7.6.15 A Response to Skeptics

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Some WNW supporters can’t handle the truth.

Last week, 9 News ran a story featuring Jeffco Exodus, a parent-run website and Facebook page chronicling the stories of teachers, administrators and staff leaving Jeffco. In it, one Jeffco resident questioned everything, including the turnover numbers from the Colorado Department of Education. One of our Jeffco teachers responded and shared her response with us and Jeffco Exodus.
We’ve printed her story below, and encourage you to share this with your friends and neighbors. Whether or not Horn truly wants to know the truth is an open question, but there are many Jeffco residents who are truly interested. Let’s make sure the rest of Jeffco keeps hearing the stories of teachers like Susan Coveyduck so they understand what is at stake.
Ms. Horn,
I saw your interview as part of the story broadcast by Nelson Garcia on 9 News the other night. It was about teacher mass exodus from Jefferson County schools. In the interview you posed a question that I thought I would politely answer for you. You also made a statement that I would like to address.
You wanted to know why Jeffco teachers are not happy that they’re getting a raise.  Well, first let me explain to you that I AM happy that the younger teachers in my district and the new hires are going to make significantly higher salaries in September, something that is more competitive with other districts. This is completely thanks to the MOU that my professional association negotiated with the school district.  This is finally some financial relief for about 1000 of the 5000 teachers in the district, about 20%.
The remaining 4000 teachers (80%) will be receiving a 1% increase. Since the average teacher in Jefferson County makes 52,000, after taxes this equates to about $38-$40 per month. Given that the rate of inflation is many times more than that, and that the recession depleted many of our savings, do you think this is sufficient to convince effective, highly effective and mastery level teachers to stay with the district? What if the other districts were offering a greater increase in salary? Denver public schools is offering OVER 5% to its teachers. Boulder County is offering 3% plus the cost of living increase that’s close to 3%. Does this sound like a competitive business model to you? I don’t think it takes an MBA to see that this is a bad design. You claim to be supportive of public education, but it would appear that instead you would promote a model which would destroy our schools. Is that what you want?
You made a statement in which you questioned the quality of the teachers who are choosing to leave. Do you think that Jeffco teachers would leave a paid position, especially if they have children, if they didn’t think that they had a competitive edge at getting a higher paid position?  I would respectfully suggest to you, Ms. Horn, that it will only be the most talented people competing for those highly desired jobs in other districts. The best teachers are leaving Jeffco schools, not the weakest. The weak would cling to their jobs for fear they might not find another.
I am an award-winning, mastery level teacher with 20 years of experience in Jefferson County schools. My current public school has performed in the top 10 schools in the STATE since it opened, 14 years ago. I could get a job anywhere I want. I would leave this year, I am so heartbroken by what is happening to my district, except I can’t afford to. The salary freeze that we agreed to and the subsequent loss of increase in salary due to the board majority has resulted in a loss of $20,000 to my household income. Thankfully, my husband is not also a teacher, or that pain would be double as it is for many Jeffco teachers. Instead, I will save as much as I can for the next two years and leave then. THIS EXODUS, AND THE FUTURE DEPARTURES WILL BE A HUGE LOSS TO THE DISTRICT.
Who will mentor the incoming teachers, teaching them superior methods, methods only learned through years of experience, trial and error?
I just thought you would like some answers to your questions. If you would like to speak more, with greater depth I would be happy to talk to you sometime. Unfortunately, I think many of the people who support this board majority don’t really understand what is happening on the inside. They are doing massive, hemorrhaging damage to a beautiful school district.
Susan Coveyduck, MA
Science Department Chair, Instructional Leader
8th Grade Science and STEM Elective
The Manning Option School, Golden 

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

6.22.15 Late June Jeffco Teacher Negotiations Update

I can no longer tolerate the actions/policies of this school board.  I have accepted a job teaching at Monarch High School.

