2.10.17 BOE Meeting Summary & Action Items

UpdateSo we’ve mostly recovered from the 8-hour marathon Jeffco School Board meeting, and wanted to quickly outline some of the decisions.

First, we’d like to commend our Board President Ron Mitchell and board members Susan Harmon, Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, and Amanda Stevens for their work Thursday night. They listened to students, parents, teachers, and even state and local legislatures with respect and consideration.

The atmosphere was vastly different than it was two years ago. No one was cut off. No one was escorted out. Board members made it clear they wanted to hear all voices, and voted to move the agenda item about winter MAP results to a future meeting in order to fully focus on public comment and the budget.

The discussion about facilities and budget issues was articulate and responsive to both the issues at hand and to the many letters and comments they had heard from the community.

After hours of public comment, Superintendent Dan McMinimee opened the budget discussion by telling board members that he was backing away from his original recommendations, based on the outcry from the community. Instead, McMinimee said his staff was able to identify $11.8 million in cuts plus $9 million in retirement savings that could be used for compensation, without affecting the classroom.

While this was welcome news, JCSBW wonders why McMinimee couldn’t have figured this out earlier. Board members had directed him to find money in the budget that didn’t affect the classroom. Proposing to close five schools affects a lot of classrooms, and the many other proposed cuts caused two weeks of apparently needless stress to hundreds of families throughout Jeffco.

The original budget cut proposal was bad leadership by McMinimee, pure and simple. Blindsiding several school communities with unexpected closure news and even more by telling them their current fifth graders were not going to complete their sixth grade year in elementary school — only to say “never mind!” two weeks later is inexcusable.

We’d also like to commend the Jeffco community for advocating for students. About 150 people spoke to the board members on Thursday night, and about 500 packed into various rooms in the Education Building. There were three overflow rooms for those who couldn’t fit into the main board room. Thank you for making your voices heard.

Here’s a brief summary of the decisions made at the meeting.

School Closures Update

The board members discussed the proposed school closures in detail and voted to keep Peck, Stober, Swanson, and Pennington open.

The future of Stober and Pennington remain the most uncertain for following years, board members said, largely due to the condition of the facilities and small size, but they agreed that more time needs to be spent looking at the issue. Board members also expressed concern about closing a school that had no prior warning that it was on a potential closure list.

Pleasant View Elementary, on the other hand, will close at the end of this school year. Board members voted for the closure with the stipulation that one-time funds be provided for mental health services for those students. We urge the district to present plans for boundary changes, bussing options, opportunities for families to tour their new schools, classroom and staffing configurations and other key factors as soon as possible to avoid extended limbo for these impacted communities.

Arvada and Wheat Ridge 6th Grade Update

The board rejected a proposal to accelerate the timeline and instead voted to stick with the original plan to move sixth graders to middle school in Fall 2018. All five said they wanted the move for sixth graders to be a success, and they wanted school communities to have the time to do careful, thoughtful planning for the transition.

The Chatfield area will continue plans to move its sixth graders to middle school in Fall 2017, as previously decided.

Middle School Additions

This item was tabled, in part because school board members wanted to better understand how the schools on the list for additions (Drake, Dunstan, Ken Caryl, and Creighton) had been selected. They will revisit that issue at a later board meeting, and a final decision might be on hold until the board hears more about state funding.

Meanwhile, the facilities department plans to move forward with the design phase of the projects so that if the projects are approved, they can immediately begin work and have construction completed by Fall 2018.

Deferred Budget Cuts

McMinimee’s new budget proposal defers several of the proposed cuts. The “D” in the far right column indicates that the proposed cut is now deferred, which means that in most cases, it will only be revisited if the funding numbers from the state get ugly. For now, those items are safe.

This means that the current recommendations keep the following positions and programs as is:

  • The Wheat Ridge High School GT Center program (**This is the one item that board members said they wanted completely removed from the list, but there seems to be confusion about funding for the program. Lasell, Mitchell, and Stevens all told staff very clearly that they did not want to see the program on a cuts list ever again, and were assured by staff that it wouldn’t be an issue. Please watch for our next post about this item for more info.)
  • Custodial services
  • Literacy interventionists
  • Mastery Connect
  • optional MAP testing for K-2
  • Busing to option schools and Outdoor Lab

Superintendent Search Update

If you haven’t already, please take this quick online survey about characteristics you think Jeffco needs in a new superintendent:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JRH7N3T

It’s available through Thursday, Feb. 23.

And mark your calendars for one of the upcoming community forums hosted by the search firm to provide more input about what kind of leadership Jeffco needs:

  • Tuesday, February 21
    • Alameda Junior/Senior High School Auditorium, 7 – 8 pm
    • Dakota Ridge High School Library, 7 – 8 pm
  • Wednesday, February 22
    • Warren Tech Founders Room, 9:30 – 10:30 am
    • Arvada West High School Library, 7 – 8 pm
    • Evergreen High School Library,  7 – 8 pm

Ray and Associates told the board that they recommend advertising a base salary around $300k, based on what they’re seeing in current superintendent searches. This document goes into a little more detail about how they calculated that number.

Board members decided to advertise around $300k, but said they would negotiate that number based on experience and qualifications.

Please stay involved and engaged, not only at Jeffco but at the state level to encourage legislators to work harder to address school funding issues here in Colorado. And remember that we are

JeffCo Proud!

Guest Post: Jeffco Schools Budget Cut Recommendations

urgent
Today we feature a guest post by one our readers, Bob Greenawalt, a Jeffco parent, taxpayer, and community member, regarding some of the Jeffco Schools budget cuts recommended by the district. Our five Jeffco School Board members are preparing to vote on these recommendations on Thursday and need your input. Greenawalt highlights some of the potential cuts in his post.

