8/26 Tuesday Report: The Weekly Do List; Sat. Meeting Recap; & Thurs. BoE Meeting Prep

Your Childs EducationA lot has happened and will happen between last Saturday and the coming Labor Day Weekend.  We will try to keep it brief, but….

Saturday Meeting Review Summary –

Witt is still trying to act as if he is CEO of JeffCo instead of simply the member of the Policy-Governance Board whose main job is to make sure that all Board members are heard from.  The fact that they had to call on former Board member Jane Barnes to ‘facilitate’ speaks volumes about his success at that.

Another sign of Witt wanting to radically change the power and role of the position of President is that fact that he wants to reduce the power and position of the Superintendent within the District.  He tried to do this by proposing to change the wording of BSL-01 from where it says, The Board’s sole (emphasis added) connection to the operational organization of the school district is the superintendent.” Witt wants to change ‘sole’ to ‘primary’ which would allow him to directly interact (read: meddle) with the District’s personnel and actions.  That change would, in fact, mean that McMinimee’s authority would ahve been reduced and the District would have been at the mercy of Witt’s whims.

McMinimee quickly squashed that, pointing out that he is the one who is supposed to be accountable to the Board (in fact the Board policies explicitly state that the Board has only ONE employee – the Superintendent).

McMinimee might now be wondering what kind of overlord Witt see’s himself to be.  McMinimee may not be worth $280,000 as Superintendent, but if he is to maintain his independence of WNW and not become a sock-puppet, he will definitely earn large portion of it in fending off Witt’s grandiose ideas about the role of President of the Board.

Witt responded the way we expected on the aging Facilities issue.  Instead of being concerned about our children being taught in sub-standard buildings, he seemed more excited that there is empty space in some of these schools.  One could almost read his mind:  ‘charter school space!’

Witt’s ignoring of what would concern anyone else, was just getting started.  When the discussion turned to the 2015-16 Budget, he came out and stated what surveys say the people of JeffCo want as priorities in the District has no impact on what priorities the Board will actually set.  (This attitude can be found also in Newkirk’s comment about there being too many public comments and the comments being ‘off topic and repetitive’.  See the link here.)  In short, WNW is telling the public that democracy stopped when they were elected.

When it came to the Budget Process, Lori Gillis wants the 2015-16 budget to be adopted in May instead of June to give the District more time for planning for the upcoming school year.  Also, apparently McMinimee has been talking to Gillis about a different method of allocating resources called “Student-based Budgeting”.  We had not heard of this and have done a little research, but by no means exhaustive.  It is a funding approach apparently created by Educational Resource Services (ERS), a non-profit organization located in Massachusetts.  We are doing more research on it and hope to be able to tell you more later this week.

When the agenda turned to community engagement, WNW are apparently of the opinion that there can be too much of it.  Witt seems to think that as the number of people who want the Board to hear their concerns increases, the amount of time they have to speak should decrease.  Other ideas included having one night set aside for public comment…although that is exactly what happens now, since WNW will not allow public comment a Special or Study meetings, even though District policy says comment on agenda items should be allowed.  One of the more outlandish ideas was that the first 20 people get three minutes, the next 10 get two minutes, and everyone after that get just 1 minute.

When it came time for the scheduled Executive Session on the JCEA negotiations, a vote was never even called for.  Perhaps Witt (or more likely Miller) has learned that trying to force an Executive Session with this Board simply will not work, and indeed, gives Dahlkemper and Fellman a platform in which to air more of WNW’ s dirty laundry.  So instead, issues surrounding the Board’s reneging on the tentative agreement were still aired out in public.  When McMinimee was asked about the Fact Finding phase that WNW has forced the two side into (despite there being only one or two issues in dispute), Witt jumped in and said that only after the Fact Finding was completed would there then be a decision on what to do next.  He seemed to imply this would then put an end to the negotiations.  We suspect that an end to the negotiations is not the same as arriving at a contract.  WNW has pulled this rope-a-dope maneuver before (i.e., the constantly changing objections and demands surrounding Free, Full-day Kindergarten), and in our opinion, they are doing so on the JCEA contract.

Very little of this surprises us.  What did surprise is a ‘what the dog did in the night’ observation.*  What did not happen were several things:

  1. WNW did not push hard to overly limit public comment (although there was at least a leaning towards it).
  2. No mention was made of supporting charter schools instead of regular schools at the 58th & Highway 93 neighborhood.
  3. WNW did not try to force an Executive Session on JCEA negotiations.