– Chuck Stephen, former Lakewood HS band & orchestra teacher

From the beginning of negotiations with the district, our Teacher Association, JCEA, has been seeking stability and certainty.  The best way to have a highly qualified teacher in a classroom is to have a career path for teachers that encourages them to develop their skills, live in their communities in which they teach, and impact the “whole child.”  This includes not just teaching core subjects, but also electives, clubs, sports, and more.  To that end, the association has been negotiating in good faith since March with designated district staff.  Little progress had been made until recently due to uncertainty over budgets. Now that that has been settled (through another 3-2 vote by our WNW triad of doom), here are some salient points:

  • Teachers with less than or 6 years of experience will receive a pay bump so that their salaries are in line with a new salary schedule for new hires that increases starting pay to $38K and increases 2% a year. Details can be found here.
  • Master’s degrees previously earned after 2012, but not compensated for will be caught up.
  • Hard to fill positions will get some additional money to aid hiring.
  • All other employees will see an approximately 1% increase, depending on their performance rating.

This plan is ONLY in place for the 2015-2016 school year, and there is no agreement on anything else going forward.  As for the certainty that the association is seeking, there is still none.

Now that negotiations are down to four scheduled days (June 29-July 2), it is looking increasingly likely that no agreement will be reached unless more days are added to negotiations.  Many of the open items are the ones that impact whether teachers have certainty in their future career options in Jeffco, such as:

  • District-proposed contract expiration of June 30, 2016, an echo of DougCo’s plan to crush their association.
  • No salary schedule or compensation plan beyond the 2015-16 school year.
  • No agreed-upon plan regarding how school principals will decide about displacement if staffing needs to change.
  • No plan for the use of buildings by the association, or even for the role of a JCEA president.
  • Completely open-ended questions on education of the “whole child,” electives, counselors, librarians, etc.
  • Class sizes (which, of course is a big budget driver)

Chalkbeat has posted many of the documents being negotiated, with “red line” versions available too (scroll past the first part of the article to view them).

Given that the board’s plan was to negotiate from a blank sheet of paper, they have done a good job of making clear their priorities. Their only priority seemingly was, up to a week ago, to get their new hire salary schedule approved.  Now that they have gotten what they wanted, it is clear that any other contract terms are going to be hard-fought for the association.

If we want teachers to not quit the district (more 600 last year, and more than 700 already this year), we need a contract that gives them reasons to stay, with reasons including everything from salary to professional development to respect for what they do for the community.  It is in the interest of the community to have happy teachers because they’re working environment is the student’s learning environment.  The association has repeatedly made clear their desire for a contract is NOT to protect bad teachers.  That is a red herring that has NO basis in facts on the ground.  Watch the negotiations if you have time, so you can see for yourself.


 

Keep fighting, JeffCo!

6.10.15 – We need you at Thursday’s BOE meeting

The June 11 Jeffco School Board meeting is the final budget hearing for the 2015/16 budget. We need you there. Why? To make sure the board keeps its priorities straight.

Some of the main issues this year?

1. We need to finance new schools in the west Lakewood and northwest Arvada area. WNW has consistently refused to approve Certificates of Participation, despite the recommendations of district staff and McMinimee himself.

Julie Williams wants the district to build a modular school in the NW Arvada area, despite McMinimee’s point that a similar school in Douglas County, was cheaper because it was built during the recession when building costs were down and which, notably, has needed considerable repairs during that time. John Newkirk thinks the district can convince the developers to enter a new era of partnership in which they also donate money or other services to help build a school. (McMinimee’s response [slightly paraphrased]: “In my experience, the developers see their contribution as the land they already donated to the district.”) Ken Witt is hostile to the idea of debt, as is Newkirk, who likened debt to a fire extinguisher behind glass that says “break in case of emergency.” (That comment reveals so much privilege and so little experience of the real lives of the Jeffco taxpayers, doesn’t it? One might also suspect that they were big supporters of 2010’s Amendment 61 — one of the “bad 3,” all of which were voted down 2-1 by Colorado voters.)

The BOE voted to allocate $15 million of unallocated dollars for a new school, but as we’ve pointed out, $15 million won’t build a $25 million school (the district’s estimate). Where’s the other $10 million coming from? Who knows!

What they should do: approve the COPs and free up that $15 million for compensation, reserves, and classrooms. Their priorities are our children, not their high-handed ideals about how all debt is bad and new schools can just be built by cutting the budget.

