One More Board Meeting to Stand Guard…And Some Big Decisions

dignityAs much as we want to (and have) celebrated a clean slate thanks to the amazing Jeffco community, we still have work to do.  The new board will not take office until November 19, so we have to put away the confetti and get back to business.  Tomorrow, on Thursday, November 5, WNW will reign over one last board meeting.

There are 3 items to highlight for this meeting.  The first comes in the consent agenda.  The ratings are out and overall McMinimee is PARTIALLY EFFECTIVE.  With 12 goals he was rated Highly Effective in 2 areas, Effective in 3, Partially Effective in 5 and INEFFECTIVE in 2.  Using the simple 4 point elementary grading system that works out to a 2.4  (keeping in mind being Ineffective gives you a 1 from the start).

This brings up a few questions.  Is McMinimee, with no experience leading a large school district, in over his head?  Was he truly the best candidate WNW could find? (That’s rhetorical). Now that we are saddled with his contract, what will the clean slate do?

Bothersome is that PARTIALLY EFFECTIVE will result in $9,500 in bonuses.  That is 4.3%.  In a year when EFFECTIVE teachers will see less than a 1% raise and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE will see just over a 1% raise, McMinimee will be awarded a 4.3% bonus.

Knowing that DR. Stevenson chose to forego bonuses in times when teachers saw no raises, will MR. McMinimee choose to follow her example of leadership?  Or will he take the 4.3% bonus?

Doral Charter Application

The next questions for Thursday night, will WNW continue to ignore the community? Will they go out with the same disrespect they have reigned with?  Or will they make a mature, graceful decision?

Before them is the Doral Academy Charter Application.  Doral presented virtually the same application to Cherry Creek last month and it was unanimously rejected.

Here are our concerns with this application:

This would be the first charter school in Jeffco to be run by a Charter Management Organization (CMO).  And not just any CMO.  This CMO is Academica.  Academica is currently under federal investigation for financial conflict of interests. So it is particularly troublesome that according to the charter “Academica will be responsible for the DAC’s bookkeeping and financial reporting. Academica will also be assigned by the Board to bid out third-party services that the school requires …”

(For more information on who profits from these deals, we recommend you read this article.)

Another concern is the misrepresentation of this school as an arts school.  The curriculum clearly states it is an arts integrated school (meaning kids learn using songs, like children learn the presidents in their neighborhood schools).  However, in an effort to make a case for the school at the last presentation, Newkirk repeatedly tried to draw parallels to the Denver School of the Arts – which the charter panel never denied.

DSA is a wonderfully successful program, but it requires auditions and focuses on the arts.  It is not arts integration.  Would it be great to have an arts option school in Jeffco some day? Yes, but Doral Academy is NOT an arts school.

A third concern raised by the charter review committee was fiscal feasibility.  With 285 students needed to break even and 121 letters of intent, Doral is far from reaching that number.  Even then, the committee pointed out the budget was lean on staffing, infrastructure and food services.

As a parent though, the seating of the board is the most concerning element of the application.  The board terms are FIVE years (and a member can serve 2 terms), which seems lengthy.  The original board is formed from the founding committee with staggered terms (nothing unusual there).  However, as the terms expire the BOARD votes for their OWN replacements.  A self-perpetuating board DENIES any voice from the school’s community in their board.  Furthermore, with a board as large as possibly 9 members, there are only 2 seats allocated to parents.

This is far from the grassroots charters that thrive in Jeffco, and it is very far away from the community/parent voices this election advocated for.  When you add Academica in the mix – where school board members for one of their schools was none other than the President of Academica, the seating of the board becomes a vital issue.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: Our ideal would be that this contentious issue be tabled for the new board to vote on since they will be left with the fallout of the decision either way.  Unfortunately, state statute requires a response within 75 days, which may not be possible given the timing of the application submission.  Barring tabling the vote, our recommendation is that the application should be denied at this time due to: the fiscal jeopardy from lack of interest, the association with the troubled and beleaguered Academica, and the overly self-perpetuating structure of the board.

Public Comment Proposal

We commend Jill Fellman in this last act.  She has proposed that in study sessions that have 2 or more action items requiring a vote, that public comment be allowed.  Thank you, Jill, for being open to ALL voices.

