JeffCo Board Meeting Coming Up! – Saturday 8/23

MeetingThis Saturday morning the Board has its’ first meeting of the new school year. Technically a ‘Study Session’, this is where WNW tries to lay the groundwork for many of their most controversial actions.  Below is the current agenda with our comments.

Plan on being there!  If we can start off with a very large group, then we will be serving notice to the Board, Miller, and McMinimee (plus his transplanted co-worker, Syna Morgan) that our concern, focus, and energy have not dissipated away over the summer break.  It is always a good thing when government policy boards know that they are under close observation!

BOE Meeting 2014-08-23
Date and Time:
 Saturday, August 23, 2014, at 9:00 a.m.
Where: Education Center 5th Floor Board Room,1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO

Key Agenda Items
Agenda Item: 2.01 Norming with the Superintendent
Type:
 Discussion
Estimated Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
PRESENTING STAFF: Daniel M. McMinimee, superintendent, Jane Barnes, facilitator
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to reach agreements for board behaviors, board/staff relationships and goals for board and district work for 2014-2015.
BACKGROUND: On July 1, Dan McMinimee started work as Jeffco Schools superintendent.  This work session is the first opportunity for the five-member board to meet and discuss with the superintendent how they will work together in the coming year, and review goals and expectations for district work.
Supporting Documents: Annual Work Plan GP6 exhibit 2014-2015.pdf,  BWC 2014-2015.pdf
Our comments: This really should have been called “familiarizing McMinimee with JeffCo’s standard annual plan for the Board and making agreed upon modifications”.  Or maybe simply “Board/Superintendent Annual Work Plan Review”.  We are unsure why the term “norming” was used.

More importantly, you will definitely want to review the Board Work Calendar (BWC 2014-2015.pdf).  Here we find just what WNW plans on looking at and strong hints at the restructuring they plan to force on JeffCo, i.e, Charter Schools.  Why do we say that?  Look at the key agenda items they have specified for the coming year:

8/23 – Communications:  Engagement, Correspondence, Public Comment, Contacting Staff (Pay careful attention to this – a chance for them to minimize public input and allow direct contact from the Board to the District employees), In Exec Session – Employee Negotiations

8/28 – Choice Steering Committee – If no Exec Session on 8/23, then Employee Negotiations

9/4 – Board Attorney Scope of Work (FINALLY!), New Charter School Applications, 2015-16 Budget Development

9/18 – Community Engagement (Jeffco Diversity Council) & Facilities Planning

10/2 – Public Hearing on Charter Apps, Collegiate Academy & Mt. Phoenix Loan Updates (should be very interesting, especially Collegiate), Choice Steering report

10/16 – School-based budgeting (required by state law)

11/6 – Facilities Master Plan, Charter Apps, Technology Report, 2015-16 Budget, School-Based Budgeting, Capital Financing

11/20 – Choice Survey Findings (There is going to be another survey!?)

12/11 – Comprehensive Annual Financial Review (CAFR), Mill Levy (3A/3B anyone?)

(The agendas for the remaining meetings are not complete yet.  Consent, Ends Discussion/Monitoring, General Discussion, and Policy Review items are currently blank.  It is expected that these will be filled in as the school year goes on.)

1/15 – Exec Session: Employee Negotiations (First time since August!?)

2/5 – Charter Renewals, Budget Direction

2/19 – Legislative update

3/5 – Budget Update

3/19 – nothing currently scheduled

4/2 – Budget Update

4/16 – Draft BOE Meeting schedule for 2015-16

5/7 – Budget Public Hearing, Budget Presentation

5/TBD – Budget Adoption

6/11 – nothing currently scheduled

6/25 – nothing currently scheduled

By our count Charter or “Choice” related items are on the agenda 11 times, the 2015-16 Budget 11 times, Facilities five times, JCEA negotiations twice, School-based budgeting twice, Brad Miller once, and STEM once.  No where do we see Free, Full-Day Kindergarten for disadvantaged children, expansion of IB and AP programs, GT issues, Special Ed issues, healthy lunches, bus services, arts and music, high school electives, teacher training, and many others.