2. Put more money into facilities and reserves. Instead, thanks to the $15 million that will only build part of a school, we’re putting less into reserves. It’s something, but its insufficient. Remember, we pulled heavily from reserves when the budget cuts hit. We need to build them up before the next round, which is forecast for 2017 or so. Reserve funds also affect our credit rating, which in turn gives us better interest rates on existing bonds and for any bonds the district might pursue in the future.

Facilities maintenance has also been neglected for a number of years. Some of the $15 million should be allocated back to facilities where it belongs.

3. Teacher compensation is without a doubt our number one priority. The district has made some increases available, though a large portion is eaten up by PERA and ACA increases. Another portion was allocated to increasing compensation for new hires and hard-to-fill positions like speech pathologists. Unfortunately, despite the district’s emphasis that more money would need to be available in order to equalize salaries for veteran teachers, WNW’s response has been “maybe next year.” A small increase of 1 percent is available as JCEA and the district continuing negotiating, but that amount isn’t likely to be distributed evenly (see: performance pay) and isn’t nearly enough to equalize salaries with the newcomers.

Yes, you read that right: salaries for new hires with the same years of experience and same education would be higher than the salaries of our veteran teachers who agreed to the pay freeze during the rejection and have stuck with us while we all waited for the economy to improve.

At the May 26 meeting — the first budget hearing — they had a chance to change that. They didn’t. Newkirk said he’d like to, but maybe next year because the budget money has already been allocated (see #1, above).

The board majority doesn’t care about retaining our excellent Jeffco teachers.

Do you?

If so, it’s time to speak up. Be there: June 11, 6:30 pm. (Come at 5:30 if you’d like to hear about the strategic plan and Acuity results during the study session.) You can sign up to comment on the agenda here or for the budget hearing here. Have a comment about a topic not on the agenda? Click here to sign up for public comment part 2.

Here’s a basic summary of the budget changes to-date:

  • a proposed 1% compensation increase
  • an additional staff-recommended $1.152M compensation increase for targeted employees (principals, assistant principals, hard-to-fill teacher positions and master’s degree recognition for teachers),
  • a $763k substitute teacher pay increase
  • a $2.014M increase in student-based budget (SBB) funding for neighborhoods schools
  • $3M transfer to reserve
  • $186k increase for charter school mill levy override equalization

There’s plenty more going on. For those events, we’ll link you to the posts from our friends at Support Jeffco Kids for news about a new marketing and communications hire (sneak peak: she’s been working for the Independence Institute and loves those vouchers!), Communication Chief Lisa Pinto’s resigntation, last weekend’s rally in Jeffco, and more.

Can’t make it to the meeting? Please write the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us and tell them what you think.

The meeting will be streamed live (we hope) at http://new.livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Keep fighting, JeffCo!


 

5.22.2015 Clear your Tuesday calendar

We know that many of you, like us, are deep in the glut of end-of-school concerts and activities, but things are heating up just in time for Tuesday’s board meeting. Here’s a brief summary of what’s been going on the last couple of weeks.

May 7 – The BOE majority votes to move $15 million from the budget “underspend” (dollars that aren’t already allocated) all for a new school in the NW Arvada area. The problem? There are many. Among them: $15 million is still $10 million short of the amount the district estimated for a K-8 school in the area. In addition, the vote puts less into district reserves than originally planned, and crushes all other options for those dollars. District staff had recommended the $13.5 million be distributed to teacher compensation, students, facilities and reserves. For more details about that discussion, check out the Jeffco Schools Examiner story.

Witt also targeted a high school student for the “crime” of clicking the favorite button on a tweet that came from the parody @notlisapinto Twitter account. During the meeting, which went way into the wee hours of May 8, he said he would not meet with Jeffco Students for Change because he claimed that their leader had favorited a Facebook post that contained a racial epithet aimed at a Jeffco staffer. Well, as it turns out, (1) it was Twitter, not Facebook, (2) there were no racial epithets, and (3) it’s a violation of board policy and probably a number of other laws to put the full name of a Jeffco student up on the screen in full view of the board room during the board meeting.

Angry? Us too, though we also wonder whether it was meant to be a distraction for what came next.