District Accountability Committee (DAC)

Finally on the agenda are the revisions to the DAC.  Our hope is merely that when the Clean Slate takes office they will revisit this committee, returning the voices of PTA, parents, faith leaders, etc.  We also hope that the application for these positions in the future will include more than name and child’s school so that the candidate can be vetted properly.  Our final request is that a new policy would also include appointments from all members, rather than a majority vote that silences the minority.

accept

THIS IS NOT FAREWELL: A PERSONAL NOTE FROM JEFFCOFACTS, ONE OF OUR WRITERS

A little over a year ago I met the founder of Jeffco School Board Watch for coffee.  I had never been involved in politics and had no desire to be.  But I was appalled at the actions of WNW and had been so for months.  As coffee progressed I heard more about the agenda of Americans For Prosperity and WNW.  At first, I honestly thought – conspiracy theory.  But I agreed to write on occasion for Board Watch.  I chose the moniker JeffcoFacts, because I wanted to present a fair analysis based upon facts, not theories.  With time there were days that my emotions did ride high – when I saw the disrespect to students, teachers and board members.  When I saw the complete disregard for community surveys.  Some days JeffcoFacts and the Jeffco parent in me could not be separated.

Today we celebrate the end of the reign of terror.  And today in the spirit of Thanksgiving I give thanks to the many community leaders that stepped into the fray – too many to name.  And I thank the passionate founder (turns out he wasn’t a crazy conspiracy theorist) that gave me a voice here.

This election is not farewell.  I have learned so much about what makes great schools and what a true reform movement within a community can look like, that I can’t go back to the cocoon of inattention.  For the sake of not just the children of Jeffco, but for the schools fighting this battle in Thompson, DougCo and throughout the country.

What does the future of Board Watch look like?  It is too early to know.  But I can say that even the Clean Slate of candidates knows we are watching and we will always fight for our children, regardless of who is in office.  To do anything less, would be disingenuous.

Finally I want to say thank all of you – our followers.  I never thought I could do this.  And there were days I seemed so unqualified.  But then on occasion a comment would come in on an article and it lifted me up.  Or I would see the number of reads and I knew you were listening and sharing.  You are the reason the recall was successful.  Thank you for that and thank you for supporting us.

3.29.15 Teacher Licensure Matters

Your Childs Education

A “Highly Effective Educator” in every classroom. That is the term that JeffCo Schools and the Jefferson County Education Association use to specify the kind of teacher they want in every classroom in JeffCo. But what that means seems to be up for debate, and a few more questions were raised when the board majority heard an explanation of teacher licensure after adding the topic as an agenda item for the Feb. 19 study session.

First of all, teacher licensure is a state function, not a county function. The state sets requirements, manages the applications, and the renewals. What a person needs to be licensed for a given position is set at the state level and not by the county (or district). The requirements vary by position. Most teaching positions require only a bachelors degree, in the content area of interest, but then things get complicated. A degree in education or “alternative licensure” paths are both allowed. Some state colleges and universities offer a second bachelors degree in education, for example, and a person with a BA in education can count that toward their license. Teachers who follow that path obtain the “800 contact hours,” spend time in a classroom, and learn the basic ropes. Details of such a program at the University of Colorado Boulder are found here.

Similar situations exist for alternative licensure. One slight but perhaps important distinction is that you can get endorsement in only one area for alternative licensure. So, for example, a person could not get licensed to teach both math and science. This may make hiring of teachers with alternative licensure less flexible.

With the new Board Majority, perhaps the biggest potential pitfall around licensing is the additional funding they are sending to charter schools. Charter schools can hire teachers based on their own criteria and may not even require a teacher to hold a license in Colorado. All they have to do is request a waiver from CDE, and requesting a licensure waiver is considered a “standard waiver.” Here is an example from a recent application. All proposed Jeffco charter schools have to apply to the state, and all ask for these waivers as a matter of course. Mountain Phoenix, an existing charter school, has done so. This equals more Jeffco funding potentially going to more teachers who are not licensed. But what about those “highly qualified” teachers?

To be declared as “highly qualified” in Colorado is also a state level distinction, but it is dictated by “No Child Left Behind” and other Federal guidelines. You can see some of the gory details here. To be declared “highly qualified” one needs to:

  • hold a bachelor degree or higher
  • maintain a teaching license
  • demonstrate mastery in their content area

In 2012-2013, 99.49% of classrooms in Colorado had a highly qualified teacher according to these criteria.

Now “highly qualified”, as a legal term is defined, but “highly effective” is where there is more nuance. This is part of Senate Bill 191. If you want a good bedtime read, here is a link to the final SB 191 rules.

It is interesting to crawl through this document, however, because it is completely silent on the difference between effective and highly effective. Furthermore, Jeffco’s pay plan is predicated on a pay bump for highly effective teachers relative to effective teachers. The district will literally bankrupt itself if it meets its goal of having a highly effective teacher in every classroom. It may be an admirable goal, but, if there is pay for performance, then it is an unviable approach.

A different approach, and one supported by JCEA and district staff (though maybe not by Mr. Witt) is to pay for advanced degrees. Most subject areas do not require a master’s degree (or higher) to teach or be in a given position but other jobs require an advanced degree. Speech pathologists and social workers require a master’s degree in order to practice. In addition, any high school teacher who teaches a concurrent enrollment class (in which students receive both high school and college credit), must have a master’s degree.