On January 26, 2017 the Superintendent’s Cabinet, among other things, recommended:

  • Eliminating all (30) social and emotional learning specialists and a coordinator.
  • Eliminating all (20) literacy interventionists.
  • Eliminating four of 16 resource teachers who help support teachers of students determined to be gifted and talented.
  • Cut the 2 GT teachers who run the District’s only HS GT program at Wheat Ridge.

Let’s hope that the Board was as surprised by these recommendations as I was.

By all indications, these programs are successful and working to help our kids. Schools nationwide are investing in social emotional work, which helps students develop skills to manage their emotions, resolve conflicts and make responsible decisions. District research shows that the literacy interventionists are “closing the gap for our most highly impacted populations.” The targeted cut of the 2 GT teachers includes a 2017 Colorado Teacher of the Year Finalist.

All of these successful programs were designed to help students on the margins. It makes me wonder what message the Superintendent and his Cabinet is sending to teachers, students and the community with these recommendations?

The Board has an opportunity to show the community that it really does care about kids and their education by rejecting these recommendations and finding other ways to fund their desired compensation investment of $25M.

If the Board accepts these recommendations, we will be left questioning their priorities and reasoning, and an at-risk population will be deprived of vital resources.

The School Board needs to remember its responsibility to put the kids first!

We at JCSBW want add that the issues with compensation are real and that $25 million would go a long way toward making salaries in Jeffco Schools competitive with our neighboring districts. However, the board has not yet landed on a specific plan for compensation and the cuts district staff recommended surprised everyone at the Jan. 26 meeting.

District staff recommended the $25 million number. Given that District staff were then only able to present a little over $20 million in recommended cuts, we don’t expect to see anything close to $25 million go toward compensation this year. We also know board members were not a proponent of closing any schools for the 2017-18 school year, or accelerating any timelines regarding the move toward K-5, 6-8 configurations. 

Board members have placed a high priority on teacher compensation because of how important having a great teacher in every classroom is to student success. Jeffco risks losing some of its best educators.

We pointed out recently that in 2010, a Jeffco Schools teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience earned $52,330. In 2017, that same Jeffco Schools teacher only earns $49,839 — compensation has gone DOWN. In neighboring districts, that teacher can earn $57,733. Are those teachers going to head to Boulder or Cherry Creek to earn nearly $8,000 more per year? Sure — especially if they have kids headed to college. It’s a real issue.

However, some of the recommended cuts, such as those mentioned above and the recommendation to close five schools, will have a major impact on our Jeffco students and communities.

The question for board members will be how to balance keeping good teachers in Jeffco while also continuing to invest in educational innovations that we know help Jeffco students achieve.

If you can’t make the meeting tomorrow, please watch the live stream at this link: https://livestream.com/accounts/10429076/events/3542310

Budget Proposal for Jeffco Schools (1.26.17 meeting summary)

UpdateAs you’ve undoubtedly heard on the news by now, the budget recommendations from Jeffco Schools staff caught a lot of people by surprise, including the board members who had only received the recommendations a day earlier. A lot took place at the Jan. 26 Jeffco School Board meeting, and we’ll summarize this information as efficiently as possible.

Budget Proposal — School Closings

After voters said “no” to 3A and 3B this fall, Jeffco School Board members asked district staff to find funds to invest in compensation, with a target number of $25 million. As we’ve mentioned many times, teachers make about 10 percent less in Jeffco than they could in neighboring districts, which means we’re not competitive in the labor market for teachers or other resources like speech pathologists and more.

Staff presented those recommendations tonight, including a number of far-ranging cuts to resources and staff, in addition to closing five schools, relocating one school, and reconfiguring some articulation areas to a K-5, 6-8 model a year earlier than planned.

The facilities presentation recommended closing these schools:

  • Peck Elementary
  • Pennington Elementary
  • Pleasant View Elementary
  • Stober Elementary
  • Swanson Elementary

In addition, Long View High School would be relocated from its current location, presumably to McClain High School.

In order to close the above schools, the Arvada and Wheat Ridge articulation areas would need to change to a K-5, 6-8 configuration for the 2017-18 school year rather than for the 2018-19 school year as planned. This means current 5th graders in those two articulation areas would be 6th graders in middle school this August, while the remaining areas wouldn’t reconfigure until 2018-19.

The Chatfield articulation area is also included for reconfiguration for 2017-18, but that reconfiguration has been planned for more than a year, and the community has been working through that process for some time now.

Staff also noted that school performance was not a criteria in the closure recommendations. The criteria used are detailed on the slides, and we’ll post more about the facilities recommendations in a few days.

Budget Proposal – Other Cuts

The budget presentation explained the state funding picture (bleak) and suggestions for various funding scenarios. It also discussed one-time funds.

A separate document details the budget cuts recommended by Superintendent McMinimee’s cabinet. These would be implemented in four phases, with some requiring BOE approval, and others falling under “staff action.” Here’s a summary, but we encourage you to read through the details at this link.

  • Phase 1A: Increase athletic fees and activity card fees, eliminate quarterly financial audit review (external quarterly audit would remain), reduce National School Board membership, increase community building use fees, and close five elementary schools. Total savings: $4,508,410.00
  • Phase 1B: Reduce utility, fuel, sick and personal payout and contingency budgets; reclassify educational research and design staff to other funds or grants; reduce achievement directors, support staff, educator effectiveness staff, and GT teachers; reduce security budget; cut superintendent, technology and human resources staff. Total savings: $7,987,008.00
  • Phase 2: Reduce custodial staff and clean only 60 percent of buildings nightly (vs. 80 percent currently); reduce literary interventionists, content specialists, support personnel and substitute expenses for professional development; reduce achievement directors; reduce central social emotional support; reduce GT resource teachers; eliminate superintendent community relations budget, including administrator welcome; eliminate student device home filtering and reduce technology supply budget; eliminate option school and Outdoor Lab busing. Total savings: $4,554,204.00
  • Phase 3: Eliminate literacy interventionists; eliminate MAP testing in K-2 and mastery content; eliminate social emotional learning specialists. Total savings: $1,815,030.00
  • Phase 4: Reduce assessment coordinator and technician, reduce library coordinator and secretarial support; eliminate 14 social emotional support staff funded to student-based budgeting. Total savings: $1,534,299.00

Total savings: $20,398,951.00

Board members would need to approve Phase 1A, which includes the school closures. The other steps could be taken by the district without needing further approval from the board.