In fact, if we remove the budget agenda items (which are more or less preset by the budget cycle), the number of times the Board will consider Charter or “Choice” items equals all the times it will consider the physical condition of our schools, teacher negotiations, implementing a new and complex accounting system, the role of Brad Miller, and STEM education!

There is an old business adage that you can tell what someone is focused on by how much time they spend on it.  By WNW’s choice of agenda items, their focus is clear:  Charter schools.  And the rest of the District and 90% of the student population can make do with what is left over.

Agenda Item: 2.02 Facilities Planning Preview
Type:
 Discussion, Information
Estimated Time: 1 hour
PRESENTING STAFF:     Steve Bell, chief operating officer, Tim Reed, executive director, Facilities
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to be informed of the state of facilities, enrollment/utilization issues, short and long range planning issues.
BACKGROUND: In order to be prepared for future discussions, the superintendent requested time with the Board to provide an overview of the Facility Portfolio; enrollment and utilization issues district-wide at elementary and middle schools; and, the need to receive guidance at a future board meeting to address these needs.   Additionally, the District-wide Facilities Master Plan needs to be updated with Board of Education direction on planning issues to be taken into consideration as part of that process.
Supporting Documents: State of Current Facility Portfolio
Our comments: When it comes to our facilities condition (buildings & grounds) JeffCo is on the borderline between average and below average with the industry with almost $470 million in renovations needed over the next five years (versus $2.4 Billion in total replacement costs).  12 facilities need replacement, another 111 are in either poor or very poor condition, 21 in below average condition, nine in average, and 15 in either good or best condition.  In short, 123 of 168 facilities or ⅔’s of JeffCo’s facility square footage (7,964,334ft2) is in need of replacement or serious maintenance work.  Please keep in mind that Lori Gillis was warning the Board about this last June when WNW pushed through the increase in funding to the charter schools!

Among the other work proposed by the Staff is a new K-8 school on the north side of Golden (58th & Hwy93).  This will be a test of WNW & McMinimee’s proclamations of support for neighborhood schools.  This area ten years ago was almost exclusively used for ranching and farming.  Now, it is a major northern suburb for Golden.  In short, a new neighborhood.  As such, it should get its own neighborhood school.

If WNW begin talking about instead of a traditional neighborhood school placing a Charter school there, then another one of their public statements will be shown not be worth the electrons it takes to record them.  Solterra/West Lakewood is another location where their public pronouncements will be tested.

Anyone care to place some bets?

Agenda Item: 2.03 Budget Development Process
Type:
 Discussion, Information
Estimated Time: 1 hour
PRESENTING STAFF:     Lorie Gillis, chief financial officer, Lorri Dugan, budget director
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to receive early recommendations and provide input on the 2015/2016 budget development process.  Staff will share planned changes and improvements to budgetary practices.  The discussion will include budget objectives, budget timelines, and specific questions regarding Board information needs.
BACKGROUND: The Board of Education requested information and discussion time on the 2015/2016 budget development process.
Supporting Documents: Budget Development Process Presentation.pdf
Our comments: This is one of those times when you will want to stay wide awake through what looks like a boring process. (One benefit of a WNW-controlled Board – they alter the atmosphere of the driest, most routine Board process to one of severe apprehension, resulting in intense focus on the part of both participants and observers.)  WNW almost has to tip their hand on what they see as their next step. The goals and guidance they give Lorie and Lorri will tell us where the battlefields will most likely be as the year goes on.