The district staff presented a plan at the March 5 meeting that included a bump in base salary for master’s degrees. Jeffco was compared to other local districts that do compensate master’s degrees. For Jeffco to remain competitive and be able to hire the best, most qualified candidates, it was suggested that teachers with master’s degrees receive more pay. There is data that suggests this practice improves student performance at the high school level and for minorities, and data that refutes this — sometimes in the same report.

So in summary, while teacher licensure, a state function helps guarantee that each child has a highly qualified teacher, and SB-191 purports to work toward each classroom having a highly effective teacher, the devil truly is in the details. If every teacher was rated highly effective, then the district could not afford it. A population as large as Jeffco’s teacher population guarantees a distribution of performance. The district should hire the best, nurture them, work with them to have a quality workplace, and pay them a salary commensurate with their skill and effectiveness.

Keep watching, keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

11/16 Sunday Post: Nov 6 BOE Meeting (part 3) – Railroading, WNW-style

MLK Quote Nothing In the worldTHE CHARTERS

Once Public Comment ended it was time for the charter discussion and vote.  

First up Alexandria School of Innovation (ASI).

The district representative pointed out that the review teams recommended denial of the charter for deficiencies and that perhaps they could come back in a year after working with the state charter organization on those deficiencies.  (Interesting that the WNW supporters all wanted approval of this charter despite its deficiencies, including financial ones.)

For once we do know that Newkirk is listening to all public comment as he states that he has some of the same concerns as expressed by two of the speaker opposing ASI during public comment.  And he also goes down the path we have reported, about ASI’s lack of connection to Jeffco.

Witt’s turn also deserves a bit of kudos.  Witt asks the applicants about the science labs, their equipment and funding, but the founder veers off into a speech on why the school doesn’t want to wait.  Witt responds asking her to answer the question he asked.  Later Witt would also confront the question of Jeffco recruitment.  Although he asked for hard numbers on Jeffco letters of intent, that part of the question goes unanswered.

Next up Dahlkemper asks the hard questions.  Speaking to the litany of deficiencies of the charter she asks about the charter’s special needs section, a section that says services will be purchased through the District (an option not offered by the District).  Fellman also points out the charter uses percentages of special needs students below district averages.

Dahlkemper pulls no punches by asking for details surrounding the consultant’s public comments on issues with Ms. Brannberg’s previous school, especially the ‘2nd level death spiral’.  Ms. Brannberg refused to comment on the question in public (saying she would address “in executive session“), although she said she “thought” that was a lot of lies.

Williams it seems attempts to rescue ASI, by addressing the rumors surrounding ASI Opening up a line of questioning clearly meant to allow ASI to defend them unchallenged.

  1. That board members may be employees.  Although Ms. Brannberg says that is not true, later in the meeting Ms. Dahlkemper will counter this with facts (whereas Williams seemed to be trying to give ASI a platform to deny everything without challenge) .
  2. School leaders have already been determined.  Ms. Brannberg herself denies that, saying they have not hired anyone.  (Interesting denial since her e-mails about ASI are all signed saying Judy Brannberg, Founder and Proposed School Leader.  True they haven’t hired anyone, but it sure sounds like the leader has been chosen.)

Fellman continues by discussing the lack of JEFFCO parent buy-in and by pointing out that the high schools in the proposed area have many STEM opportunities (something she points out Jeffco possibly needs to promote the choices out there).  And charters are supposed to fill a void.

DAHLKEMPER RETURNS to Williams questions.  Dahlkemper reads the district cabinet’s analysis of the charter. Under Governance: The Class A (self-perpetuating) board members are allowed to work for and be paid by the school. (Perhaps Williams should read the documents she is given.  AFTER she takes time to actually read the APUSH textbooks that include every historical figure her press release claimed wasn’t in the curriculum, of course.)   To her credit, Ms. Brannberg scrambling to save ASI offers to remove that from the charter.  The same item 5 minutes earlier she said didn’t exist.

Dahlkemper continues to champion our schools.  She points to the STEM groundwork existing in our schools and champions building those up, then address the areas without STEM.  Armed with research, Fellman read a letter from Dakota Ridge and Dahlkemper from Chatfield about the existing options in the area and how we might expand those.

Of course as the charter loses ground Mr. Miller interrupts.  He points out that denial shouldn’t be on whether it is a unique program, but on support.  (Personally, that statute makes no sense to me.  Isn’t the primary argument FOR charters is that they fill a gap?  What is the purpose of the charter if it is a duplicate of the school a mile away?  Sorry, I’m trying to apply logic to this situation.)