Board Discussion about the Budget Proposal

Board members were surprised by some of the recommendations and immediately emphasized the importance of connecting with the community to do this work in collaboration, particularly regarding school closures. Three of the five schools on the closure list have not been discussed in recent facilities conversations, so this is brand-new information for those communities, board members cautioned.

They also asked staff, “Why the rush?” in regard to the proposed school closures and accelerated reconfiguration schedule for the Arvada and Wheat Ridge articulation areas.

“We have a little bit of an integrity issue here,” board President Ron Mitchell commented, noting that board members have spent months reassuring parents and the community that the K-5/6-8 reconfiguration would be a two-year process.

The closures and reconfiguration would save the district $3.5 million dollars, and Brad Rupert suggested that they could use $3.5 million in one-time dollars to fill the compensation hole and have extra time to plan.

Ali Lasell said she would rather respect and honor the timeline presented to the community with the reconfiguration taking place in Fall 2018 as planned. This would allow all schools and families adequate time to plan and allow communities could make that transition at the same time.

Rupert noted that one of the goals last spring was to create a deliberate process for moving sixth graders to middle school and for any school closures. “This is the opposite of that,” he pointed out.

School-family partnerships are our job, Lasell added.

“Our communities have great memories if we don’t keep our word,” Mitchell added.

Susan Harmon noted that there are costs everywhere, which makes this challenging. Not addressing the compensation issues will mean Jeffco continues to lose ground in attracting and retaining teachers, but the cuts and closed schools have a big cost as well.

Amanda Stevens pointed out that once a school is on a closure list, it impacts enrollment, even if the school stays open. Prolonging closures can also have a negative impact overall.

“We need to get this process right,” Mitchell said. “This is not the end but the beginning, so we need to do it well, do it right.” He also said that he thought the state budget picture would likely mean more school closures down the road, which makes it even more important to have a good process.

Lasell worries that the Wheat Ridge area seems to be taking the brunt of the cuts, and wants to make sure that the district talks with the city manager and mayor if they decide to head in that direction.

Staff is asking board members to be ready to vote on these issues at the Feb. 9 meeting.

Bottom line: Board members need your input, quickly. Please email them with your thoughts at board@jeffco.k12.co.us or feel free to contact individual board members using these links.

Other BOE Updates

Superintendent Search

Staff updated board members on the superintendent search. Jeffco Schools sent a request for proposals to five known superintendent search organizations and posted the proposal request online. Jeffco received three responses.

A committee consisting of Ron Mitchell, Amanda Stevens, Kathleen Askelson (Jeffco chief financial officer), Amy Weber (chief human resources officer), and Betty Standley (director of purchasing), evaluated the proposals on cost, approach, experience, and qualifications. They unanimously selected Ray and Associates, which yes, is the search firm that the Jeffco School Board used in 2014.

The next step is to hear from Ray and Associates about the search procedure, and that will most likely be on the agenda for the Feb. 9 meeting.

Jeffco 2020 Vision

The Jeffco 2020 presentation focused largely on a growing interest in implementing project-based learning (PBL) in schools to meet the goals of Jeffco 2020. About 20 percent of Jeffco’s schools are currently implementing PBL in some fashion. For some examples of what PBL looks like in action, check out this video and the other videos on the Jeffco 2020 page.

Performance-based assessments also provide an alternative to traditional testing and are better aligned with the PBL approach. The district is currently working to redesign curriculum to include the 2020 competencies in addition to the state standards. Staff and teachers are collaborating and expect that to be ready for Fall 2017.

Multiple pathways to graduation and college and career readiness are also in development. New this year: apprenticeship programs for students interested in that pathway.

Contract Negotiations

Jeffco met with the teachers association, JCEA, on Jan. 19 (that meeting can be viewed by clicking the link), and will meet with the classified staff association, JESPA, on Feb. 1.

JESPA has a contract with Jeffco through August 2019 and will negotiate salary and benefits, plus three items that can be brought to the table by each team.

JCEA has a contract through August 2021, and will negotiate salary and benefits, two items that can be brought by each team, and items of mutual interest.

Amy Weber noted in the presentation that compensation will be a major issue, not least because 3A failed. Issue 3A included $12.6 million for compensation that we won’t have, but mill levy overrides in neighboring districts like Boulder, Cherry Creek, and Denver all passed, meaning they’ll have more money available for raises for their staff.

Bottom line: we’re not competitive in the marketplace and we continue to lose ground. Consider this:

Comp

Cost of living has gone up 17.8 percent, but salary increases have only kept up with half of that. Two notable facts:

  1. In 2010, a Jeffco Schools teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience earned $52,330. In 2017, that same Jeffco Schools teacher only earns $49,839. In neighboring districts, that teacher can earn $57,733.
  2. A Jeffco Schools entry-level assistant principal was paid $72,589 in 2010, is paid $73,540 now, but could earn $78,854 in a neighboring district.

Comp2Staff asked the board to commit to funding at least $12 million in compensation increases and proposes funding that through Phase I cuts, as detailed in the budget presentation.