Agenda Item: 2.04 Communications Processes
Type:
 Discussion, Information
Estimated Time: 30 Minutes
PRESENTING STAFF: Daniel M. McMinimee, superintendent, Lynn Setzer, chief communications officer, Helen Neal, chief of staff
PURPOSE:For the Board of Education to receive information to improve current practices on board correspondence, public comment, community engagement and board contact with staff/principals.
BACKGROUND: Following the practices of Spring 2014, the Board requested that the superintendent review with an eye to improving how public correspondence, public comment and community engagement are handled.
Supporting Documents: Board Correspondence Current Process.pdf (94 KB), Board Correspondence Issues-Concerns.pdf (102 KB), Correspondence- KDA Correspondence from the Public.pdf (307 KB), PC-Policies Agenda Script.pdf (3,580 KB), Public comment practices from other districts.pdf (91 KB)Strategies BOE public engagement.pdf (105 KB)
Our comments: One of the things last year that proved to be a very nasty surprise for WNW is just how large, vocal, and determined is the opposition to their radical agenda.  It is not surprising that they are following the path of DougCo in desperately trying to shut down public comment. We fully expect that WNW+Miller will try to modify the Correspondence- KDA Correspondence from the Public.pdf (307 KB) document to eliminate even a hint that they should allow public comment in non-regular meetings (such as this one!).  Look for them to pick and choose among the other ‘standard practices’ the ones that will most severely limit the opportunity for JeffCo residents to participate or even know what is going on.  Especially look for efforts to restrict the number of people who can talk, the length of the public comment sessions, and an effort to move it to a telephone townhall with a moderator, which will allow them almost total control over who talks.  Authentic Tea Partiers, Liberals, Conservatives, and Independents alike should be outraged if this is what they do.  It would be a severe and unwarranted restriction on one of the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution:  The right petition for a redress of grievances.

Agenda Item: 3.01 (Executive Session) Negotiations Direction with District Employees regarding the JCEA Tentative Agreement and Fact Finding
Type:
 Action, Discussion
Recommended Action:  to move into executive session to provide negotiations direction with respect to the fact finding report that is expected to be issued the week of August 18 discuss, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(e).

The Board of Education will meet in executive session in the Seminar Room to provide negotiations direction with respect to the Fact Finder’s report as it pertains to negotiations with employee associations, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(e).

After the vote to move into executive session, this portion of the meeting is closed to the public.  The Board will reconvene in open session at approximately 2:00 p.m. to adjourn the meeting.  Any action to be taken by the Board will be posted to the August 28, 2014 meeting agenda.
Our comments: Here is when the biggest fireworks of the day is most likely to occur.  For the Board to go into Executive Session requires a ⅔ majority vote.  In the case of JeffCo’s five member Board, that means a minimum of four votes in favor.  Last spring Dahlkemper and Fellman resolutely refused to do this, apparently after having been railroaded several times by WNW in these sessions not only over JCEA negotiations, but also the hiring of McMinimee, and the refusal to appeal the 2090 S. Wright ownership decision by a Lakewood judge.

The betting right now is that they will continue to refuse to vote for Executive Session.  This is very contentious.  In fact, Brad Miller, in an effort to force Fellman to vote in favor of an earlier Executive Session, sent her an email that could be described as extortion, telling her that refusal to go along with his advice could expose her to personal liability lawsuits (something that other attorneys have told us is nonsense).

On top of that, the JCEA negotiations are a hot spot all to themselves.  Last spring, a tentative agreement had been reached between JCEA and the District’s negotiating team, when Witt surprised his own team (and everyone else) with an additional, non-negotiable demand.  When JCEA went ahead and approved the original agreement, WNW then voted down the contract, pushing it into a “fact finding” mode.  Witt then showed his real intention (no contract at all) by insisting on fact finding on all contract items, not just the one in dispute.  This not only dramatically drags out the amount of time negotiations will take (getting WNW closer to the end of the existing contract), but will also cost the District an additional (and unnecessary) tens of thousands of dollars.

With all this at stake, we do not see Dahlkemper or Fellman agreeing to the Executive Session.

With all this going on, who needs to watch NFL pre-season games?  There is a lot more excitement at the Board meetings!  So Show Up!  And…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!


 

4/12 Saturday Post: What Can I Do?

A commentary from Jeffco Guardian:

“What can I do?”

This is the number one question heard these days when the topic of the ongoing and controversial Jeffco board majority actions comes up.  It comes from everyone:  parents, teachers, grandparents, coworkers and neighbours.  People are feeling helpless and, unfortunately, somewhat hopeless.  They see a the Board majority of WNW pushing forward their own agenda regardless of what anyone says about it.  They do this under the pretense that they were elected to do just that.

