).

However, busy won’t help us keep moving Jeffco forward. We remember 2013, 2014, and 2015 all too well: disrespect, drama, and constant turmoil. We don’t want to return to that, which means we need to support our current school board members in November’s election.

This fall, Brad Rupert, Susan Harmon, and Ron Mitchell are running for re-election to the Jeffco School Board. Both Rupert (District 1) and Harmon (District 2) have opponents, while Mitchell (District 5) is running uncontested. Some of you might be thinking, “So all is well, right? Reasonable people who are listening to all of Jeffco will continue to retain the board majority regardless of what happens.”

Our response: DON’T. GET. COMPLACENT.

The five board members who were elected in 2015 — Rupert, Harmon, and Mitchell, along with Amanda Stevens and Ali Lasell — have worked hard to restore respect, collaboration, and careful decision-making to Jeffco Schools and the community. Don’t mistake respect, civility, and thoughtful discussions for any suggestion that they always vote in tandem. They don’t. On several occasions board members have differed in their opinions, and yes, their vote.

That’s as it should be. And frankly, it’s been a relief for those of us who regularly attend or watch Jeffco School Board meetings to see people taking each other and the issues seriously.

No one has been turned away at public comment since the recall. No one has been insulted by board members. Angry parents, students, and community members have had their chance to address the board when they disagree with a proposal — and Rupert, Harmon, Mitchell, Stevens and Lasell have listened to those voices and made decisions accordingly.

So what have they accomplished?

Brad Rupert explains in this video.

Or if you want the bullet-point version, the current five-member board of education has:

  • Restored respect and civility and professionalism to the Jeffco community, inside the board room and out
  • Expanded public comment opportunities and discussion on all issues facing Jeffco Schools
  • Hired a nationally-known, world-class superintendent, Dr. Jason Glass, to lead Jeffco forward
  • Become more competitive in attracting and retaining teachers
  • Continued to address growth areas in the district, such as northwest Arvada and west-central Jeffco
  • Celebrated with our Jeffco Schools as schools received 31 awards from the state of Colorado, and 11 Jeffco high schools ranked in the U.S. News and World Report top 50.

How can you help?

First, share Brad Rupert’s video on Facebook, Twitter, any other social media sites you use, and through your email network. A lot of Jeffco voters haven’t been paying attention since 2015, and they probably wonder what the clean slate accomplished. Let them know!

Also take time to read and share Superintendent Glass’ blog, Advance Jeffco. He’s encouraging dialogue and questions, and it’s a great place to talk about how to move Jeffco forward.

And walk! Volunteer here to walk or to look for other campaign opportunities (like a house party this Friday). We need people to let Jeffco voters know what Rupert, Harmon and Mitchell have accomplished during the last two years, and why they should vote for them to serve Jeffco students another four years.

We’re finally on a solid path with thoughtful, experienced decision-makers and a deeply knowledgeable superintendent, all working together from the board table in the best interest of Jeffco. Our students, parents, teachers, staff and community have waited a long time for this. We need to keep moving our district forward, rather than returning to failed policies of the past.

JeffCo Proud!

1.12.17 Board Meeting – Don’t Miss It!

Happy New Year!

We hope 2017 is off to a great start for you and yours! We wish we could say that 2017 is off to a good start for our school district, but we are dismayed at the way the Jeffco Schools Communications Department is handling, or rather not handling, the press release announcing that “the Board will vote on whether to start a search process for a new superintendent.”

In our opinion, Diana Wilson, the district’s Chief Communications Officer, has once again shown her unsuitability for her position with her irresponsible, unprofessional quote reported by Chalkbeat: “That the item is on the Jan. 12 agenda “essentially means they are not offering Dan a contract extension,” said district spokeswoman Diana Wilson.”  We are shocked that Wilson would make such a statement as a vote has NOT been taken by the BOE, and it is not her place to attempt to read between the lines or make some sort of projection or guess as to what direction the BOE will take. This quote has fed a media feeding frenzy that has included accusations of a lack of transparency, etc.