Great Works Montessori charter school application

This was a recent addition to the agenda. As you’ll recall, the board denied the Great Works Montessori School charter school application in November due to concerns about the sustainability of their proposed enrollment numbers and budget figures. GWMS appealed to the state school board, who sent the application back to Jeffco with an order to reconsider it.

The school and staff worked together to address some of the issues, but at the January meeting there was still a lot of confusion about whether the budget would be sustainable. Board members didn’t feel comfortable with the funding model that substantially funded the K-8 students through preschool tuition and were concerned it would lead to immediate funding shortfalls. Enrollment numbers also continued to be an issue. Board members considered a conditional approval, but weren’t sure of the numbers needed. In the end, they voted to deny the application a second time.

GWMS could have appealed to the state board a second time, but their lawyers contacted the district, and they were able to work out a compromise. Amanda Stevens said they agreed to add another 45 letters of intent to the condition, which could make the budget more sustainable and less reliant on the preschool budget.

The conditional approval was unanimous, and GWMS has until April 1 to fulfill the conditions set forth in the approval in order to open for Fall 2017.

We’ve given you a lot of information to absorb, and encourage you to read through the presentations and make your voices heard. The school board members want to make decisions that benefit our entire Jeffco community and need your feedback to do that. Again, please email your thoughts to board@jeffco.k12.co.us.

Despite these challenges, we remain

JeffCo Proud!

1.26.17 Board Meeting – Be Sure to Tune In: Supt Search, Budget & 6th Grade Recommendations!

The Board of Education’s next board meeting, a study session, will be this coming Thursday, Jan. 26, starting at 5 pm. If you can’t attend in person at the Ed Center, we encourage you to tune in via livestream. There will be some very important conversations regarding the superintendent search, budget recommendations, and suggested direction for moving 6th graders to middle schools district-wide.

Before we jump into the agenda for the upcoming BOE meeting, we would first like to emphasize the importance of participating in the budget process. Please start with this brief video, which provides an overview of the budget crisis. Note that we are funded $985 less per student than Amendment 23 requires and $2,200 less PER STUDENT than the national average! Our teachers make, on average, 10% less than surrounding school districts, and they make, on average, 17% less than similarly educated individuals nationally, requiring many to work 2nd and 3rd jobs to make ends meet.

Bottom line: we need competitive compensation to attract and retain the best and brightest teachers and staff for our children. Please be sure to complete the budget survey by Feb. 10.

In addition, the district will host four telephone town halls where you can learn more and make your voice heard: Feb. 1 and Feb. 7 at 6 pm and 7 pm on both nights. The number to call is 855-312-2107. Please plan to participate.

If the budget tool and the tele-town halls aren’t for you, you are encouraged to email the board at board@jeffco.k12.co.us to share your concerns. They are going to be making some tough decisions with the budget. Make sure to let them know your thoughts.

First up on the agenda for the evening is the legislative update. It isn’t good news. The Gallagher Amendment will reduce the Residential Assessment Rate almost 1.5 percent, which will in turn reduce school district property tax collections by approximately $135M! To address this shortfall, the Governor has proposed legislation to reduce the Senior Homestead Exemption by half, which would save the state $68M. He has also proposed legislation to raise the tax on recreational marijuana from 8.0-12.0 percent, which would raise $42M.

We don’t see how either of these “band-aids,” which will hurt seniors and make the discussion even more confusing regarding pot money and schools, will help our funding crisis. We need real solutions.

Also in the legislative update, we’ll hear about some interesting proposed legislation, including these bills: a bill to require an additional $42M for Full-day Kindergarten, a house bill to let districts decide whether to administer certain state tests, a house bill to allow concealed carry in public schools, a senate bill to provide handgun safety training for school employees, a house bill to prohibit corporal punishment (just in case you thought that wasn’t allowed already!), a house bill to address teacher shortages in CO, a senate bill that requires districts to equalize mill levy override payments with charter schools (Jeffco already does this), and many others. Check them out! As a refresher, here are the board’s legislative priorities.

Next up is an update on the superintendent search. If you missed our last post about the board’s decision to move ahead with a national superintendent search, please read it and understand the expectations our BOE has for Jeffco’s superintendent. Note that the search needs to begin no later than January to take full advantage of a national candidate pool. Looks like attachments providing more info are coming soon, but as of the release of this post, attachments had not yet been provided.

Following the superintendent search update, we’ll hear from staff with an update on the Jeffco 2020 strategic plan. The presentation highlights that 20 percent of Jeffco schools are implementing Performance Based Learning (PBL) and Assessments (PBA) that allow for collaborative partnerships with the community and businesses and measure students’ abilities by allowing students to problem-solve in real-world context as opposed to traditional testing.

Slide 12 shares the results from the 2015-16 employee survey (with 5,666 employees participating!) of Jeffco 2020 questions by school level and shows that while teachers highly rate the job Jeffco does at increasing student performance in content mastery, the results are clear across school levels that “self-direction and personal responsibility” is rated the lowest by employees. Just above that is civic and global engagement.

Parents — we can really help out here. Self-direction, engagement, and personal responsibility are skills that must be taught and reinforced at home as well in order for our kiddos to be successful at school.

Next, we will hear an update on employee negotiations. JCEA negotiations began on Jan. 19 and will be streamed. Here’s the negotiations schedule. You can watch the livestream here. At this time, there is no recording from the Jan. 19 negotiations meeting, but we’re assuming that will be available soon.

Note the concern on slide 6 that as a result of Jeffco not passing our mill levy override while other surrounding districts did, we are even further away from the mark in providing competitive compensation to Jeffco employees, which puts us in danger of losing and/or not attracting the best and brightest teachers and staff. While the BOE had asked staff to find $25M to be allocated for teacher compensation, we’re seeing on slide 10 in this presentation that the ask is for a commitment to find a minimum of $12M to keep us level — but “level” does not make Jeffco competitive in the marketplace.

