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.
- 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) .
- 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.
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.
- A systemic approach across grades, with cross grade communication.
- Hiring AND retaining great teachers.
- 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?
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!