11/3 Halloween Tricks, Monday Do List, & Thursday BoE Meeting Prep

20100830193250!The_ScreamHalloween is over and in a very late posting of the agenda, we have found numerous Halloween ‘tricks’ from WNW+M3 for District students and teachers at large with treats only for a favored few.

We review their mainly “Trick” agenda below.

But first, the Monday Do List!

Monday ‘Do’ List:

  1. VOTE!
  2. Get all of your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, strangers on the street to VOTE!
  3. If someone is not registered to vote, let them know they can (and should) register at a Voting Service Center and vote the same day!
  4. If you are not sure where to drop off your ballot, or where you nearest Early Voting or Election Day Voting location is, please check out the Google Map we created to help you find where you need to go!  Jefferson County Voting Locations
  5. Review our new “Groups Opposing WNW’s Agenda” page. Pick one group and contact them, asking how you can help.
  6. After you are done with items 1-5 above, review the Meeting Prep below and make plans to attend this Board meeting.
  7. Sign up to speak at the meeting!  We will post the link to sign up as soon as it goes live at 10:00 a.m. Monday morning.  The links went live at 10:20 a.m. this morning. Here is the link to speak on an Agenda Item (see our list below for Below are some subjects worth speaking out on that cry out for Public Comment).  Here is the link to speak on non-Agenda Items.  Sign up quick!

    Agenda Items That Need Public Comment:

  • 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?
  • 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?
  • Agenda Item 6.04 – Superintendent Goals:  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?

 BOE Thursday Meeting Prep:
When: Thursday November 6, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
Where: 5th Floor Board Room, Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden
(If you cannot attend, please watch via live video stream at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/JeffcoBoardRoom)

Key Agenda Items
Agenda Item 1.02:  Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) Discussion
Type: Discussion (estimated duration: 1 hour)
PRESENTING STAFF: Dr. Syna Morgan, chief academic officer, Dr. Carol Eaton, executive director, Instructional Data, Educational Research and Design
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to receive information regarding the results of the Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) testing on Science and Social Studies.
BACKGROUND: The new Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) tests in science and social studies show that Jeffco students are exceeding the state averages in both subject areas according to results released by the Colorado Department of Education on October 27, 2014.

The CMAS tests measure student performance in a new way on the more rigorous Colorado Academic Standards and set a baseline for Colorado students.
The new tests measure performance against higher expectations for students and are given online for the first time.

Student performance falls into one of four categories in the CMAS assessment:  1) distinguished command, 2) strong command, 3) moderate command, and 4) limited command instead of the TCAP achievement categories of unsatisfactory, partially proficient, proficient, and advanced.

Attachments: CMAS_The New Baseline.pdf (1,997 KB)

Our Comments: Basically, this is the results of CMAS test.  The big change seems to be in the classification terminology, i.e., no more ‘partially proficient’, but instead ‘moderate command’.  Slides include comparison against state averages (where JeffCo is better in all circumstances) and against other Metro area Districts.  When measured against the rest of the Metro area, JeffCo consistently outperforms DPS, Aurora, Colorado Springs, and Adams 12 schools.  Jeffco also matches up very well with Cherry Creek, Littleton, and Boulder, sometimes a bit being higher, sometimes a bit lower.  When compared to DougCo, JeffCo ranked higher (adding Distinguished and Strong Commands together) on 8th grade science and 7th grade social studies, tying DougCo on 4th grade social studies, and being lower than DougCo only on 5th grade science by only two percentage points.

From these results, if JeffCo should emulate anyone, it’s Boulder, Cherry Creek, and Littleton, not DougCo.

All that being said, we fully expect the spin from WNW+M3 to make it sound as if JeffCo is just below the lowest performing District in rural Alabama.

Halloween Trick Alert!
Agenda Item 5.13: Administrative Appointments
Adm. Employment – 11-14.pdf (13 KB)
Add’l Background – Administrative Appointments.pdf (17 KB)

Our Comments: Here is where WNW+M3 try to slide in their first little surprise.  This item is in the Consent Agenda, where non-controversial items are grouped for rapid approval. Buried in the attachment Adm. Employment – 11-14.pdf (13 KB) you find for Administrative Appointment 6.C Chief Legal Counsel, Employee Relations one Craig Hess, effective last week.

For those who were are the January 16th Board Meeting, you probably remember how Witt, Newkirk, and Williams made a huge stink about how Dr. Stevenson put the hiring of a new Chief Legal Counsel on the Consent Agenda, and then proceeded to excoriate Dr. Stevenson for that temerity.
Some how, we do not think they will treat Mr. McMinimee doing the exact same thing the same way!
By the way, a quick Google search of Mr. Hess yielded his LinkedIn Page here.  No Facebook page currently found.  The one thing we noticed was that he has No Education!

Given WNW’s current hiring pattern, it is apparent that actual experience in the job is not a requirement for being hired.

Halloween Trick Alert!
Agenda Item 6.01:  Alexandria School of Innovation Charter School Application
Type: Action (estimated duration: 30 minutes)
Attachments: Charter Application Review Committee for ASI – 9-9-2014 – Final.pdf (228 KB), Department Reviews of Rubric for Alexandria rev.pdf (568 KB)

Our Comments: We stand by our original comments:  Approval of this charter application is a disaster waiting to happen.
There are so many things wrong with this application, it is not even funny.  We will try to hit some of the most outrageous, but will assuredly miss some:

  • The proposal was originally written for DougCo, then hastily converted to JeffCo.  This is evident by the repeated references to “DougCo” instead of “JeffCo” in the original application.  It was obvious they had not really reviewed the document prior to initial submission.
  • Their plan assumes they will have 450 students to start!  But only 150 have sent letters of intent, and it is unsure how many of them were for when the school was proposed for DougCo, not JeffCo.
  • Their marketing efforts have been primarily in DougCo and Littleton, not JeffCo!
  • They have no identified location for the school.
  • Their budget counts on ‘soft money’, contrary to state guidelines.
  • While the school is non-profit, the Brannbergs own the for-profit management company that would be ‘hired’ to run the school.
  • Judy Brannberg would run the school despite having NO formal teaching or school administration experience!
  • The Brannbergs have rigged the Board so that the parents CANNOT take control of the school…ever!

The stories that whirl around the Brannbergs are chilling.  Charismatic, hyper-sales people, they sell others on the ideas by promising anything and everything.  One example was at the public presentation they made to the Board.  When asked about Free, Full-day Kindergarten, Judy Brannberg immediately said they would love to offer it.  It took another, more informed member of the Alexandria team, to inform the Board that they could not answer that question, and that Judy did not understand everything that Free, Full-Day Kindergarten actually meant.  And she is supposed to run the school?

With all that, we expect the application to be approved, 3-2.  After all, WNW has shown time and again that they believe that training, experience, and proven competency are not essentials when it comes to educating children.