Next, cabinet will present their recommendations for the budget. Staff will address the impact of the reduced property valuations on our budget (the Gallagher Amendment). A few items of note from the presentation are:

  • a projected 242 student decrease across the district
  • $6M retirement/turnover savings – possibly as much as $9M
  • Cabinet has prioritized a four-phased system of reductions and fee changes to provide $20.4M towards the BOE’s $25M goal for compensation increases (the worksheet detailing the recommended reductions will be available on BoardDocs by Jan. 27)
  • the General Fund ended the year with $24M more than anticipated, a portion of which can be used to supplement urgent facility needs and provide a contingency for unforeseen state budget shortfalls
  • a public hearing on the proposed budget will be held in April and the budget will be adopted in May
  • next steps include implementation of Phase I reductions and preparation for implementation of the next phases set to begin on March 16, 2017. That means budget cuts will affect this school year.

The next item (2.06) addresses recommendations from facilities staff in light of the failed 2016 bond effort and the budget crisis. There are no attachments, and thus no details available at this time on BoardDocs to give us insight into what staff recommendations may be.

However, we know items for consideration include closing schools and boundary adjustments. It does seem from the wording, “the approach presented will involve recommendations for moving sixth grade, implementing limited capital improvements to middle schools…” that we can expect to see staff make recommendations to move forward with plans to transition to K-5 elementary schools and 6-8 middle schools across the district, at least to some degree.  This should be an interesting conversation you don’t want to miss if you have elementary-aged children.

Finally, the BOE will review board/staff linkage (B/SL) policies per the annual work plan.

As you can see, this upcoming meeting is one you don’t want to miss. We’ll post after the meeting to let you know what happened if you’re busy with after-school activities and more.

JeffCo Proud!

What the Jeffco School Board Hopes to Gain from a Superintendent Search

UpdateLast Thursday, the Jeffco Schools Board of Education voted 5-0 to move ahead with a national Superintendent search. Before voting, each board member shared their personal thoughts, focusing especially on what they expect from a superintendent.

Following is a transcript of that conversation, including Board President Ron Mitchell’s introduction, but not including transition conversations about who would speak next. You can hear firsthand what was discussed here.

Again and again, we heard the key traits this board expects from a superintendent:

  • strong leadership skills, both internally and externally
  • the ability to build trust with all constituencies and take politics out of education in Jeffco
  • the ability to bring our community together in the best interests of 86,000 students
  • a skilled innovator who consistently provides vision and guidance and shares pertinent information in a timely manner
  • educational expertise and respect for the Colorado Academic Standards and the Jeffco 2020 Vision
  • a district ambassador who can build and grow key networks and communicate Jeffco’s successes
  • a leader who acts transparently

We also heard several times that that board members strived to be respectful of current Superintendent Dan McMinimee when discussing concerns about his performance. This is why the very personal aspects of their discussions happened in executive session rather than during the public discussion.

Here is the transcript of opening statements regarding the superintendent search from the Jan. 12 board meeting:

Ron Mitchell: The employment contract with our current superintendent, Mr. Dan McMinimee, expires on June 30th. It’s important that we incorporate that into our thinking. The contract does not require the Board of Education to take action unless the board wishes to extend the term beyond June 30th of 2017. In that case, the board is required and must take action and notify Mr. McMinimee prior to March 31 of 2017. If the board does not take action, the contract simply expires by its terms on June 30, 2017.

If the board wishes to consider new leadership for Jeffco Schools, the board must take action to begin the process of identifying and gathering information about qualified candidates. The search process is summarized in Colorado statutes 24-6-402 and includes deadlines for applications, requirements for applicants, election procedures, and the timeframe for making a selection.

I want you to know that this conversation is a difficult and challenging conversation for the board. I can say that, too, because we have met in executive session and we have discussed this thing at length, for several hours, actually.

Many people have asked me, “Why now? Why are you as the board dealing with this now?” And the answer is really fairly simple: if you are going to engage in a search process, my advice from experts who understand the search process is that you must be in the marketplace in January if you’re going to be competitive with other districts across the United States. So the “why now?” is really driven by if we go much beyond January, if we go beyond January, we begin to limit our choices and limit our options.

By doing this now the board has two clean choices. One, we could extend Mr. McMinimee’s contract. Two, we could launch a national search. I’ve often said to my colleagues over the past month or six weeks that this is a lose-lose for our board of education. And by that I mean this: we are fully aware of the fact, if you’ve listened to our constituency this evening just here in the boardroom, you know that not everyone is going to agree with this decision. We could choose either choice, and it will be right for some and wrong for others. We know that. That is why I consider this to be one of the most challenging decisions that we as a board have tried to do, tried to take on since we began here a year ago.

I believe that this board is committed to something I think is important, and I will want to share it with you, that is we will do our level best what is right for 86,000 students in Jeffco, for our staff, and for Jeffco’s future. That is the bottom line. I do not think that there is an agenda that is political, and I don’t think there is an agenda to get even with any of our predecessors.

Regardless of the decision, I want you to know also that this board of education hopes that regardless of the decision, Dan McMinimee will finish his contract with us.

With that as background, I think we should open this discussion with a motion, and that the vote on that motion will determine the direction that we choose as a board for Jefferson County Schools. Is there a motion on this issue?

Amanda Stevens: I move that the Jeffco Board of Education begin the superintendent search process, and that staff be authorized to take the necessary and appropriate steps to begin the process as soon as possible.

Brad Rupert: I second the motion.