Witt asks for a motion.  Newkirk moves that the charter be denied (asking them to reapply when deficiencies are addressed).  And we have it – a UNANIMOUS VOTE FOR DENIAL.  Yes, you read correctly.  A RARE 5-0 VOTE.

Next up Golden View Classical Academy (GVCA).  

The Jeffco review committee recommended the charter for conditional approval.  The conditions would include: balanced budget, facility cost, meeting enrollment goals, and to clarify the long list of requested waivers.

Dahlkemper wrestles with the litany of requested waivers.  Waivers that include: workplace violence, anti-discrimination, bully prevention, student rights, staff selling to students … and MORE.  The district rep admits he has NEVER seen so many waivers.  And in fact has NEVER seen anyone ask for some of these policies to be waived!  Even the state official that Jeffco consulted on this issue had NEVER seen this many waivers.

Dahlkemper asked the school leaders to come forward and discuss these waivers.  GVCA leaders explain that in part they take issue with the ‘chain of command’ in the district policies.  In fact they state their issue with anti-discrimination is the ‘chain of command’ for handling a complaint.  In part the the district rep states perhaps GVCA misunderstood the chain, since they would be included in that chain up until certain levels. JeffCo School Board Watch finds this waiver concerning, since the GVCA is being advised by Hillsdale College, which, among other things has banned LGBT student organizations.  The GVCA representative was unwilling to answer questions on his stance regarding homosexuality.

Dahlkemper also hammered home Hillsdale College’s The Barney Initiative through which they would ‘advise’ GVCA states in their educational philosophy,

The College considers itself a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith.”

At this point, Witt desperately tries close the curtain Dahlkemper opened by deliberately confusing  a liberal arts education to a liberal political viewpoint.

Newkirk points out the location for GVCA might be in a high growth area.  This may be true.  Highway 93 north of Golden and Sol Terra on the south side of Green Mountain are seeing high rates of new homes.  Both are areas in which Jeffco indeed needs to address future capacity concerns.

But GVCA will not be the answer.  First, they refused to state where they plan on building their school, other than it would be in ‘south Golden’.  Secondly, since GVCA will enroll students through a lottery system there is no guarantee students in either area will even be admitted to the school.  And that is assuming that the parents in those areas even want their children to attend such a school.  Additionally, GVCA will only reach 728 students after 7 years, if they reach their projection.  Addenbrook Classical Academy, a JeffCo Charter School in Lakewood had only 56 students last year.  GVCA will not even remotely meet the needs of the thousands of new residents moving into the area.

When Fellman piggybacks on this statement pointing out no Judeo is even covered and the religious tones create red flags. After assurances from GVCA that the school will not have religious ties Newkirk moves that the charter is conditionally approved and Williams seconds.

Dahlkemper and Fellman, rightfully concerned about the long list of waivers, valiantly fought that the waivers be addressed before the vote.  In the past when Jeffco has voted for conditional approval the Superintendent would give the final approval that conditions were met.  A policy that is not required, but Witt & Williams insist continue.  However, with the LONG list of waivers it would seem the district would want to protect itself by verifying that ANTI-DISCRIMINATION, BULLYING PREVENTION, and WORKPLACE VIOLENCE policies are met.  Both Dahlkemper and Fellman agreed this was their only objection.  However, their pleas for the chance at another 5-0 vote go unheard.

Witt goes so far as to describe the waivers as “A FEW conditions.” ‘What, me worry?’ Ms. Williams “has complete faith” the policies will be put in place.  And with that we have a 3-2 vote for conditional approval.  Following the vote, Ms. Fellman demonstrates a skill Witt does not possess.  She apologizes, for she knows she could approve the charter with a few policy adjustments.

READING ACHIEVEMENT

Now for what a real BOE meeting should look like.  The BOE brought in school leaders from some of the highest achieving and improving schools for 3rd grade reading.  Witt points out at a later meeting they will be looking at the struggles.

Dennison, Elk Creek and Lawrence Elementary schools presented.  Interestingly, none of the schools used the same program.  So what did their success boil down to?  Three things were reiterated by these principals.

  1. A systemic approach across grades, with cross grade communication.
  2. Hiring AND retaining great teachers.
  3. Fast response and continuous intervention (meaning continually looking at who does/does not need intervention).

In the case of Lawrence, a high Free-Reduced Lunch (FRL) school, took additional steps.  Rather than pulling out the struggling student for assemblies and intervention, they focused on ensuring a student had a longer, focused instruction time.  They also worked on home connections, purchasing cheap black and white books that could go home every night without worries about lost books.  This gave struggling families constant access to level appropriate texts. They also created family nights, recognizing not just high achieving students, but those with the greatest improvement or that had met their goals.  They hosted literacy night.  And they spoke again about the importance of hiring well.