Continue reading

April 3rd Meeting Review – Yet another view:

Study Session

1.02 Superintendent Search Update: Bill Newman of Ray & Associates – the firm heading up the district’s superintendent search – presented on the themes from the stakeholder forums that were held last month. You can see their report at here. Page 4 is interesting in that you can see what the different groups’ priorities are, including the BOE.

Mr. Newman pointed out 2 discrepancies where BOE priority gave priority to something other stakeholders did not:

Quality/characteristic #16: “Non-traditional or “hybrid” with background in military, business and/or education” – was ranked as a #3 priority for the BOE (with 3 votes) vs a ranking of 33 for teachers, 32 for administrators, 32 for support staff, 30 for parents, 30 for students, 32 for non-parent community member and 32 for other.  That’s out of a possibility of 33.  Wow.  That’s a pretty clear message! Continue reading

Denied Charter On April 3 Meeting Agenda?

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In November, the school board voted to deny Cornerstone Academy’s charter application.  Among the reasons for denial:  lack of financial solvency, low enrollment numbers, no plan for serving Special Needs children, and no location site.

One board member said in November that she felt the application was very incomplete and not well thought out, stating the application failed to meet many of the minimum requirements of much of the charter school rubric.

The district’s accountability committee, SPAC (Strategic Planning and Advisory Council) also recommended the board deny Cornerstone’s application.

Following WNW’s swearing in at the end of November, Witt commented that he wanted to revisit Cornerstone’s application to avoid the expense of an appeal process, implying the new board intends to allow Cornerstone to move forward despite its many issues and the application’s failure to meet many standards.

Here is a link to a letter from the Colorado Department of Education declining Cornerstone’s application for a Title V Charter School Start Up Grant of $215,000. http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/files/9D883B7E48FB/$file/Cornerstone%20Academy%20of%20CO%202013-14%20grant%20CCSP.pdf

From November 7, here is a link to Cornerstone’s 6 year budget proposal http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/files/9CWSTJ5FEC04/$file/CAC%20Full%20Capacity%206-yr%2010-21-2013.pdf

Here is a link to the rubric for charter school review of Cornerstone referenced above where you can read Cornerstone’s failure to provide goals for assessments, to explain where partnership money will come from, to provide any significant time for staff development, to mention the READ Act, to provide a solvent budget for the first year or provide for Special Ed Services.

Below is a letter from John Peery, who oversaw charter schools in Jeffco and who has recently resigned his position, in which he explains his issues with Cornerstone’s application: http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/files/9CZ4Q9787A31/$file/EX%20J%202013-memo%20to%20Supt%20CAC%20%202nd%20budget.pdf

We have not yet seen the agenda for the April 3 meeting but prior board discussion indicated Cornerstone would be added to the April 3 agenda.

While there is some justification of the need for a charter like Cornerstone in the south area, a number of questions remain unanswered about this particular charter’s application.  To approve the application of Cornerstone without an answer to these questions could prove to be a burden on our district and another financially irresponsible decision on the part of WNW.

Then there is always the question of our school district’s limited resources.  Any time a new charter school is approved, it drains money from all of our schools, including other charters.

You can read all the documents on Cornerstone Academy here http://www.boarddocs.com/co/jeffco/Board.nsf/Public by clicking on meetings, then scrolling to the November 7, 2013 meeting agenda.

UPDATE:  Lisa Cook wrote about what happened regarding Cornerstone Academy and the conditional approval at length here:http://www.examiner.com/article/new-jeffco-charter-school-given-conditional-go-ahead

It boils down to this: they need to meet the conditions, which include the concerns about special education, parental involvement, and especially budget and tie by April 24. If they don’t, the application is denied. If they meet all the conditions except a site acceptable to the district, they’ll be given additional time to pursue a site, which might include delaying their opening date by a year.

The decision was made at the Feb. 6 regular board meeting, and the recorded minutes are available on the Jeffco Schools website. Supporting documents should be available in BoardDocs.