Halloween Trick Alert!
Agenda Item 6.02:  Golden View Classical Academy Charter School Application
Type: Action (estimated duration: 30 minutes)
Attachments: Charter Application Review Committee for GVCA – 9-9-2014 – Final.pdf (215 KB)
Department Reviews of Rubric for Golden View rev.pdf (588 KB)

Our Comments: While we have definite problems with approving this school, competence in putting together the application is not one of them.  Compared to Alexandria, this is an extremely well edited document.   We do have significant problems with the political/philosophical orientation of this school.

Our first issue is that the structure of the school is such that it will become an extension of Hillsdale College’s Barney Charter School Initiative.  Why?
Because:

  • The teachers are to receive initial and continued training at Hillsdale College.
  • The curriculum is prepared by Hillsdale College, and
  • All new members of the Board of Directors are to be selected by the existing Board members, not by the parents.

This means that the school will effectively be under the control of Hillsdale College, not the parents of the students who attend.  Hillsdale College

Our second issue can be found in section “O” of their application, Waivers they are requesting.

on page 14 of the Department  Reviews document.

Some waivers are to be expected.  But they should be around district policies on teachers, pay, Administrative training, etc.  Golden View has those…and then a lot more!
They want to be exempt from restrictions on what material may or may not be in a school library.

  • They want to be exempt from District Policy and State Law that prohibits teachers from selling things to their students without expressed permission of from the JeffCo School Board.
  • They want to be exempt from providing Kindergarten.
  • They want to be exempt from when, how, and what is taught about Human Sexuality.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on unlawful discrimination.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Environmental and Safety programs.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Data Security.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Violence in the Work Place.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Personal Records and Files.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Health Education.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Teaching about Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Teaching about Controversial/Sensitive Issue.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Prevention of Bullying.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Students Rights and Responsibilities.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Student Organizations.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Public Gifts/Donations.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Public/Parent Concerns and Complaints.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Public Concerns/Complaints about Instructional Resources.
  • They want to be exempt from District policies on Relations with Parent Organizations.

In short, they want all the money from the state, the District, the community, and the parents in the form of tax dollars, but want to be exempt from anything and everything that would hold them accountable to that same state, the District, the community, the parents, and most of all, the students.

In short, the very thing our students objected to, that even the Denver post found going too far, will be handed on a platter to Hillsdale’s Golden View campus.

Agenda Item 6.03:  Student Achievement – Third Grade Reading
Type: Discussion (estimated duration: 1 hour)
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. With the Board of Education’s continued focus on student achievement, time was requested to discuss third grade reading performance toward meeting the Board of Education goal in Ends 1 Student Achievement to increase students’ third grade reading in TCAP from 80% to 85% by August 2015.
  2. Dr. Syna Morgan, chief academic officer, and Dr. Carol Eaton, executive director of Instructional Data in Educational Research and Design, will provide information on successful practices that have resulted in high reading achievement.  School leaders will join Dr. Morgan and Dr. Eaton for the Board of Education discussion.

Our Comments: It will be interesting to see how the Board handles the most likely answers:  Improve early reading abilities by focusing on Kindergarten and getting children ready for school.  Also, highly experienced teachers, well supported by instructional coaches.  Things they have already taken a stance on as opposing.  Or will Dr. Morgan (the third “M”) cobble together something that sounds good but actually has no track-record and is meaningless?

Agenda Item 6.04:  Superintendent Goals

Our Comments: Currently no attachments, although they are promised later today.  What we expect is a slightly cleaned up version of the travesty of goals McMinimee presented three weeks ago, i.e., a promise to ‘show leadership’ with no actual hard goals, times, or measures.  Be prepared for more bad acting from Newkirk.

Halloween Trick Alert!
Agenda Item 7.01: 2015/16 Budget Development Community Engagement Tool
Type: Discussion (estimated duration: 20 min.)
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. At the August 23, 2014, Board of Education meeting, staff presented recommendations for the 2015/16 budget development process. 
  2. A component of that process is gathering community input on budgetary priorities. Staff engaged the services of Citizen Budget, an independent third party specializing in engagement and feedback of budgetary priorities, to develop the community engagement tool.
  3. On September 4, 2014, the Board provided input and approved the budget development process and timeline.
  4. Staff provided the Board with draft questions for the tool in the October 24, 2014, Weekly Update in preparation for input and revisions at the November 6, 2014, Board of Education meeting.
  5. Because discussion was moved from the October 16, 2014, Board of Education meeting, an overview of the engagement tool was provided to the Board in the October 17, 2014, Weekly Update.
  6. The purpose of this discussion is for the Board of Education to provide final direction and approval of the questions for the community engagement tool as part of the 2015/16 budget development process.

Our Comments: When you do not get the answers you want you have three options.  The most intellectually and morally correct action is to accept the answers and adjust your perception of the world accordingly.  A less moral and ethical response is to ignore the results and do what you want anyway.

We already know that WNW could not find the integrity to do the first, and chose the second last spring.  This year, they plan on taking an even nastier and sneaker third option:  change who is asking the questions until you get the answers you want.

FYI – Citizen Budget is a Canadian company.  Their experience is in Canadian municipal budgets.  They have one U.S. customer:  Mankato, MN, a small town southwest of Minneapolis.

Why The SCREAM is an appropriate image…
Agenda Item 8.01:
 Policy Revision: GP-13 Committee Structure
Type: Action – estimated time: 10:25 p.m. (estimated duration: 2 minutes)
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. Following Board direction on October 16 and other necessary updates, Board governance process (GP) policy 13, Committee Structure, is brought forward for Board adoption of revisions.

Attachments: GP13 Revisions.pdf (164 KB)

Our Comments: Remember the “Curriculum Review Committee” proposed by Julie Williams?  Remember the protests our students made over the Board wanting to be able to exercise censorship and implement political/ideological indoctrination?  Remember how almost a hundred students, parents, and community members spoke against it?  Remember how Julie Williams said that she did not want to raise “little rebels”, and how Witt called the students “pawns”?  Remember Fox News calling them “punks”?

Well, this is the ‘policy change’ that will put everything our students, you, and our community fought against into action.  This is the creation of the mechanism that gives Julie Williams everything she wanted.

Remember this!

and Keep Fighting, JeffCo!


 

9/29 Monday Post: Do List & BOE Meeting Prep

2014 Sept Protests 1First let us say to our high school students that last week made  every American proud! Our ‘little rebels’ showed the country that at least in JeffCo we have not forgotten that protesting to stop censorship is patriotic!

So, our deepest thanks to high school students who left their classrooms last week and the Friday before.  You have shown us that our hopes for the future are in good hands.

With that said, we do offer one bit of advice – keep to your plan to protest on Saturday, and be in school on October 1st.  Any revenue hit caused by an undercount would not concern WNW in the least.  They have already shown how little they care for our District, our schools, and you, our students.  Instead, they would most likely delight in taking it out on the teachers, whom they already have accused of somehow mesmerizing all of you into making your protests.

So be in school on October 1st…and at the Board Meeting on October 2nd, followed by your demonstration on October 4th.  We welcome you to the fray!