Elk Creek drew parallels between small class size (20 students per class) and success. One principal drew parallels between full day kindergarten (which WNW disparages as unproven) and successful reading.

Unfortunately for Ms. Williams, there were no talking points for this part of the meeting.  Rather than asking about success in reading at the elementary school level, she questioned these ELEMENTARY principals about texts available to Special Needs students IN HIGH SCHOOL.  The panel leader attempted to rescue the conversation, and Ms. Williams by stating these questions are better suited for the upcoming discussion on the struggling reader.

Community Budget Survey

This is a future watch item for our readers.  The survey company being hired has NEVER administered surveys for education entities.  It is offering Jeffco a huge discount because it wants to get a start in that area.  Witt was unhappy with the proposed questions.  His solution? Each board member submit possible questions and then the board rank the questions to determine which would be used.

Sounds a lot like Williams’s original scheme for seat the review committee.  Everyone can submit a candidate, but only 6 seated.  HMMMM.  Whose questions will make it on the survey?  Nothing like waiting until the public has mostly left the room to sneak in a way to squash the minority voice.

BTW, Williams spent a lot of time arguing for spending extra money to engage the community and not just the parents.  Is this commendable or is this because her priorities do not match those of parents of students?

BOARD COMMITTEES

Here was the last chance.  The last chance for WNW to listen to the community.  The last chance to stop the insane train to the curriculum review committee, censorship, and opening the door for political indoctrination.  The last chance to quietly get themselves out of the hole they dug….

Did you really think they would?  Of course not!  But let us give a round of applause to Dahlkemper and Fellman.  They did not give in.  They stood their ground and fought the good fight.

When Newkirk took issue with the public awareness of the existing committees, they offered to work on awareness.  Not a board takeover of the committees. But at the end the committee changes were approved 3-2. And to add to the craziness when Dahlkemper asked what was the committee’s mission, Witt said no curriculum at this time (Is he waiting for when we are no longer paying attention?  We know Ms. Williams wants to review both APUSH and Elementary Health Education.)

But that did not stop the insane train.  The remaining committees needed to be voted on.  Witt lumped all committees together for the vote.  Meaning to approve the remaining committees Dahlkemper and Fellman must vote this time for the curriculum review committee.  When Dahlkemper verified this and requested that a vote be taken on only the remaining committees.  Witt REJECTS Dahlkemper’s friendly amendment.

After Witt’s motion is seconded, Dahlkemper offers a subordinate motion. Attempting again to vote on all committee EXCEPT the curriculum review.  At this point Witt drives the train insisting on another reading of the motion.  Even at 11:30 at night the remaining audience members understood.  What was so confusing to the board PRESIDENT? So a simple 5-0 vote turns into over 6 minutes of wrangling for a 5-0 vote.

But this is completely in keeping with WNW.  Compromise, to them, is agreeing with them or getting run over.

Maybe it’s time to stop the train?

———————

Help your voice be heard even more!  Join one of the groups fighting to save our School District.  You can find a synopis of them on our page Groups Opposing WNW’s Agenda.

Also, Wendy McCord has put together for us a page featuring a comprehensive list of WNW Board Policy Violations.

Stay alert.  Stay informed.  Stay active.  And

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

 


 

 

11/15 Saturday Post: The Nov 6th BOE Meeting (part 2) – “The Supporting Cast”

Making Someone SmallerThe Nov 6th board meeting showed a clear divide in the supporting cast.

People who tried to comment throughout the show fell into one of three groups. The first, our young heroes from part 1 of our story. Second, parents of current and recently graduated students with researched presentations, champions of our Jeffco schools. And third, the graying constituents with somewhat rambling and repeated talking points, the well-meaning, but misled pawns of WNW.

Our Jeffco champions talking points mostly boiled down to concerns about the proposed astroturf charters. The same concerns the district review teams had of the charters that were before the board for a vote.

The first, Alexandria School of Innovation. As we previously reported there were major concerns surrounding the board structure, rumors of the founders’ previous mismanagement and a charter that forbid board members to question the Executive Director in public (keep in mind the founder has been submitting Yourhub articles and signing e-mails as the proposed school leader).

One champion corroborated these fears and more. He was hired by the founders’ previous STEM school board to remove them from the school for mismanagement, a task he hoped to avoid by repairing the damage. Below is a clip of what he discovered and why the founders were ultimately removed:

Another champion, however, took a different approach. This speaker did the diligent research that ASI had not, by investigating the need for a STEM school in the proposed charter area. The map below, alone, answered the question.