In short, WNW has throttled back their steamroller…at least for the moment.

There could be several tactical reasons why they did this.  They may have learned that steamroller tactics attract unwanted attention.  Or they are hoping things calm down, so later they can slip changes by unnoticed.  They may even have realized the error of their ways (okay, low probability on that one).  But one thing is sure…your vociferous participation has had an effect!

Small “d” democracy works.  It involves showing up at meetings, speaking out, writing letters & posts, talking to friends, and generally making sure that the people of aware of the actions of those hired in the people’s name.

So if you have participated in any of the above, or other small ‘d’ activities, allow yourself a bit of congratulations.  You have helped slow them down…..

* Reference to the Sherlock Holmes story, “Silver Blaze”.  The fact that the dog did nothing in the night was an important clue.
……….

Thursday Meeting Prep:

BOE Meeting 2014-08-28 (Thursday night)
Date and Time:  Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.
Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Bldg. 27, Golden, CO

Key Agenda Items
Location: Seminar Room

Agenda Item: 1.01 Negotiations Direction with District Employees regarding the JCEA Tentative Agreement and Fact Finding
Type: Action, Discussion
Estimated Time: 50 minutes
The Board of Education will meet in executive session in the Seminar Room to provide negotiations direction with respect to the Fact Finder’s report as it pertains to negotiations with employee associations, pursuant to C.R.S. § 24-6-402(e).

After the vote to move into executive session, this portion of the meeting is closed to the public.  The Board will reconvene in open session at approximately 6:20 p.m. to adjourn the special meeting to move to the Board Room to begin the regular meeting at 6:30 p.m.  Any action to be taken by the Board will be posted to a meeting agenda.
Our Comment:  You can be in the Seminar room until a successful vote for Executive Session is taken, and we highly recommend that you are.  This way if Dahlkemper and Fellman feel that they should vote against Executive Session, there will be witnesses to watch and see what kind of strong-arm tactics WNW+Miller pull this time.  If nothing else, it does seem to make Miller and Witt uncomfortable, which by itself makes it worth showing up!

FYI – The next item of interest for JeffCoWatch readers is 3.04.  This is honoring Jeffco Executive Chef Yani Sanow for wining a nationwide contest for coming up with a healthy recipe that follows USDA guidelines that kids love.  This is in contrast to DougCo’s “it’s too hard” response, thus giving up about $150,000 in Federal money, but preserving over $900,000 in revenue for the local Subway Sandwich operations group.  Another DougCo ‘priority’ we do NOT want up here!

Location: 5th Floor Board Room
Agenda Item:6.01 Resolution: State Education Funding
Type: Action
Estimated Time: 5 minutes
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. At the April 24, 2014 special meeting, Board member Julie Williams requested the Board of Education take action on a resolution on state education funding.
  2. OnMay 1, the Board of Education reviewed the draft resolutions, discussed revisions and requested the resolution return on June 5 for Board action.
  3. On May 7, the 2014 legislative session ended.
  4. Due to other pressing matters in June, the Board postponed action on the resolution to the August meeting.
  5. Please open the attachment below to review the draft resolution on state education funding. An update may be posted on Monday.

Supporting Documents:  Resolution-Funding 1 signature.pdf

Our Comment:  Nobody likes the ‘negative factor’ in Colorado’s education budget.  Everyone knows (though not everyone will admit it) it exists because TABOR prevents the legislature from increasing the taxes to fund the increase in Education spending that the voters have mandated and that any sensible person knows is needed.  Still, one would think the acrid taste of hypocrisy would begin to upset WNW’s  stomachs, if not their conscience.  Witt and Newkirk, in particular, constantly complain about being given new state requirements and goals without being given the money to achieve them.  All the while they blithely give the District schools new mandates on reading and math scores, yet deny those schools the resources needed to make it happen, such as an expanded free, full-day kindergarten.

This resolution will pass, of course.  But hopefully at least of twinge of conscience might make them pause a second or two before they turn around and do the same thing the our kid’s teachers and schools.