The Monday Do List:

Email the Board (board@jeffco.k12.co.us) asking why Julie Williams’ “Curriculm Review Committee” is not on the agenda.  To bring more pressure on the Board, copy your email to three or more of the local media companies below:

Chalkbeat (Contact Form)
The Colorado Independent  (Email Address)
Colorado Pols (Email Address)
The Colorado Statesman (Email Address)
Colorado Media Publications (Contact Form): Arvada Press, Golden Transcript,  Lakewood Sentinel,  Littleton Independent, North Jeffco Westsider,  Westminster Window, Wheat Ridge Transcript
Columbine Courier (Contact Form)
The Denver Business Journal (Contact Form)
The Denver Post  (Email Address – 150 words max)
El Hispano (Spanish, Email Address)
La Prensa (Spanish, Contact Form)
Westword (Contact Form)

CBS 4 (Contact Form)
Fox31 (Email Address)
7News (Contact Form)
KRMA 6 (PBS): (Contact Form)
9NEWS (Contact Form)
CW2 News (Email Address)

And Keep Fighting Everyday!

Finally, go to the meeting on Thursday!  If you can’t make it, then make plans to watch it on line at: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/JeffcoBoardRoom

Thursday Meeting Prep:

Note:  In an effort to make the posts shorter, we edit down to key information only.  We will include a link to BoardDocs site as well as one to the agenda in a form suitable for printing.

BOE Meeting 2014-10-02 (Thursday night)
Date and Time:  Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
Education Center, 5th Floor Board Room, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO

Key Agenda Items

Agenda Item 2.05 Approve Agenda

Type: Action

Recommended Action: to approve the agenda for the regular business meeting of the Jeffco Public Schools Board of Education for October 2, 2014 as presented.

Our Comments: An amazing thing!  The Curriculum Review Committee proposal that caused JeffCo students to make international headlines…is not on the agenda!

As Lesley Dahlkemper noted on her Facebook page last Thursday, the normal practice is to discuss at one meeting and then vote at the other.  WNM+Williams has certainly done this for everything else!  But for some strange reason, they are not doing it now.  You don’t think that the ongoing national and international attention it brought could have something to do with it, do you?

Believe it or not, we want this item on the agenda!  We want Witt, Newkirk, and Williams to do their dirty deed in the bright lights of public awareness.  We want a full and complete review followed by an up or down vote.

But they do not seem to want to do that.  Instead, they seem to want to cheat the public of an actual decision in public.   Among other things, by having no agenda item for this topic, they can push any public comment to the very end of the meeting, when the press has gone, and maybe the high school students (who will undoubtedly be there) may have tired and gone home.

…Or maybe not.

The Public Agenda Part One call for public comment on “Agenda Related” items.  We suggest that an appropriate topic for comment is the lack of having the Curriculum Review Committee proposal on the agenda.   This is a completely appropriate topic for public comment:  Why is the Board not addressing the issue that brought such fame to tens of hundreds our high school students and such ignominy to the School Board?  For those of you who want to address the Board on the Curriculum Review Committee, we strongly urge you to sign up for the Public Agenda Part One public comment, listing Agenda item 2.05 as your topic, and your question being “Why is the Curriculum Review Committee proposal not on the agenda tonight, especially after local, national, and international attention has been brought to it?”

Agenda Item 3.02 Lori Gillis, Outgoing Chief Financial Officer

Type: Recognition

The Board of Education is pleased to recognize Lorie Gillis, chief financial officer, for her years of service as she leaves the district effective October 2.

Our Comments: Lori Gillis deserves our profound respect.  With her in charge of the District finances, we knew we could trust the numbers coming out of the District.  With her leaving, that certaintity will be gone.  But we cannot blame her for wanting to get as far away from the amatuerish machinations of Witt and Newkirk, not to mention the toadying presence of McMinimee.

We will miss her, and wish her well.

Agenda Item 4.02 Public Comment (Agenda Related)

Type: Information

Sign up online here to speak (the signup becomes available at 10 a.m.)

Our Comments: There are three items that definitely need people to speak to.

  • Agenda Item 6.01 – Alexandria School of Innovation charter application – list all the problems found by the Charter Application Review Committee (see our Comments below)
  •  Agenda Item 2.05 – Why is the Curriculum Review Committee proposal not on the agenda!  (See our Comments above)
  • Agenda Item 6.02 – Golden View Classical Academy – list all the problems found with this application (see our Comments below)

Agenda Item 6.01 Public Hearing:  Alexandria School of Innovation

Type: Discussion, Information

Pertinent Facts:

  • According to Board executive limitation policy EL-13, Charter Schools Application and Monitoring, the superintendent shall not allow charter school applications to be recommended if fiscal jeopardy or failure to make consistent progress towards their stated objectives is a likely outcome or is evident.       
  • On August 15, 2014, Alexandria School of Innovation submitted an application for approval by the Board of Education to become a district charter school.       
  • The Board of Education accepted the proposal for study on September 4, 2014.       
  • A public hearing is being held in order for the Board of Education to “obtain information to assist the local board of education in its decision to grant a charter school application.”       
  • Representatives from Alexandria School of Innovation will be present to answer questions from the Board of Education.

File Attachments: Alexandria School of Innovation, Department Reviews of Rubric for Alexandria.pdf (502 KB), Charter Application Review Committee for ASI – 9-9-2014 – Final.pdf (228 KB), ASI Jeffco BOE PP.pdf (7,278 KB)

Our Comments: This proposed charter school is a disaster waiting to happen.

The Alexandria proposal is less prepared and has more problems than the proposed Cornerstone Academy from last spring (that one was supposed to come back when they had fixed their issues – they have never come back).  Below we highlight the concerns the Charter Application Committee has about Alexandria:

  1. The proposed management (STEMVentures) does not have a currently operating school.  The owners of STEMVentures were involved in the DougCo STEM Academy startup, but after a series of fiascos, including the principal, vice-principal and several staff members resigning just a few weeks before year after the school opened, the Brannbergs were removed from control.
  2. The DougCo application STEMVentures made last year was for a K-6 STEM school.  DougCo turned it down, stating it had deficiencies that needed fixing.  Instead of fixing those, STEMVentures instead applied to JeffCo at the last minute for a 6-12 STEM school!
  3. They want a five-year contract, but three is normal.
  4. Their enrollment projection is not fully backed up.  Need more data on the actual demand.
  5. Apparently all they did was add an engineering course to a typical High School curriculum and think that qualifies it as “STEM”.
  6. JeffCo already has STEM programs at Deer Creek, Bell Middle schools.  Chatfield and Golden High Schools are expanding STEM pathways, Project Lead the Way is at Bear Creek.  Several other schools are exploring STEM options.  Deer Creek is working with Martin-Marrietta and Golden High School is working with the Colorado School of Mines.
  7. Evidence of support goes back to 2009 data – FIVE YEARS OLD!!  No new data supporting demand.
  8. Letters of Recommendation are not from top management, but mid-level and could have been a form letter they sent out.
  9. Boilerplate pages and paragraphs were repeated verbatim throughout the application.
  10. 153 letters of intent, but target of 450 students in the first year!  No detail on the ages of the 153, so no way of knowing if they will be of 6-12 age range.  No evidence that the 153 are close to the south JeffCo location they say they want to serve.
  11. Unclear if cited parental support is from DougCo or JeffCo parents. Why are they not disclosing students names to the District?
  12. Grading system is confused.  First part of application shows them using EM&N (“exceeds standards, meets standards, needs improvement”), the middle part has them using percentage scale (i.e., 90%, 75%), then at the end they are back to EM&N!  Which is it?  Why are they so sloppy as to have this kind of mistake?
  13. Compared their proposed Colorado school with one in Fairfax, Virginia!  Very different demographics!
  14. Outdoor education!?  What?  Why?
  15. They will need very talented teachers but their proposed pay scale would be low.  Where will the qualified teachers come from?
  16. No specifics on fund-raising other than they will do it.
  17. Talk about start-up grant money, but do not mention any other start-up money to hire the staff to write the grants applications and material such applications involve….
  18. They are applying for CDE startup money in years 0,1, & 2.   The norm is years 1, 2, & 3.  Will the CDE go along and give money to them before they actually startup?  (They seem to want startup-startup money.)
  19. Student population numbers do not make sense over the projected years.  They do not seem to realize that one years 6th graders become next years 7th graders.  They plan on adding an elementary school, but have no proof they will have the room.
  20. Salary estimates have many errors – an 8% raise for everyone in year 2?
  21. No margin for error on their budget.
  22. They project 60% of their teachers will be first year teachers!  For a STEM School!
  23. The budget does not work.
  24. They have “Class A” and “Class B” Board of Directors.  STEMVentures nominates three Class A.  Eventually parents can elect two Class B. (There is no way for parents to actually control the school!)
  25. Directors can be employed and receive compensation from the school!  (Can you say, “conflict of interest?”)
  26. Job Descriptions are written so specifically as to predetermine who gets what job.
  27. Relationship between STEMVentures and Alexandria school is unclear in the application (STEMVentures is a for-profit company).
  28. They claim they will draw from across JeffCo, but will be located near DougCo.  How will they draw from anywhere north of Bowles?
  29. Want to give preference to accepting students from the “founding families” of the DougCo STEM school!?!
  30. They do not address how they will work with low income students or low achieving students.
  31. In one part of the application they state they will go with the District lunch program, then in another part they say they will not have a lunch program at all!?!
  32. No transportation plan.
  33. None of the plans show the six classrooms they would need.
  34. They have not requested a Type D waiver for Judy Brannberg, the proposed head of the school.
  35. Special Ed – they intend to hire staff from the District for their first year which is not possible.
  36. The review group did not have an opportunity to directly meet with the Brannbergs.

The conclusion of the review team was that STEMVentures should take another year to improve their plan and application.

We will add in a couple notes of our own:

The Brannbergs actually have NO education degrees or licensed training.

 The only way DougCo could get the original STEM Academy to succeed was by kicking the Brannbergs & STEMVentures out.

This is less an application for JeffCo and more a door-to-door salesperson looking for a less critical customer.

In short, their application raises a lot more questions than it answers!

Agenda Item 6.02 Public Hearing: Golden View Classical Academy

Type: Discussion, Information

Pertinent Facts:

  1. According to Board executive limitation policy EL-13, Charter Schools Application and Monitoring, the superintendent shall not allow charter school applications to be recommended if fiscal jeopardy or failure to make consistent progress towards their stated objectives is a likely outcome or is evident.
  2. On August 15, 2014, Alexandria School of Innovation submitted an application for approval by the Board of Education to become a district charter school.The Board of Education accepted the proposal for study on September 4, 2014.    A public hearing is being held in order for the Board of Education to “obtain information to assist the local board of education in its decision to grant a charter school application.”Representatives from Golden View Classical Academy will be present to answer questions from the Board of Education.
  3. File Attachments: Golden View Classical Academy application, Department Rubric for Golden View.pdf (522 KB), Charter Application Review Committee for GVCA – 9-9-2014 – Final.pdf (215 KB), PRESENTATION GVCA to JeffCo.pdf (1,367 KB)

Our Comments: This proposed charter school will definitely benefit from going second – after the Alexandria proposal ANYTHING else will look good.

As we stated in our 9/4 Post, there is a lot that concerns us about this school.  Not the least of which i  Below we highlight the concerns the Charter Application Committee has about Golden View:

  1. They seem to think that “Core Knowledge” is a curriculum rather than a recommended standard or process.
  2. Teachers are to go each year to Hillsdale College in Michigan for professional training.  No budget is given for that.
  3. Plan calls for 498 students in the first year, but they only have 171 family responses so far.
  4. They switch  back and forth from Saxon Math to Singapore.  Can be very difficult in professional development (and confusing for the students).
  5. Concern over having to spend District & State dollars to send staff out of state to a religious college for training.
  6. Concerns over political, religious, and partisan affiliations the school would have with Hillsdale.
  7. Outside group controlling a JeffCo school like a puppet?
  8. Teacher contract is longer than JeffCo normal (201 days) but no mention of additional pay is made.
  9. No explanation where start-up money comes from.  They have the Daniels Fund giving $30k in year zero for “marketing”.
  10. Liability insurance is too low.
  11. Self-perpetuating board – no chance of parents ever gaining control.
  12. Their definition of part-time is 35 hours – not compliant with ACA. (One reader of the post has told us the school may have enough employees to avoid that issue – Hat Tip to Brian Terpstra)
  13. In one place, they say staff cannot be on the Board, in another place they say the staff can be on the Board.  Which is it?
  14. They want to not have to follow the District Conduct Code – not possible.
  15. They want to not have to give the state mandated alcohol/sex education course.

This would be the school of Julie Williams dreams.  For all that makes us shudder, as we said before, they look great compared to Alexandria.

Our Final Comments: It is very interesting that Witt is now scheduling the real meaty stuff for “Study Session” meetings where public comment is not allowed, but the regular meetings where the public is able to speak are filled with mainly fluff and almost no voting.  We some how doubt it is all coincidence.

Whether this meeting has any real substance to it will depend primarily on you.  If you tell your neighbors.  If you email the Board.  If you sign up to speak.  If you go and let WNM+Williams know, in no uncertain terms, that they cannot avoid public scrutiny for ever, then something of consequence will occur.  We will have moved one significant step closer to taking back our school district!

So turn the “If”s into “I did”s and help us…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

 


 

9/13 Saturday Post: The Kindergarten Puzzle…Solved?

FFK Puzzle 1Since last spring, most of us have wrestled from time to time with this question: 

Why do WNM+Williams* seem to dislike poor Kindergarteners so much?