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But this champion of public schools went farther, highlighting the incredible programs Jeffco public schools have to offer. Perhaps, the BOE would benefit from hiring her, rather than a high priced PR firm, to show how our schools are succeeding. However, that isn’t the story WNW wants told. They prefer the fictional tale of failing schools, that do not adjust to various learning styles and needs.

Our third key champion, a charter advocate, could not even support Golden View Classical Academy. She questioned the lengthy list of waivers they had requested. Waivers on workplace violence, bullying, discrimination and MORE (In fact, the most the district rep had EVER seen).  Quite frankly, nothing we can write could substitute for the eloquent presentation she prepared. Therefore, we are opting to post her speech:

We are a diverse group of parents who support choice options in Jeffco, including charter schools. But Golden View is a school unlike any other charter in Jeffco in many respects. 

Golden View will partner with both Hillsdale College and Colorado Christian University. The partnership with Hillsdale, a private conservative Christian college is integral to Golden View. 

Hillsdale is the PRIMARY model for the school
It will be responsible for curriculum development and train every teacher annually.

1. These partnerships may violate the Colorado Constitution. Golden View and Hillsdale have a mission to be a “trustee of the Judeo-Christian faith”. There are many faiths in Judaism and Christianity. Which sectarian “faith” is this mission referring to? In a letter to you this week, Congressman Jared Polis also expresses this concern.

[To the board] If parents show evidence of a Christian undertone at Golden View, how will you respond?

2. Will Golden View be a conservative political indoctrination school? Hillsdale is known for its extreme conservative political activism. There are numerous conservative political associations with the founder of this school and our board majority. This school will teach American Exceptionalism and will implement a political education. 

[To the board:] If parents show evidence of political indoctrination in this school, what will you do?

3. The mission of Golden View includes “instruction in the principles of moral character and civic virtue.” What does Golden View consider immoral? Hillsdale has an explicit policy against homosexuality and refused Federal funds so that it does not have to comply with Federal civil rights laws. With the Golden View framework, vision, mission and philosophy pulled straight from Hillsdale, the principal and teachers likely culled and/or trained from their ranks, this raises serious concerns. A position that homosexuality is wrong does not belong as a philosophy of a public school. A school that discriminates is wrong. 

Golden View wants to be exempt from when, how and what is taught about Human Sexuality. They want to be exempt from District policies on unlawful discrimination and equal opportunity in hiring. They want to be exempt from the District Policy preventing discrimination against students based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. Why is Golden View asking for these exemptions? 

[To the board:] What will you do if Golden View teaches the morals of a specific faith? What happens if a homosexual child is expelled? When hiring teachers, whom do they want to discriminate against?

4. Golden View wants a self-perpetuating board. In Jeffco charters are parent-run schools. Why do they fear parents? 

5. Golden View supporters first and foremost say that they will replicate high-performing Ridgeview and D’Evelyn. But the application states that Hillsdale is the primary model for this school. Ridgeview and D’Evelyn are not Hillsdale schools. D’Evelyn is not even a classical school. Other Hillsdale schools have made similar claims to obtain their charters. Yet none of them are stellar performers like Ridgeview. This is simply hype and marketing. 

Ridgeview and D’Evelyn have selective student populations that score higher on tests. They have very few poor and special education children. No wonder these schools have high scores. Mr. McMinimee states that new charters should mirror the demographics of the articulation area. Congressman Polis also mentions this concern.

[To the board:] What will you do to ensure Golden View does not enroll a highly selective student population to obtain higher test scores?

We suggest you reject this charter application. The partnership with Hillsdale is very concerning. No wonder the Hillsdale partnership is not in the main talking points for Golden View supporters tonight.

And we would be remiss not to mention two very unique champions of the night.

One, a Chatfield High teacher. A teacher who came merely to give moral support to his students. After watching his students marched from the room he put up one last fight. When Ashlyn’s (remember the wonderful young woman’s story from 2 days ago) name was called this teacher decided to approach the podium with her speech in hand.

Before he could give the speech the mic was pushed away by security and the teacher attempted to return to his seat. However, security would not allow him to remain in the room. Upon his departure we heard a statement we fear we will hear more from our valiant teachers, ‘I don’t know how much longer I will be teaching in Jeffco.’

The other unique champion, was a Westminster councilman. A man brave enough to stand up for what is RIGHT rather than what would benefit him. If you have been following our tale, then perhaps you remember that WNW voted to cede valuable land to the city. Land that Jeffco has possessed for years.

Councilman Baker implored the BOE to fight the THEFT of this land. He spoke of the guise of urban renewal that had been used to abscond the land. (We ask how is this FISCALLY responsible? Not to mention what precedent it might set for other cities to do the same to Jeffco.)