Ron Mitchell: It’s been moved and seconded that Jeffco Public Schools begin the search process. That opens a discussion that I would really like to encourage all of our board members to participate in. This is a difficult and challenging decision.

JCSBW note: The statements of each board member follow:

Stevens: I want to begin by reiterating something that you said President Mitchell, and that is that specifically, this is a difficult decision and there are, by design, limited leverage points that a board of education utilizes. Our goal is to define the vision and mission we articulate for our students and to make sure that we are on target to achieve that. We have, as a board, one sole employee, and that’s our superintendent. It’s been a privilege to join the collaborative effort that thousands of staff and teachers work on every day to achieve great learning and life outcomes for students. I am motivated by one thing and one thing only, and that is that we’re maximizing the learning and life outcomes of each and every student each and every day.

I also want to clarify something that I think became confused due to some of the media coverage and that is we met in executive session, we heard from our superintendent, Mr. McMinimee, we had some conversations together. We did that to explore this and did so with full respect and openness. No decisions were made during that time, and it matters that our public know that and have confidence in the fact that we had a transparent and open conversation with one another and with our superintendent but that we did not, in any way, make a decision or take a straw poll, or figure out next steps. We simply navigated some of the issues and concerns around this topic.

So I want to begin by talking about what it is that I believe we know about Jeffco and what we don’t know. I think we know that we have the very best students in the world here, and it’s our privilege to serve them. I think we know that we have considerable challenges. Some of those are not created here. Some of those are a result of the fact that we’re now more than $2,000 below the national average when it comes to per-pupil investment in our students and their future. We also know that some of those challenges are embedded in this community. We did not win much-needed revenue for our facilities and for our own ongoing operational costs so we have difficult decisions ahead. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that each and every one of our students has extraordinary potential, and each and every one of our dollars has to be directed to them.

I want to recognize what it is that I look for in a leader. I think that we’ve done a great job as a board in the spring in re-evaluating and re-articulating the board ends. They are closely aligned with the Jeffco 2020 Vision. They capture a deep commitment to the educational standards and the Colorado Academic Standards, and to a more holistic understanding of what it is that students need to be ready to do in the 21st century work environment. And I believe deeply that the kind of innovation, expansive thinking, and granular analysis that needs to happen in our classrooms, in our schools, also needs to happen at the district level. So when I think about the kind of leader that Jeffco needs to tackle its future — and Jeffco students deserve — I’m looking for significant and demonstrated educational expertise, to drill down on the strengths and challenges, the shared next steps, what are the district-wide non-negotiables, what are the important flexibilities.  It may be that professional managerial expertise would serve as well but I will admit that I am looking for first and foremost educational expertise because I think the educational environment is unique.

I believe that Jeffco needs and students deserve a capable connector and communicator, someone who is a proactive ambassador of our schools in our community and our state, to tell the stories of the great accomplishments of our students and schools, to articulate the deep needs that we have, and I believe that Jeffco needs a strategic innovator, someone who can articulate and execute district-wide initiatives that support and complement the school-level initiatives we loved hearing about earlier during the student-based budgeting conversation.

I also want to say thank you to Dan. I think you’ve been a stable leader during changing times. I want to thank you for wisely deferring to the expertise of your cabinet. I think you’ve done that well. You’ve responded to Jeffco needs. I’m grateful for that. And it’s been a privilege to work with you and I hope that our time together isn’t done. At the same time, I have exacting standards and our board has one sole employee, and I’m ready to explore a process by which we can aim for next steps and identify and start a superintendent search process.

Rupert:  My position is that Mr. McMinimee has served Jeffco Schools and our children well during difficult times and under extremely difficult circumstances, as many of our speakers have expressed. He’s worked with two diverse boards and in my view he’s worked with this board constructively and with integrity. With his skilled management, Mr. McMinimee has helped us bring stability to the district, which I don’t think we had a year and a half ago, and he’s helped provide a foundation that we can build on.

With this motion, with a search that engages our community, and with a long history of high-quality public education, I’m hoping that we can attract a superintendent candidate with the leadership skills, the communication skills, the problem-solving skills, and the vision that can build on our foundation and raise Jeffco to new levels of educational excellence.

I will be looking for a candidate with the expertise to drive greater educational outcomes for our children, and the ability to build stronger ties with and support of our educators, families and the broader community.

I’ve heard from some quarters — we’ve had a lot of correspondence, as you can imagine, and even from a comment this evening — that we’ve been through difficult times and we should let things settle. And it’s true. We’ve been through difficulties the last three years, and I’m certain that we’re going to face more in the future, as outlined by Amanda.

But the children in our schools can’t afford for the adults to just let things settle. We’ve got problems to solve, challenges to overcome, and 86,000 children who’ve got the right to expect a great education now. Not when things settle down. I, therefore, choose not to fear the future, but to try and create it. And let us not succumb to the inertia of the day, but let’s build forward momentum.

It’s absolutely fair to ask that this decision be based upon actual performance. And in private conversations we’ve had some conversation about Mr. McMinimee’s performance, his skills as a manager, and areas that we would look for additional talent.

I believe strongly that that kind of conversation is appropriate privately because I honestly believe that Mr. McMinimee is in the middle of his career, and has extraordinary potential. He is not the same person he was five years ago, and he’s not the same person he will be five years from now. He’s going to take what he’s learned in Jeffco, facing the adversity he’s faced, and be an extraordinary leader somewhere, and develop new skills.

I firmly believe that Mr. McMinimee is going to develop into an extraordinary superintendent, but he needs the opportunity to have that growth, and it’s going to take other opportunities, I think, to get him there.

I, therefore, believe that it’s appropriate that we conduct a search now, and that we do it in the season that maximizes his ability to get a position elsewhere, if that’s what he chooses to do.