After all, even though they voted to increase the District’s goals for 3rd and 4th grade reading and math, they continue to reject a time-tested, proven strategy that is relatively low-cost, straight-forward, and fairly simple, e.g., expand free, full day Kindergarten for schools with high numbers of children on free or reduced lunches.  This is not even a new program, but rather a modest expansion of an existing one, in line with every major educational study on improving test scores.

But WNM+Williams have raised one objection after another:

March 13th – Witt led an attack on free, full day Kindergarten expansion (FFK) saying there were studies that showed such programs did not really work.  Dr. Beck, then JeffCo’s Chief Academic Officer (now superintendent of a school district in Oregon) said she knew of no study that said that, that, in fact, multiple studies show just the opposite.  (Here are links to a few articles on the subject:  Full Day Kindergarten, Early Childhood Education for Low-Income Students:A Review ofthe Evidence and Benefit-Cost Analysis, Early Childhood Education, Education Funding And Low Income Children:  A Review of Current Research)

April 3d – Dr. Beck said she had reviewed the literature and all of it said this type of early intervention pays big dividends.  Julie Williams said she thought the “only difference between half and full day kindergarten were naps, more recess, and some ‘specials’ such as music or art.”

Witt demanded of Dr. Beck to know if any of the studies she cited had been done specifically in JeffCo, and when Beck said no, Witt then said that the national studies meant nothing and he wanted to see some that were specific to JeffCo.  He then led Newkirk and Williams in voting 3-2 to remove the funding.

(Dr. Beck and her team offered to conduct that research for the board this school year if the board would allow the program to move forward but “compromise” is a dirty word to WNM + Williams.)

May 1st (Bear Creek High School and over a thousand people attending) –  Several kindergarten teachers, spoke to the board of the huge results they see in their low income students attending full day K and pleaded with the Board majority to fund the kindergarten expansion.  Most impressive, a group led by Wendy McCord Tina Gurdikian, Kelly Johnson, Terri Straut, Amanda Stevens, and Tammy Story presented a report assembled from statistical data from JeffCo that showed conclusively that free, full day kindergarten (FFK) generates a strong, consistent improvement in the test scores of children who participate (see full report here: FFDK Report).  Regardless, after a motion to restore the funding for full day K expansion by Lesley Dahlkemper, WNM+Williams voted it down saying that giving poor children free, full day kindergarten would be unfair to the parents who could afford it for their own children!

June 5th – Dahlkemper and Fellman brought the issue up again, immediately after WNM+Miller voted to increase the already increased diversion allocation of funds to charter schools to more than $5 million, using mill levy funds and thus breaking promises to voters and the community.  Obviously, if the District had additional money available for the charters, then there had to be some available for poor children. This time Newkirk, in typical Newkirk fashion, threatened to cause general chaos (this seems to be his MO) by questioning the entire FFK program, and said he threatened to explore canceling all of it and ‘repurpose’ the funds. Witt, again, led voting down the expansion of Free Full Day Kindergarten to poor children, 3-2.

With all the above, one has to wonder, what do WNM+Williams have against poor children in desperate need of a good start?  There are hundreds of vulnerable five and six year olds who are this year missing out on the benefits of full day of Kindergarten.  This is an educational deficit that can never be made up.

Why do WNM + Williams not care about the future of these children?

Or maybe they care about something else more…perhaps something that would increase the number of charter school expansion?

Our first clue to this was actually posted before JeffCoSchoolBoardWatch was even existed. You can find it in the following video posted on YouTube by Transparency JeffCo.  Pay very careful attention to what Cindy Stevenson says at the 50 second mark and Witt’s response:

Did you catch it?

When Dr. Stevenson said there was plenty of space at Deer Creek Middle School, Witt’s reaction was, “A good place to co-locate a charter school.”  At the time, we thought it was simply a pavlovian response on his part. ‘A school building with space?  Put a charter school in it!’  It never occurred to us that this type of reaction could or would result in premeditated action…but it sure seems to.

This summer we decided to go back and reread a lot of the material that had been produced during the budget cycle.  It was then that we stumbled on the second and decisive clue.  If not a smoking gun, it at least, is a recording shots fired in the dark.

We began rereading the self-titled “Minority Report” written by Tom Coyne and Rachel Swalley (a copy can found here: SPAC Minority Report).  Both of these people were specifically placed on the Strategic Planning and Advisory Committee (SPAC) by Witt & Associates.  On the bottom of page 11 of this 70 page report, we read:

…SPAC received a proposal from District staff for an additional $600,000 to be spent on adding 13 more full day kindergarten classrooms at five schools. However, this issue was not on the Choice Committee’s agenda, despite the fact that the availability of classroom space is a critical constraint on their potential options and ultimate recommendation to the Board.” <emphasis added>

This report was given to the Board on March 6th, one week before WNM+Williams first voted down the FFK expansion.  It was made available to the Board members prior to that. We believe that when WNM+Williams read those two sentences, they deliberately decided to short-change the most vulnerable in our society, in order to further their own peculiar sense of ‘equity’.

Even then, they could have come right out and said why they were turning down the FFK expansion.  WNM+Williams have the votes to do almost anything they want.  But, as we have seen for nine months now, for some reason, WNM+Williams seem to need to believe that their true agenda and motivations are always hidden or masked.

So instead, they hurled one absurd objection after another at the staff and teachers.  As soon as the District staff refuted the first one, they hurled a second.  When teachers and parents refuted that one, they came out with a ridiculous ‘fairness’ argument.  When that was shown to be farcical, Newkirk resorted to threatening the entire program if any further argument was made.

And they won.

There is no expansion of Free, Full Day Kindergarten in JeffCo this year.  Those classrooms with WNM+Williams precious emptiness will be empty all year.  WNM+Williams undoubtedly hope that some outside corporate group will see the opportunity to use public school property to launch a charter school…and make money off it.

And this, we believe, is the most likely reason Ken Witt, John Newkirk, and Julie Williams voted against the best interests of almost 300 At-Risk children.

Is there even more to it? Perhaps….

Former Jeffco BOE member Laura Boggs has regularly disparaged schools with high proportions of low income students, asking pointed questions about race, ethnicity, and crime.  Her questions often seem to presuppose that those children, many of whom are English Language Learners, do not deserve a public education.

Boggs is staunch supporter of WNM+Williams and is reputed to have met repeatedly with Witt, who is also reputed to be something of a follower of hers.  It would not be much of a stretch to think that WNM+Williams feel the same way.

Whatever the motive, WNM+Williams action has put many of our low income schools at greater risk of not being able to improve test scores, which may lead some even to be declared ineffective for those children.  The consequence?  Given this Board, those schools will then be turned over to charter schools, who very well may offer the same free, full-day kindergarten that WNM+Williams have rejected.  Except, of course, this time WNM+Williams will cheer them on, since instead of having FFK funding spent by public schools, it will be spent by quasi-private ones, many of which will be run by for-profit companies.

In the meantime, we will have lost another year’s worth of desperate children.  None of which will matter to WNM+Williams as they seek to implement their radical political “reform” agenda.