Agenda Item:6.02 Resolution: PARCC Testing
Type: Action

Estimated Time: 25 minutes
PERTINENT FACTS:

  1. At the April 24, 2014 special meeting, Board member Julie Williams requested the Board of Education take action on a resolution regarding PARCC testing.
  2. OnMay 1, the Board of Education reviewed the draft resolution, discussed revisions and requested the resolution return on June 5 for Board action.
  3. On May 7, the 2014 legislative session ended.
  4. Due to other pressing matters in June, the Board postponed action on the resolution to the August meeting.
  5. Ms. Williams arranged for presenters to address the Board on this resolution: video-conferencing forSandra Stosky, Ed.D., member of theCommon Core Validation Committee, National Governors Association; Mr. Henry Burke, (board correspondence c-14-931), will be on speakerphone.
  6. Please open the attachments below to review additional background material and the draft resolution on PARCC testing.  An update may be posted on Monday.

Biographical Information on S.Stotsky and H.Burke.pdf (70 KB)
HB Common Core Standards Jefferson County Implementation Costs.pdf (52 KB)
HB Common Core Standards Colorado Costs Chart.pdf (48 KB)
Resolution PARCC 1 signature.pdf (65 KB)
HB Common Core Standards Colorado Implementation Costs.pdf (78 KB)

Our Comment:  While everyone yells about “Common Core”, what most people really mean is the testing that seems to accompany it.  PARCC or “Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers” has become the latest political uproar (although there are signs it is waning).
As we have stated before, no consensus on PARCC or Common Core has been reached by JeffCo School Board Watch, and so we have not taken a position on it.

What we do feel qualified to do is question the manner, method, and participants in this agenda item.  While Dr. Stosky appears well qualified to offer expert advice on PARCC, we must confess puzzlement at the inclusion of Henry Burke.  Mr. Burke is apparently a retired Civil Engineer.  His credentials match someone well qualified to build a bridge, a road, or even a skyscraper.  But there is no mention of any accredited study in the field of education.  His sole connection seems to be that of an avid article writer on many subjects, including education, for several extremely conservative blogs.  To presume that this gives him expert status on something as complicated as PARCC testing is equivalent to saying a journalist who has written several stories on surgery is qualified as an expert in a malpractice case.

Another oddity we noticed was that the language of the resolution seemed extremely precise and detailed, a bit unusual for someone of Ms. Williams manner.  So we did a little search.  We found the exact same resolution in at least three other school districts:  Akron, Elizabeth, and Lamar.  This indicates that someone or some group has put this together and is circulating it around sympathizing school board members.  We are not saying it is wrong, but we do wish we knew the actual source of the resolution. 

The final thing we will note is that Williams is apparently not interested in a fair hearing on PARCC since she invited only critics.  In short, she has made up her mind and has no desire to entertain any alternative ideas.

Where’s the rest?

After those two items, the only two substantial items are reviews of the Governing Policies on Board member code of conduct and conflict of interest.  These do hold the small chance of a surprise attack by WNW on either or both Dahlkemper and Fellman, but we do not see that as likely.

What is most curious is what is missing!

In the Board Work Calendar (BWC 2014-2015.pdf), this meeting was supposed to also include a presentation on STEM and a report by the Choice Steering Committee.  Neither one of those items is currently on the agenda.  It is possible that they will be added late, but if so, it seems strange that there is not even a placeholder for them in the current Agenda.

With the absence of the STEM and Choice presentations, this first full meeting of the school year appears to be on the light side when it comes to content.  That puzzles us a bit, and makes us a bit wary.  We will be there, and hope you will be to.

Weekly Do List:  Getting Ready for Thursday!

  1. Sign up to speak at the Board Meeting
    4.02 Public Comment (Agenda Related)
    8.01 Public Comment (Not On Agenda)
  2. Read through the Meeting Agenda here.
  3. Go to the Board Meeting on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.!

Oh, and one more thing:

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!

One thought on “8/26 Tuesday Report: The Weekly Do List; Sat. Meeting Recap; & Thurs. BoE Meeting Prep

  1. I, too, was befuddled by Henry Burke’s qualifications to be included in the board agenda. It does not appear that the board majority does not wish to become more educated on the pros & cons of common core & PARCC, but rather to indoctrinate everyone else. I am expressing no opinion on either common core or PARCC, although I am loathe to accept that subjecting our children to countless hours of testing is beneficial to anyone.

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