May 12 – The district’s new compensation plan was put on hold by a Jeffco judge, who ruled that the district may not pay new hires under that plan–at least if they were hired after May 1. It’s unclear what will happen to those hired between the decision and the May 1 date. For more details, check out Chalkbeat’s fine article.

May 18 – Jeffco refuses to host a bill signing for Governor John Hickenlooper at Lakewood High School, claiming that it would be too inconvenient with students taking finals and would create a security staff shortage (or something along those lines). So, hosting Katy Perry last year (an event early in the morning that the governor also attended, by the way) isn’t a problem, but a bill signing is. Please. We have amazing security experts in Jeffco. They would handle it fine–if only they’d been given the opportunity.

May 20 – Contract negotiations with JCEA took a turn, after the district realized it needs some plan to pay those new hires. Again, check out Chalkbeat for the details.

May 21 – Jeffco’s talks with JCEA stall. We’re sure you’re shocked. Not surprisingly, the district continues to maintain the position that they want to remain competitive for new hires, never mind the salary gap and the fact that our veteran teachers are not being recognized in any way for sticking with the district through the years of pay freezes. The JCEA Twitter feed is one among many that gives a feel for Thursday’s conversation, but you can also watch the video feed here or read the Chalkbeat article.

District officials blame the budget–and this is where your help is needed. The first hearing for the budget is this Tuesday, May 26 (note the date change!). It’s time to help the school board remember what its priorities should be: compensating our teachers fairly and focusing on the classroom. Instead, they’re claiming the budget is too small to give much if anything to veteran teachers, but that apparently isn’t stopping them from awarding a $5,236 raise to Chief Communication Officer Lisa Pinto.

Wait, you say? How is she getting a raise when she clearly has not proven to be a highly effective or even effective employee? Where’s the data that her position has improved student achievement–which is Witt’s usual rallying cry? Instead, she’s increased the amount of negative press that Jeffco has, including the May 19 Denver Post editorial by the criticizing the district’s refusal to allow the bill signing. Pinto didn’t make that call, but her response to the governor’s office was far from professional (as is any communication that begins with the phrase “for your information”). She is not effective and by Witt’s own rules, does not deserve a raise until she becomes effective. We’re still waiting.

If you don’t like what’s going on, it’s time to speak up. Sign up for public comment here (and if you do, plan for public commented to be shortened to 1 minute for individuals). Can’t make it to the meeting? Write the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us, and mark off June 11, which is the date of the second budget hearing.

Finally we’re sorry to report that Lesley Dahlkemper will not run for her seat again this November. She made that announcement on her Facebook page on May 3. But all is not lost, as Jeffco parent Amanda Stevens will run for that seat. Amanda has been a strong voice for our students at board meetings, and we hope you will like her Facebook page and support her in every way possible through the coming months.

Keep fighting, Jeffco!

We cannot give up now.


 

5.15.15 Students Survey Teachers…They are not happy

The fully student-based Jeffco Student Network for Change has posted the result of a survey they wrote, pushed out, and analyzed.  An attempt was made to present this at the 5/7/15 meeting of the BOE, but the speaker, a minor, was only allowed 2 minutes and unable to present the full results of their work.  She did a great job in the two minutes she was given, hitting the highlights very well.  We at Jeffco School Board Watch repeatedly have said that teachers are being devalued and there is a lack of trust.  Three graphics from this student survey help to verify this.

Do you feel valued as a district employee?

 (1238 responses)

And this graphic below shows a lack of trust too.  Some of the written comments back this up, with the sad remark that regardless of what the negotiating team does, Ken Witt will try to destroy any negotiated agreement.

Do you trust the district personnel to negotiate with the bargaining team in good faith?

 (1238 responses)

Card

Well, regardless of the BOE, has the superintendent earned the trust of teachers?  Data says otherwise.

Do you have confidence in Dan McMinimee as superintendent of JeffCo Public Schools? 

 (1238 responses)

Please take time to look at the student’s full survey results.  It is clear that this BOE has destroyed the good working relationship with the teachers association.  What is best for students is to have teachers in the classroom who feel valued and can see a future in Jeffco.  The survey results paint a grim picture if a reasonable contract is not negotiated.

Keep watching!

And keep informed as we head to this fall’s elections.