The reality is that the BOE issued the news release specifically as an act of transparency to let the public know that although they had to meet in Executive Session to discuss a personnel matter (McMinimee’s performance and contract), they do intend to have a discussion during the next regular BOE meeting on Jan. 12, will listen to public comment on whether to retain McMinimee, and then will have a vote – in public.

This board is acting transparently and respectfully with regard to McMinimee; the district’s Chief Communications Officer is out of line and being disrespectful of the process. We find it extremely concerning that neither McMinimee nor Wilson have addressed her error nor retracted the statement.

We’re also disappointed in the memo Jeffco Schools Chief School Effectiveness Officer Terry Elliott sent to staff.terry-elliott-memo  Here again, his words imply the BOE has already made a decision, leading the media to assume the BOE has acted inappropriately. That is not true. The BOE has followed the proper process for these discussions.

If you have an opinion on whether the BOE should retain McMinimee as superintendent, you can email comments to the BOE or sign up for public comment to share your thoughts with the board members at Thursday’s meeting. If you can’t attend the meeting, you can always watch it from the comfort of your own home via livestream.

Here are just a few letters of concern regarding McMinimee sent to the board this past month:

  • C-16-800 from Don Cameron with a detailed analysis showing how the previous Supt search consultant focused on board preferences for the Supt as a priority over preferences expressed by parents, community members, administrators, teachers and others. Cameron goes on to point out his lack of trust in the current district leadership’s ability to “gain the confidence of voters to allow us to pass a mill and bond,” and that “some of that needs to be laid at the feet of the chief messenger [McMinimee].” We should all remember that the bogus superintendent search that landed McMinimee in this position was a key issue in the recall.
  • c-16-801 from Angie Blomquist asking that McMinimee not be retained for several reasons, to include “standing mutely by” while other board members, staff and students were mistreated by the previous, recalled board majority, and taking his $20,000 bonus knowing the inability of the district to adequately compensate employees as a result of the on-going budget crisis. She feels “McMinimee is out of touch with what it means to be a teacher,” feels “his inexperience leads to poor decisions,” and is “overpaid and under qualified for his current position.”
  • c-16-806 from Terry Cooper who points out the very concerning need to “rebuild the trust between teachers and district admin” and that “new leadership needs to address the riff created by the old board.” Terry goes on to note that “change and support will come when…a caring leader steps in with a  crew that truly supports teachers and begins the much needed work of healing a divided district.”

These are just a few thoughts from a very few people concerned with the leadership in the district. We have talked with teachers, staff and administrators and are so discouraged to hear time and time again, especially from administrators, that Dan McMinimee is not an inspiring leader. Jeffco needs an inspiring leader. Someone who can heal and unite our district; guide and inform our board of education directors; hire the strongest and most experienced cabinet members who work with and listen to the staff they’re hired to support; build strong relationships with community and business leaders (and not just have conversations with these leaders when the district is asking for help with passing a mill/bond); and support and advocate for students, teachers and staff.

With that said, let’s dive in to the agenda for the January 12th meeting.

The meeting begins with a study session at 5 pm that will provide an update on Student Based Budgeting (SBB), which is the district’s method of funding the schools. The discussion will provide details on the changes to SBB for the 2016-17 school year as well as insights on the implementation of SBB by school principals.

We look forward to this update and ensuing discussion as we have several concerns about SBB that we hope the BOE will ask, such as:

  • Smaller schools receive additional dollars; however, once the school reaches a certain pupil count, they lose those dollars and struggle with the allotted budget. Does this discourage schools from allowing additional open-enrollment students?
  • In some schools, enrollment changes year by year and classroom by classroom. When a school experiences a dip in enrollment, the principal is faced with a resulting budget cut that may force the loss of an employee or more. However, when enrollment rebounds in a subsequent year that staff member is gone and the principal is faced with having to find a new teacher to fill that position. What is being done to address this issue?
  • Some schools have more highly impacted student populations that require more resources. How will SBB dollars be allocated to address these additional needs at certain schools?
  • SBB causes competition between schools for students. We are seeing a negative impact to schools and students as a result. Competition can be a healthy thing – to a degree, but it can also be a detriment. Schools in the south, for example, are seeing a negative effect as a result of unhealthy competition. Deer Creek Middle shifted to a 6-8 model when they began offering a STEM program to attract more students. Bradford succeeded in making the shift to a K-8 model when they suffered the financial consequences of losing many students to the STEM program at Deer Creek and the new charter, Golden View Classical Academy. Many of the schools in the south now use SBB money to pay for advertising in the local newspapers. Collegiate Academy, a Jeffco charter school, has gone so far as to develop a 15-page Marketing Plan and set aside $16,000 annually for marketing (to include $8,000 for a marketing coordinator). Is this good for students? Is this healthy competition? How does marketing improve student achievement? Wouldn’t marketing dollars and efforts be better spent in the classroom?

Next up, the OELS (Outdoor Lab) foundation will present at check to Jeffco Schools (thank you OELS!), Marna Messer, Jeffco Schools Director of Choice Programming, will receive the O’Rourke Prize (an annual award given for Distinguished Achievement in Professional Development), and students from Evergreen High School will be recognized for their performance in the State Tennis Championship.

We are happy to see that the “Board Reports” item has returned to the agenda! This is a great opportunity for board members to share their observations as they visit schools and participate in activities across the district with their fellow board members. We always enjoy this portion of the BOE meetings.

The BOE will also once again review the Great Works Montessori charter school application. This application was denied in November largely because it did not appear to have a sustainable budget and representatives were unable to address those concerns satisfactorily.

One specific issue concerns the proposed charter’s desire to attract low-income students who might thrive in a Montessori environment, while also needing a number of preschool families who can pay $1,500 per month to keep the school budget in the black. Preschool families would pay on a sliding scale, but unfortunately, that also means that the more successful the school is in attracting low-income students, the more their success harms their budget. The charter school representative told board members she was sure they could find additional funding for the budget if they needed it, but could offer no concrete suggestions or information at the meeting. Board members said they wanted to see a sustainable budget before approving a new charter school.

An additional concern was the lack of attention and details regarding how the charter school would address the needs of their target families, such as ELL resources, Spanish-speaking teachers and staff (for students and parents), and how the needs of students with IEPs, 504 plans and ALPs would be met. Another concern for the target population is transience. The charter school does not have a plan to integrate students coming from a traditional school setting, and only has a 1% contingency fund for emergencies, which is much too risky especially with consideration of weathering the loss of revenue from transient students.

Great Works appealed the Jeffco School Board’s decision to the State Board of Education, and the State Board ruled that Jeffco should take another look. Please look at this letter from Chris von Lersner, who was originally helping with Great Works but now has concerns.

Bottom line: with all Colorado schools facing cuts in the 2017-18 year, it’s more important than ever for new charter schools to have sustainable budgets that match realistic enrollment goals. We want them to be set for success, not destined for financial hardship and failure.

Jeffco Proud!

Is change in the air for Jeffco Schools 2017?

urgentIn case you haven’t heard, Jeffco Schools announced Tuesday the Jeffco School Board will vote on whether to start a search process for a new superintendent at their Jan. 12 regular board meeting.

For some — perhaps most — of our readers, this is long-awaited news. Others may be wondering why.

What’s not yet clear is whether this means that board members are seriously contemplating not renewing Superintendent Dan McMinimee’s contract, or whether they’re just fulfilling their promise to be transparent and accountable with board decisions and are providing ample notice so the community can be a part of the process and offer their input on the decision.

Although some Denver news outlets are reporting that McMinimee’s contract will not be renewed, Chalkbeat took a more nuanced approach and suggested that it was possible the board could still choose to renew his contract at the meeting.