Ali Lasell: First, I want to thank everyone for speaking at public comment. I want to thank everyone for writing letters, and even the phone calls that I have received. I greatly value our community’s input, and so thank you. I want you to know that I have given this a lot of thought, and written several drafts of what I want to communicate. I am reading what I want to say because I don’t want to miss anything, and I don’t want to birdwalk.

First and foremost, I care very deeply about Jeffco, and I intend to do the very best job to make decisions that are in the best interest of all 86,000 kids. I do want to thank all of you — cabinet, community, board members, Dan — for the work that we have done to date. We know we can do better, and we know we can do more. This district has some major challenges to work through this next year, while being thoughtful, strategic, long-range planners, as well.

Our district needs to continue to come together. Everyone needs to feel valued, whether you are a student, employee, or taxpayer. Our board consists of four unaffiliated voters and one affiliated with a political party. I take great pride in this, and I am confident that none of us up here has an agenda, personal or political. We are focused on making the best decisions for the 86,000 students that we serve, and for this organization, whose sole responsibility is to provide a high-quality education for each and every student.

I wanted to become a board member because I am passionate about public education. Education is not political, and there are some members of our community who want to politicize every single thing that we do. This needs to change for us to move forward. We need our community behind Jefferson County Public Schools.

We’ve got one employee. It is our job to make sure that we have the most qualified person in that position to shepherd our community through the very difficult times we face as a Colorado school district who is forced to make major cuts due to our funding crisis.

Now is the time in a superintendent’s contract where every board decides whether to search for a superintendent or not, which is what we’re discussing right now. I want to be clear to our community: there were no decisions made in executive session, regardless of what you’re hearing or reading. Dan, honestly, I feel that we have been trying to be protective of you throughout this process, in deference to you and your professional reputation. This discussion is not easy, but this discussion and decision are critical to the future of Jeffco. I feel I’ve been clear about my expectations, and shared any concerns I might have in a variety of ways. We’ve got monthly meetings, through email, or just through direct communication. All informal, but all very important.

To me, honestly, this isn’t as much about your evaluation as it is about where we are right now in Jeffco, and what kind of a leader we need to move this district forward. When I think of leadership qualities, and I’m going to outline what I think about. When I think of leadership qualities necessary to move Jeffco forward from this point on, so that we can continue to provide a high-quality education to our students, I believe we need a leader who can cultivate ongoing networks from the get-go with our business community, civic and service groups, city leaders, parents, teachers, students, and the 70 percent of our community that has zero connection to our schools. Someone who can communicate to all stakeholders that our schools are a major, valued part of our community, and are worth investing in, so we can continue to provide great opportunities for all 86,000 students. Someone who can build trust between the district leaders and school personnel, can lead internally as well as externally. Someone who can inspire our staff and our students to strive for excellence. An educational expert who can provide direction when needed, and guidance, making sure that all levels of our system are accountable. Someone who can look at our test results, positive or not so positive, and communicate a clear plan of action for excellence. Someone who can communicate the vision of the district to employees and our public. A forward-thinker who can anticipate potential challenges, as well as opportunities, and provide clear direction, clear solutions. A leader willing to make bold moves, look at that budget and find dollars that can be saved by making necessary cuts, while looking at programs, departments, and staffing, so our students receive the greatest benefit from our limited resources. Someone who will keep us routinely informed about issues impacting this district, so when our constituents ask us about an issue, we’ve got the facts.

Here’s what I’m saying: we need a very strong leader to take this district to the next level.

Bottom line, for me, we need an inspirational leader who provides vision and direction, who can lead both internally and externally, and who can build trust with our employees and community. I realize these are huge asks, but I believe that Jeffco will attract just that kind of leader.

I will be voting to launch a superintendent search, and feel strongly that our community needs to be a part of this process. If passed, I’ll do everything in my power to make sure this is an open and transparent process. These schools belong to our community, and I want our community to believe in and support the work that we are doing for our students. Thank you.

Susan Harmon: This is a really difficult conversation for me to have, and anyone out there who’s been in an employment situation, which is probably all of you on some level. It’s just bizarre to me that you have these conversations publicly, but I understand the necessity of it because of this particular position. I have never been in this position before, so it has been very challenging for me. And I can assure you that I have not made up my mind about any of this.

I spent a lot of time listening, and I get criticized at times because I seem to listen more than I speak up here, but I listen because there is a lot to hear and a lot to process. And I just try and think back on my experiences here in the limited time I’ve been on the board. My communications with you Dan, and items that were really important to me when I started this position, and you were responsive to them. You listened to them. And I think you’ve made great progress in those areas.

And those are the pieces of special education and where we were as a district on some of those things when I took this seat, and we got notifications of maybe being sanctioned. And you took that with integrity. You inherited these things, and you took action on them. You made great hires, and you’ve been true to your word on that. And we, as a board, have demanded reports on that and updates. And we keep using that analogy of we have a big rock to move there, but we’re making movement there. So that’s significant and important to me.

And I will say this repeatedly, and I know the board’s tired of hearing me, that whatever direction we go, that area, because all kids are general ed kids first, that we need to remember that and have integrity in that area.

The other area that was really important to me as a board member was career and workforce readiness, and making those connections. I have been privileged to have Warren Tech as one of my schools, high schools that have pathways that are designed with that goal in mind. And my experience has been again, as a superintendent, that you have been true to your word on that, you have put great effort, and have great working connections with the people that are running those programs, and we have made great strides in that 2020 Vision in terms of really looking at the whole child.

So, I listened to everyone, and yes, there’s always areas where, as I look at these words, you know, “room to improve,” “areas where we could be doing things differently.” You and I have talked about this.