—–

So what are you going to do about it?

If you have not emailed the Board.  If you have not called your local office holders and candidates (see these lists: 2014 Jefferson County Election Candidates State Officials Jefferson County Officials).  If you have not contacted your friends, family, and colleagues.  If you have not stopped people in the street, in the stores, in our schools, and told all of them about the atrocities that this new majority is visiting on the children of JeffCo, now is the time to do so.

Join us, as we

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

 

* – As we noted in our 9/8 post, it seems only appropriate that we change our acronym. Miller is now is acting more obviously as a peer of Witt and Newkirk instead of a subordinate contractor..  Whereas Julie Williams is behaving more like a bewildered, but loyal tag-along.  She apparently takes the betrayal and neglect by Witt and Miller as a minor thing.

Note:  JeffCoSchoolBoardWatch.org is a group of volunteers who work hard at keeping people informed about the actions and probable consequences of the new majority on the School Board.  We do not accept donations, nor are we a political organization.  We see ourselves as an information source for the community.

However there is a group that also has a charter to keep people informed about WNM+Williams and does accept donations:  SupportJeffcoKids.org.  If you want to get involved more in the fight against this ongoing atrocity, please visit their site.


 

9/8: WNM+Williams – Breaking Trust, Breaking Faith, Breaking the Rules

broken-trustAt the Board Meeting last Thursday (9/4), Witt, Newkirk, Miller plus the blind support from Julie Williams, showed us just what we can expect out of Board meetings now that McMinimee has begun to exert control over the District and WNM have decided that they can rely on the blind following by Julie Williams.  The Reformista Train has been assembled and is beginning to rumble down the tracks.

(Side note: it seems only appropriate that we change our acronym, since Miller now is more obviously acting as a peer of Witt and Newkirk, whereas Williams is acting as the bewildered, but loyal tag-along.  She apparently takes betrayal and neglect by Witt and Miller as a minor thing.)

At almost every point in the meeting, WNM+Williams is ignoring the Board’s rules, their own previous promises, logic, reason, and democratic principles.  In short, they are not doing things the “American Way”.

In doing so, they are breaking their own rules.  By breaking those rules they are now  side-stepping public notification of pending Board actions, blind-siding Board members not part of their clique (i.e., Fellman and Dahlkemper), and are poisoning the well of public trust for democratic government.

For example, let us look at the specific description of the first two items on last Thursday’s agenda.  Below is the exact, verbatim Agenda Item Details for items 1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation and 1.03 Board Attorney Work. Pay careful attention to Type of item each one is supposed to be:

1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation
Meeting      Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting

Category    Study/Dialogue Session 5:30 pm
Subject       Proposed Model on Compensation
Type            Discussion, Information

estimated time: 5:30 p.m. (estimated duration: 30 minutes)

PRESENTING STAFF:
Amy Weber, Chief Human Resources Officer

Lorie Gillis, Chief Financial Officer
Jim Branum, District Legal Counsel

PURPOSE:
To further discuss Board of Education requested information regarding funding of the teacher compensation proposal presented to the Board at its meeting on August 28, 2014.

——————————————–

1.02 Board Attorney Work
Meeting      Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting
Category    Study/Dialogue Session 5:30 pm
Subject       Board Attorney Work
Type            Discussion

estimated time: 6:00 p.m. (estimated duration: 20 minutes)

PRESENTING STAFF:
Brad A. Miller, board attorney

Dan M. McMinimee, superintendent

PURPOSE:
For the Board of Education to discuss the scope of work for the board attorney and past eight months of work with the Board of Education.

——————————————–

In 1.02, the “Type” field shows “Discussion, Information”.  In 1.03, the “Type” field shows only “Discussion”.

Now look at items 7.01 and 7.02 under the Discussion section of the Agenda:

7.01 Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) Resolutions and Delegate Selection
Meeting              Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting

Category            Discussion Agenda
Subject               Colorado Association of School Boards Resolutions and Delegate Selection (GP-1)
Type                    Action, Discussion
Recommended Action    to appoint a member to represent Jeffco Schools Board of Education at the CASB Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly in September and the CASB Annual Conference in December.

estimated time: 8:35 p.m. (estimated duration: 30 minutes)

PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. The Board of Education will review the resolutions directing the efforts of the Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) during the 2015 legislative session and provide guidance to the Board’s delegate to the Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly on September 26-27, 2014.
  2. The Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) holds its annual Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly in September in preparation for legislative work in Colorado on public education.
  3. At the Delegate Assembly, positions are taken on resolutions which effect state school districts.  As the largest k-12 school district in the state, the work of CASB may impact the district’s work.

——————————————–

7.02 Monitoring: EL-6, Financial Administration
Meeting              Sep 04, 2014 – Regular Meeting
Category            Discussion Agenda
Subject               Monitoring: EL-6, Financial Administration
Type                    Action
Recommended Action    to approve the monitoring report on Board executive limitation policy, EL-6, Financial Administration.
Goals                  EL-6, Financial Administration

estimated time: 9:05 p.m. (estimated duration: 5 minutes)

PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. An important component of the Board of Education’s governance model isGP-6, Annual Work Plan exhibit and  GP-6, Annual Work Plan policy which provide a schedule for monitoring the work of the superintendent.
  2. The monitoring report on Board executive limitation policy,EL-6, Financial Administration, is scheduled for review four times a year: September, November, February and June.
  3. The monitoring report is brought forward to approve the superintendent’s reasonable interpretation of the executive limitation.

——————————————–

Did you notice the difference?  Items on which the Board is expected to take an action, have as Agenda Type “Action” followed by a Recommended Action and a list of Pertinent Facts. Further, these items occur after public comment has been made on agenda items.  So the any action the Board takes is after they have heard from the public on it. But both of the items in the “Study/Dialogue” section show only “Discussion” or “Discussion, Information” with no “Recommended Action” and no list of “Pertinent Facts” and are held before public comment. Why?  Because no action was supposed to be taken on this items!

But it was.  In the first case, Witt used an almost “oh, by the way” maneuver at the 8/25 meeting (see our post) to get his and Miller’s ‘compensation plan’ into the minutes, officially making it the first meeting in which it is mentioned.  Then in this meeting, he and Miller list it under the “Study/Dialogue” portion, which technically means that no action on the subject was to be taken in that meeting.  But now this is the second meeting in which it is brought up.  So with Julie Williams slavishly following Witt, WNW voted to cram a new compensation program down the throats of the District, the Teachers, and the Taxpayers.

Then they did it again.  Witt & Miller listed the Miller contract for “Discussion” and then broke the Board’s own rules again by pushing in an unscheduled, inappropriate motion to extend Miller’s contract for 12 months.

And they did so before hearing a single word from the public on these actions!

In short, WNM+Williams mugged Dahlkemper, Fellman, the JCEA, and the JeffCo community and taxpayers.

What puzzles us most is:  Why are they doing this?