No decision has been made yet, so news coverage stating that McMinimee’s contract will not be renewed is mere speculation and is either irresponsible journalism, or based on unprofessional comments from some at the district. Jeffco School Board members have held two executive sessions to discuss the contract, most recently on Dec. 15, but any vote to renew or not renew has to take place in open session, preferably with time for public comment and thoughtful, articulate board discussion. That is now scheduled for the Jan. 12 meeting.

Also from the same press release:

“It was clear during our executive sessions that the board felt we should explore our options to support the vision and direction of our school district,” said Board President Ron Mitchell. “This is a very difficult discussion, especially since Dan has led Jeffco Public Schools through some challenging times and we all appreciate his work.

…. Now that the current Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education has served over a year, the Board president expressed his expectation that the Board will have a full discussion regarding the desired direction of the district at the Jan. 12 meeting.

“If the Board decides to begin the search for a new superintendent, that action should not be viewed as a commentary on the Board’s estimation of Dan’s abilities or his performance in the role of superintendent,” explained Mitchell. “Board members expressed a desire to have a broader discussion about the Board’s vision for the district and type of leadership needed to make that vision a reality.”

As a refresher, Superintendent McMinimee was hired in 2014 as the sole finalist of a $40,000 national superintendent search. Before his hiring, he had spent several years working as an administrator in Douglas County, and many suspected that now-recalled board members Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams hired him in part because he had been the lead negotiator in Douglas County when they cut ties with the union. He was hired on a 3-2 vote in a meeting in which Witt shut down public comment after a mere 45 minutes. WNW eventually approved a three-year contract with a base salary of $220,000 and bonus pay of up to $40,000 based on goals set by the board.

This year, McMinimee received $20,000 in bonus pay based on the goals set by the previous board before the November 2015 election. McMinimee and the board discussed potential goals for 2017-18 at a recent meeting, and suggested that many of the goals McMinimee suggested should be a routine part of his job. They directed him to select different, more aspirational goals at a future meeting.

Board members also had a long executive session at the end of the Dec. 15 meeting to discuss the renewal of McMinimee’s contract, which ends on June 30, 2017. The board needs to make a decision by the end of March, but stated they wanted to start those discussions now. We saw a lot of chatter on social media about the 3-1/2 hour length of the executive session and what that might mean, but no one knows for sure.

JCSBW fervently hopes that a comprehensive, articulate, and thoughtful discussion will ensue at the Jan. 12 meeting in order to better explain what board members are thinking. Among other things, the Jeffco School Board needs to clarify:

  1. Specifically what they envision for the future of Jeffco Schools, and specifically what they want from a leader charged with carrying out that vision. (Emphasis on “specific,” because the press release is so vague that it could mean anything.)
  2. Specific areas in which McMinimee’s performance has fallen short, and why the board thinks different leadership may be a better option.
  3. What options the board has for selecting a new superintendent, how much those options cost, and why any additional cost is justified.

Three board seats are up for election in November, so it is extremely important that the board members be as transparent as possible as they move forward with this decision.

The average Jeffco voter will want to know why this board decided to renew or not renew McMinimee’s contract — and they’ll need to understand why it’s not a waste of money to spend several thousand more dollars on another superintendent search three years later. Three years ago, that search cost $40,000. If McMinimee’s contract is not renewed, that means taxpayers have paid an additional $13.3k per year on top of his salary.

We know many families, principals and teachers in Jeffco have not been pleased with McMinimee’s time here, and feel he is not the best candidate to lead our schools. However, that is not clear to the average voter or even the average Jeffco Schools family. We have no doubt that the anti-tax forces in Jeffco will waste no time in pointing to waste, lack of transparency, and vindictiveness if board members do not clearly make the case for whatever decision they reach on Jan. 12.

Readers, we also encourage you to communicate with the board, either during the public comment session at the Jan. 12 meeting or by writing the board before the meeting. You will be able to sign up to speak at public comment beginning on Monday, Jan. 9, and we’ll update with a link once that is available.

You can email the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us, or email the board members individually using the links on the Jeffco School Board members page. It’s vitally important for the board — and the greater Jeffco community — to hear what you think and why.

Jeffco Proud!

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!