And finally we had the board pawns of our story.  This group consisted in large part of Jeffco voters who no longer had children in the schools.  In fact, far enough removed from those days that their exposure to what goes on inside today’s classrooms is questionable.

The board pawns seemed much less prepared as their speeches often began about the need for choices (with no actual explanation of WHY they were needed) and then veered into statements about reading.  Some veered off into stories about the good old days and that kids should be reading by the third grade (at which point we question their exposure to schools today, since even our Kindergarten classes send home leveled reading books).

One defended GVCA stating that some people WANT to go to Hillsdale College.  (We do not argue with that.  The argument is with religion in PUBLIC schools.)  Another championed charters because they are willing to adjust to a kid’s needs.  (Perhaps this speaker should ask a public school teacher about the practice of differentiation. Or perhaps the speaker could benefit from visiting the myriad of options that exist.)

What was also noteworthy as you watch the video is some of the ‘board pawn’ groups look large in number.  But as you continue to watch it appears the show had difficulty in casting, so the extras are used repeatedly throughout the night.

(Since everyone is supposed to only speak once, does getting up with the same group 4 times constitute a board violation?  Of course, board violations seem to not apply if you are pro-WNW. Although speaking for another student was STRICTLY enforced, Witt and Miller allowed pro-WNW Individuals, signed up as such, to speak as groups when the recycled extras joined them on stage. So which rules are we following at the next meeting Mr. Witt?)

One board pawn speech did at least list off reasons why they want more charters.  The reasons could be a post alone and are indeed good ones: smaller class size,  ability to move ahead, encourage parental support.

(Narrator: All of these are indeed factors that affect student achievement so let’s look at them. Smaller class sizes are why Jeffco passed 3A/3B, however, WNW has stated they are not bound to that promise.  Why are they not willing to give these same advantages to our public schools?

Differentiation does exist within our public schools.  Some schools practice it better than others, but it isn’t unique to charter schools.

Parental support – yes charters usually have more parental support.  Why?  In part because charters siphon the families with the means and time to provide transportation and support.  Look at the FRL percentages on charter for further proof.  That said, I have yet to be in a public school that DISCOURAGED parental support.  I’ve never had a teacher say please don’t help us.  Quite the opposite.  What we do have are schools with a population that is unable to provide that extra support.  Read our post on the National Public Education and Real Reform on how we improve upon this situation.)

Of course the closing speaker perhaps topped the list for performing as a board pawn, while casting our villain in a true light.  As we reach the close of public comment Miller announced a last minute addition to the show.  Someone who said she had technical issues signing up texted him personally and so he was adding her to the list.  

(So what rules are we following now Mr. Witt?  Oh the new rule, if you have the board attorney’s personal mobile number you can be added to public comment. Can you point us to that policy?)

Of course this brought on more audience participation as a member of the audience complained that she had asked to be added at a previous meeting when she had technical difficulties with the system.  And WITT DENIED her request.    What was Witt’s response to the audience member?

“IF YOU ARE HONEST”.  Yes, in the spotlight and on stage Mr. Witt accused a parent of lying about technical difficulties. 

 

Dahlkemper, like the crowd, was appalled and asked him if he had just accused her of lying.  Witt SAID NO.  (Really??!!  REALLY!?!? That sound like my teenager talking to his younger sibling.  I didn’t call him a liar.  I just said he wasn’t honest.)  Of course as parents and teachers the crowd knows that type of double speak.  So when he said no shouts were heard throughout the room of “YES.”  Yes you called her a liar.

There were also shouts of RULES.  But again we see rules are only important when convenient.  When Witt and Miller wish to shut down the opposition, there are rules. Or when they wish to shutdown the students, the rules are STRICTLY enforced. (To see the entire Public Comment section click here: Jefferson County (JeffCo) Board of Education, Regular Meeting, Public Comment, 11/06/2014 )

As we close the scene of public comment Boardwatch is left with a question.  WILL MR. MILLER be providing his mobile number to every member of the district in case we have technical difficulties?

But that is just one question that public comment left me personally wondering.  The bigger question is –

Who does this board serve?

There were truly three main groups at the board meeting.  Who did this board serve?

Was it the students?  Students whose voices Witt refused to hear.  Yes, sometimes adults know what is best for their kids, especially in the younger years.  But kids are not easily fooled.  They know if they have a good and happy teacher.  They know if they have a school that is thriving.  Is there simply an attitude of arrogance within WNW that they believe they always know more than the students?

Was it the parents?  Keep in mind very few parents showed up to speak on behalf of these charters.  Most were against the charters and against the review committee.  Read the board correspondence.  The JEFFCO RECORD setting correspondence from parents.  If anyone wants what is TRULY best for students, it is the parents.