How do you shake distrust? How do you change a perception? And that is so hard to do. And perception, unfortunately, matters. It matters in so much of what we do. And you could make the same decision as someone else would make, but if there’s a perception in place, it doesn’t matter what that is. Same thing that’s just happened to all of us. There’s a perception that a decision was made, or something happened — well, it didn’t happen when I was in the room.

So, that’s the tough thing about this job. And transparency, again, it’s perceptions. And I look forward to a full description of what this process actually looks like so that people’s perceptions of what may or may not have happened last time are simply that, perceptions. I didn’t participate in that process. I wasn’t a part of any of those meetings. All you can hear is what was presented. So, I don’t have a perception, but I do know that Dan went through that process, and I know that he did a presentation of his qualifications, and was one person that was recommended as a finalist. How the rest of that process thing goes, in terms of people’s backgrounds, ability to put out there that you are running for a position, and whether you want that to be public or not and how that works:  I hope that we get information on that so that we don’t continue this perpetual perception of some agenda, because I assure you if those perceptions were correct then I suppose we would have made a change in our school board superintendent in November or December — which we did not do.

So, with all due respect for all of the information, and I know that people feel really strongly about this, I still go back to inspiration, trust. Those are all these amorphous things, but they matter in this position. They do.

I think we all share a collective responsibility for 3A/3B not passing. And when I say collective, I mean our community, I mean ourselves as a school board, and obviously Dan takes a part of that, but we all collectively share in that. And we all need to collectively move forward with that. There are areas that we don’t have any control over, and only Dan does, because our only decision relates to Dan’s contract, not those areas that Dan has been directly working on.

So, it’s difficult, and I am concerned, and I know everyone knows this: it’s not about fear of change or fear of something new, because I embrace change. I think it’s always a positive. Change is always good, again, if you have the right perception.

So, I’m still struggling with this. And I know those are only two areas, and I just bring that up because those are areas that I was really focused on as a board member. I have other areas of concern. But on Brad’s point, too, I’m trying to be deferential over someone’s career and what we’re doing here and the impact we can have on that.

Mitchell: You know, sometimes I have often been the closer. I get to choose that, I guess, with the board. But I want you to know, sometimes I listen to what they have to say, and I say, you know, I probably should say wasn’t all those things pretty well stated, because they really were.

But I do want to say a couple of things.

One, I don’t believe in public evaluation of our employees. And so there are people who have criticized us for having our discussions about what to do with this particular issue in exec session. For them, I’m sorry. I don’t believe in public evaluation. I’m not really happy about what we even have to do here in public this evening. But I understand that it’s required by law.

I believe that Dan has led us through a difficult transition time from a prior board to this board, and has done a nice job of doing that. I believe that I have seen growth in Mr. McMinimee over the last year as we have worked with him. I think he has grown and, in many ways, become a better superintendent over the last year.

Having said that, I listen to people, and I ask myself, “What is this issue really about?”  And I actually shared with Dan early on in my relationship with him that I thought he needed to work on rebuilding, or building, trust with all of our constituent groups. And that’s a big assignment when you’re in Jefferson County. We have a lot of them. I know he took me seriously and tried to do that. And yet, I had people come to me fairly regularly and ask me this question.  They would say, “Is Mr. McMinimee really on our team, or is his value system the value system of the last board of education?”

I was asked that a lot, and I would say to people, “I’m checking that continuously, and I believe Mr. McMinimee is working for us and working collaboratively with us.”

I still believe that. I truly believe that he did that. So I share that story with you because there are people in our constituents group who do not trust that Dan can lead the direction this board wants us to go. That is still a factor.

And so, when trust becomes a question. And it is still a question for too many, I think, of our constituents. When that is a factor, then it is very difficult for those groups of people to find a leader to be inspirational and highly motivating. They’re always sitting there in the audience with a question mark in their mind rather than simply responding.

And so, I think there’s one other thing I want to say. One of the newspaper articles I read said this was all about evaluation and we should just do the evaluation and make a decision. So, I just want you to think theoretically with me for a moment. So what if we did on a percentage scale — and we wouldn’t — but what if we did? And we said, “OK, you know, we have a ‘C’ average superintendent.” Well then, what do you think ‘C’ average is? Maybe you think it’s 60 percent. Maybe you think it’s 70. I don’t know. What if I said, “Well, we have a good superintendent.” And you said, “Well, that’s, you know, that’s at least 75 or 80.”

And then what if I said to you, however we did that rating, wherever we found that scale to be, might we be searching for some other level on that scale? So, tying it strictly to evaluation is a very difficult process. I’m trying to use that as an example. You know, to me it’s a scale. There is a scale of performance. It’s not “average.” It’s not just “above average.” It’s a scale, there is a scale of  performance. It’s not “average.” It’s not “just above average.” And then the question becomes, “Is there another leader that could be more effective and lead us and our 86,000 students to a brighter future?”

And those are kind of the thoughts that have permeated my mind for the past few weeks.

Is there other discussion from the board?

Harmon: I just want to be clear in this national search then, to your point and to other people’s point, anyone can throw their hat in for this search.

Mitchell: Absolutely, if we vote to do this, Ms. Harmon, I think it should be publicly said that Mr. McMinimee could choose, you know, to apply. I would welcome that. I think there’s some things that might make him say, “Thanks for the invitation. I’m not interested.” But if he were interested, I would personally welcome that, yes.

JCSBW note: After more discussion, which we have not transcribed here, the Board voted 5-0 to move ahead with a search for a new superintendent. 

As always, the meeting was archived on the Jeffco Schools website, and you can watch the full meeting at this link.

The board is currently working on plans to incorporate as much public input as possible into the process. We will continue to update you as we learn more details. Meanwhile, you can always write to the board with your thoughts about what qualities an ideal superintendent will have at board@jeffco.k12.co.us.

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