We do not mean why are they pushing through their highly partisan and political agenda. We expected nothing less. What has been puzzling us is why are they playing dirty political games in order to do it?

They do not have to!  They have the majority.  They could follow every rule to a “t”, allowing Dahlkemper and Fellman a full and respectful time period in which to raise their objections, and still vote their agenda through.  They could have simply said back in the Spring, “We have already decided on McMinimee from DougCo as our next Superintendent” instead of going through the charade (and expense) of a ‘national’ search. They could have proposed Witt & Miller’s compensation plan, allowed for full discussion, and then voted to approve it in the October regular meeting.  They could accomplish everything they have set out to accomplish in an above-board, honest, and open fashion.

But they choose not to.

Why?

We do not have an answer.  We do have some speculations, but they feel incomplete. Perhaps, some of us at the Watch have said, they cannot really believe that they are a majority, and so still act like a minority, sneaking their items through.  Others argue that their actions indicate that they fear how the public might react if the full extent of their destructive goals were known. A small number wonder if they have a dual goal:  not only destroy the school district, but also destroy the publics’ trust in its’ governing institutions (this is sometimes referred to as a ‘scorched earth’ strategy) thus preventing any real rebuilding of the District.

Whatever the reason, one effect is already apparent. Most observers of the Board would now trust a used car salesman sight unseen before they would trust Ken Witt, John Newkirk, or Brad Miller.  They might trust the word of Julie Williams, but only so long as Witt is not around to crack the whip on her.

A quick summation of the actual actions is below:

Agenda Item/Type

1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation / Discussion, Information
Contrary to Robert’s Rules of Order and the Board’s own policies, an unscheduled motion to adopt this model was made and passed over the vehement objections of Dahlkemper and Fellman.  In our estimation, if this model is put into force, District legal costs will go up, the average District teaching experience will go down.  Trust in the District leadership by the average teacher, already incredibly low, will drop further.  McMinimee is already showing his true colors by not fighting this tooth and nail to protect his best teachers.  The best and most experienced teachers will leave, fleeing to Districts that know how to value them (this is already occurring – see Support Jeffco Kids post on this).

1.03 Board Attorney Work / Discussion
After Miller and McMinimee consumed the vast majority of the alloted 20 minutes, mainly complaining how ‘unfair’ the observations and comments have been on how he was contracted, why he was contracted, and his actions taken while under contract.  At this point, Harry Truman’s adage, “If you can’t stand the heat…” started running through our heads.  

Newkirk, showing himself to be in command of inappropriate and inaccurate remarks, while not in command of rational thought, logic, reasoning, and accuracy by stating that since both Dahlkemper and Fellmans’ husbands are attorneys, they (Dahlkemper & Fellman) get free legal advice, so it is only appropriate that Witt, Williams, and himself get taxpayer-funded advice(?).  This really offended Fellman, who pointed out that her husband works on local government law, not education law.  Newkirk, sticking his other foot in it, said that Witt told him that Fellman’s husband was heavily involved in the Lobato case, which Fellman hotly denied.  All of that was, of course, another effort by Newkirk at misdirection.  (Is Witt feeding these dumb attacks to Newkirk?  If so, is it only Williams nose Witt has a ring in?)

At the end of it, again, contrary to Robert’s Rules of Order and the Board’s own policies, an unscheduled motion to extend Miller’s contract for 12 months was made and passed over the strong objections of Dahlkemper and Fellman.  

Initially, our opinion was this was a very needless action on the part of WNM+Williams…unless they fear that they are going to lose control of the board in the next year (are they hearing the word ‘recall’ in their darker moments?).  Upon further thought, we now believe that WNM+Williams will use this action to try to shut down any further efforts on Dahlkemper and Fellman’s part to keep raising the issue.  We hope and trust that this effort fails.  In the meantime, Miller has already sucked up over $60,000 of taxpayer money already.  Now he gets a least another $90,000.

The next two items we thought worth following were

5.06 Charter School Application – Alexandria School of Innovation

and

5.07 Charter School Application – Golden View Classical Academy

Since these were on the Consent Agenda, there was no discussion, and indeed, not much that could be done either way.  Anyone can submit an application.  Both now enter the evaluation process.  Both applications have serious flaws (see our post), including in how the Boards limit inclusion of parents and are structured to make sure that the originating organizations never lose control of them.  In the past, JeffCo staff have cited this last issue as something that needs to be fixed before the application is approved. How this will fare under McMinimee with WNM+Williams pulling his strings remains to be seen, but we are not hopeful.

Note:  Every single existing charter school in JeffCo needs to be very concerned about this. If these two applications, which have governing boards that cannot be run by the parents, are approved, then existing charter schools may try to change their Board member selection process.  This would functionally eliminate parental influence over a charter school’s activities, curriculum, agenda, teacher selection, and management.

This corporatization of charter schools threatens not only severe disruption of traditional school districts, but imperils the entire concept of public education and democracy.  When parents and taxpayers have no say in what schools are approved (or disapproved), what teachers are hired and under what conditions, what management style is used, what disciplinary actions can be taken, what textbooks are used, and what is actually taught, then we no longer have a public school system and we will have lost another key part of our democracy.

We strongly encourage current charter school parents to thoroughly think through the ramifications of these new types of ‘charter’ schools.  In our opinion, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

6.01 2015/2016 Budget Development Process

1) School Accountability Committees are supposed to have more say in what an individual schools budget priorities are.  That has been on the road map for sometime.

2) WNM+Williams really did not like last years community survey on budget priorities, and so promptly ignored the results.  This year, the District says a third party tool will be used.  Our projection is that WNW will probably not like the results of any truly non-biased survey and will continue to find fault with the results and ignore them.

3) Lori Gillis is very excited by the idea of Student Based Budgeting.  Apparently, JeffCo ha been looking into this for the last three years.  Training of principals begins next month.  There was no real explanation of ‘locked’ versus ‘unlocked’ resources, or what kind of dollars are assigned to various needs or categories.  As our previous post put it, “The devil is in the detail” and we want to see all the detail as soon as possible.

7.01 Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) Resolutions and Delegate Selection

First, Jill Fellman is currently JeffCo’s delegate to CASB.  Since this was a holdover from pre-WNW days, no one expected that to last much longer.  WNM+Williams voted to make Newkirk the new delegate, but they may run into a snag.  The same snag may be blocking the resolutions they wanted to present at CASB…since the registration time for the conference delegates and resolutions may already be past.  (Isn’t that what the Board Secretary’s position is supposed to track, Mr. Newkirk?  Did Mr. Miller fail to warn you?)

None this may make much of a difference since Witt already said he did not see much value in JeffCo being a part of CASB.  Many observers feel this is preparatory to a WNM+Williams adopting another DougCo stance and functionally pull out of CASB.

7.03 Committee to Study Common Core, PARCC and AP History

This was added to the agenda at the beginning of the meeting at Williams request.  She wants a committee to examine the PARCC test, Common Core compliant curriculum, and AP U.S. History texts for historical distortions (can you say ‘un-American influences’?).  Surprisingly, Williams went along with Witt on tabling this issue until the next meeting.