Was it the voters?  70% of voters do not have kids in school.  WNW talk about PARENTS having choice. But they seem to listen the most to the older voters with no children in school.  Voters who have nothing at stake and still view schools as they were 20+ years ago.

It cannot be the community.  Conflict in the school system can affect home values. Poor education can affect the future of businesses.  And the dismantling of neighborhood schools, such as in Dougco or North Los Angeles, dismantles the whole concept of  community.

Who does this board serve?  

Who should it serve?  There is obviously no one answer. But one thing seems to be clear.  WNW is not listening to anyone outside of their own extreme political supporters.  Supporters, that based on the recent public comment and Tea Party event in Evergreen, are an aging group that no longer has real involvement in today’s public schools.

Board members were once viewed as public servants.  Quite frankly, with comments like ‘if you’re honest’ it is difficult to believe that Witt would ever humble himself to the act of being a servant.  If there is any part of the ‘good old days’ we could go back to, maybe this is it.  If WNW could view themselves as servants of the schools/students rather than dictators of an extreme a political and social agenda then students would not be protesting, parents not complaining, teachers not leaving, and our future not darkening.

So we leave this part of the story with a question for Mr. Witt, Mr. Newkirk, and Ms. Williams:

Who does this board serve!?

Because it is not JeffCo.

 


 

11/6 – Election Analysis & BOE Meeting Tonight

Victory is won in inchesWe all wish we would have more to celebrate yesterday.

Tuesday was seemingly filled with disappointments.  After the hard work we all put in, the temptation to feel that we lost all around is strong.

Resist it!

Because we did make a difference.  We did win some victories.

We need to understand that our opponents, the people who support WNW’s reign of terror, are well prepared, well financed, and well controlled.  Such are ‘astro-turf’ groups.

On the other hand, we are still coming together, financing things out of our own pockets, and battling our way up a steep learning curve.  Such are real grass-roots.

Did we win all the fights we wanted to?  No.  But we won more than the opposition thought possible!

Our efforts to get the word out, to get people aware, to get people voting, succeeded.  And we made a difference!

Bob Beauprez, who openly supported Julie Williams and the WNW agenda, was defeated in a close election.  He lost by just under 28,000 votes.  Almost 15,000 of those came from Jefferson County.

Laura Boggs, the high-priestess of WNW’s ‘Reform’ agenda, lost to Jane Goff by almost 15,000 votes.  Close to 11,000 of that margin came from us defeating her here in JeffCo.

Tony Sanchez, who boasted of Julie Williams endorsement as far back as the primaries, lost to Andy Kerr by just over a 1,000 votes.

In fact, of the six candidates who openly supported and endorsed WNW’s anti-American effort to censor curriculum and replace it with indoctrination, three lost!

This is despite of the massive amount of money, misleading campaigning, and unethical advertising that they put into their efforts.

They had their victories, but where the issue of the JeffCo Board was raised, they lost half their battles.

Because us.

So, we do have some things to celebrate and take heart from.  Imagine what we could have done if we had had their time, money, and organization?

If you have not already, go to our page Groups Opposing WNW’s Agenda and find one to sign up with!  Because Tuesday was just a small skirmish.  The real battle is yet to be fought!

And speaking of fighting…

Tonight’s Board Meeting should be VERY interesting:

Agenda Item 5.13 – New Chief Legal Counsel/ HR Relations: Why does Craig Hess have absolutely NO school district experience? How on earth is he qualified?

Agenda Item 6.01 – Alexandria School of Innovation Charter School Application: Why would the Board approve of a Charter school whose application is so flawed it did not even use the right District name throughout its application? And will be run by a for-profit company that got tossed out of the other school it created? Review Margaret Lessenger’s analysis.

Agenda Item 6.02 – Golden View Classical Charter School Application: How many exemptions are too many? And why do they fear parents so much that they made sure that parents can never take control of the Board?  Review Margaret Lessenger’s analyis on this one too.

Agenda Item 6.04 – Superintendent Goals: The revised goals were finally published.  McMinimee is to ‘Show leadership’.  No specifics of what that means.  He waves a magic ‘leadership’ wand?  How about some genuine goals on the order of the ones found here: 10/15 Post – Why Tomorrow’s BOE Meeting Will Probably Be Interesting…

Agenda Item 7.01 – Hiring a Canadian company that specializes in Canadian municipal surveys to survey JeffCo on Education Spending? Huh????

Agenda Item 7.02 – Curriculum Review Committee – Why is the Board ignoring the Denver Post, the Dallas Morning News, even the Caspar Star-Tribune and is going ahead with this censorship/indoctrination review committee?

If you can’t make it, watch on Livestream: Jeffco Boardroom

We Have Been Fighting, JeffCo!

And we have won some victories. 

Now let’s go out there and build the foundation for…

More And Bigger Victories!