We find ourselves in an odd place.  We are horrified at Williams efforts in this vein, as it smacks of censorship and an effort to ‘cleanse’ our students history textbooks of anything even remotely critical of the United States in general, or Williams’ personal American mythology in specifics.  On the other hand, to watch Witt once again have her on a leash and give Williams a tug, functionally saying “Down, girl!”, may even be more repulsive.

Williams obeyed Witt yet again.  And once again, lost face in front of her supporters. We are left to wonder how long will she allow that to go on….

The next scheduled Board meeting is September 18th.  The agenda has not yet been posted, but the Board Work Calendar (which WNM+Williams is only following about 60% of the time) should include Community Engagement with the JeffCo Diversity Council (there is that word that Witt hates!) and Facilities Planning.  As soon as the agenda is published we will work to get a post out on it.

In the meantime, don’t let WNM+Williams get you down.  In the long run they can only win if we don’t…

Keep Fighting, Jeffco!

9/4: Why Go to the Meeting tonight? How about 2 New Charter Apps?

school-crossingThere is a lot going on in the BoE meeting tonight (5:30 p.m. Education Center – if  you can’t make it, watch the live stream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/JeffcoBoardRoom).  We have Witt’s Compensation Trojan Horse to start things off, then a review of the Miller contract (eight months late), followed by two new Charter school applications, and then an introduction to School Based Budgeting (SBB).  It promises to be a very interesting night!

And the new Charter school applications trouble us.  They are very different from the charter schools currently in JeffCo.

The current charter schools in JeffCo are basically run by the same people who banded together to create them.  In short, these charter schools are home-grown.  Their supporters are truly ‘grass-roots’ people.  They may have issues, and we may challenge them on various grounds, but basically they are started, supported, and run by JeffCo people for JeffCo students.

Not so Alexandria Innovation or Golden View Classical.

In both cases, the management of the schools will be done, for-profit, by an outside group.  The Barney Charter School Initiative from Hillsdale College for Golden View, and STEM Ventures for Alexandria.  Basically, where JeffCo’s charter schools have historically been independent, these two would be franchises run by non-JeffCo people for their own purposes.

Why is that a concern?

Because we have no assurance that they have the best interests of JeffCo, it’s parents, taxpayers, or (most importantly) its students at heart.  With Boards that are not subject to parental control, the amount of transparency and accountability diminishes rapidly.

Alexandria School of Innovation

In the case of the people proposing Alexandria, this is especially troubling because of the near disaster that occurred when they opened up the STEM Academy in DougCo a few years ago.

We heard from parents who had enrolled their children there, based on promises made by the Brannburgs, the owners of STEM Ventures, the Charter Management Organization (CMO) that is proposing Alexandria.  Promises that they turned out not being  be able to keep.  Within the first few weeks of the school opening, many children were pulled out of the school and went back to their original schools.  The original principal left.  There are also reports that the Brannburgs’ children had paying jobs at the Academy, giving the appearance of nepotism.  Apparently the Board fights were ferocious, and eventually the Brannburg’s were off the Board.  Since then the school has stabilized and grown.

There are other things that bother us immensely.  Barry Brannburg boasts of his experience as an entrepreneur with some kind of engineering background, yet his LinkedIn page shows only STEM Ventures and the STEM Academy & High school in Douglas County.  No other background is given.

The Staff listing on STEM has no one with any specific professional educational training or background.

Their website continues to say that the Alexandria school will be opening in DougCo (you would think they would have changed that by now).  There is no mention of applying in JeffCo.

We also have concerns about the accountability of the school’s Board to the parents.  The Brannburg’s Board structure is designed to make sure that they stay in control and that the parents are never able to actually take over the running of the Board.

Section 3.2. Number, Tenure and Qualifications.

(a) The Board of Directors will consist of five directors. Three directors will make up Class A Directors. Two directors will make up Class B Directors elected from the members. Members are defined as parents or guardians of currently enrolled students of ASI as mentioned in Section 2.1. Initially, there will be five appointed Founding Board directors from the original Development Team -two of which have prospective students who will attend the school. On September 1 of the 3nd year of operation, two of these original five directors will be replaced through a general election of the members and will serve a three-year term.

Apparently the Brannburgs’ learned from losing control of STEM High & STEM Academy and have no intention of losing control of Alexandria.  It is also apparent that they have no respect for the parents of the children they propose to teach…otherwise why would they make sure that parents can never control the Board?

Another clause that concerns us is found in Appendix E, which is the legal agreement that a Board member must sign in order to serve on the Board:

Board members will not question any decision made by the Head of School – Executive Director (ED) in any public arena.

Since the proposed Head of School – Executive Director is Judy Brannburg, it is apparent that she does not want any decision she makes to be publicly reviewed, much less criticized.

So much for transparency.  And with the lack of transparency, we also lose the accountability for how JeffCo tax dollars are spent.

Golden View Classical Academy

Golden View concerns us from other standpoints.

Basically, Golden View will be run as a franchise of Hillsdale College of Michigan, a highly conservative institution.  Much like McDonalds, they have stringent rules for how their ‘franchisees’ run their schools.

For example, professional development of the teachers is to be provided by Hillsdale.  How will that work logistically? Can teachers only be trained there? If so, how does that work over time when teachers leave? Does our district pay for their private instruction through this private institution?

Golden View and Hillsdale boast how their “Classical” curriculum is so superior.  How has it be shown that it has the ability to close the achievement gap? Are there independent reports that indicate this?

The report implies that the curriculum is still being developed. How will applicants know what the final curriculum will look like if they attend? Without that information, how will parents know if their child will be prepared to enter a tier 1 university?

It does not look like this school will prepare students to take AP level classes, nor are they available at this school. Why not? Colleges look upon these favorably. Gifted kids should have them in their portfolio. High schools that do not offer IB or AP classes are not looked upon as favorably by top colleges.  They also tend to be more skeptical about the rigor of the students preparation.

Golden View plans to open as a K-10 school, yet there seems to be no plan to make sure that students leaving the 10th grade there will be ready for the 11th grade curriculum in a JeffCo high school.  This raises the possibility that the  students would likely need to do remedial work in order to achieve  their high school diploma at Lakewood, or D’Evelyn, or Columbine.

Finally, there is the emphasis on teaching from a Judeo-Christian/ Greco-Roman viewpoint.  In our opinion, this borders on the teaching of religious principals with public taxpayer dollars.

Summary

In so many ways, Jeffco has been very lucky with its charter schools.  They have been rooted in the local community, run by local people for the benefit of their own children.  Now a new phase is starting, one that has been seen elsewhere and is beginning to show an ugly face – the corporatization of charter schools and the running of them for either profit or religious/political indoctrination.  Alexandria and Golden View seem to us, to be examples of this forked development.  We should tread very carefully, with eyes wide open, and a very skeptical ear.

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Keep Fighting, JeffCo!