9/1: Monday Do List & Thursday Prep

WNW Warning SignWe hope you are having a great Labor Day Weekend.  If you would like to know more about the history of this holiday, Wikipedia’s article is great place to start.  In our case, we should definitely recognize, honor and celebrate the labor of our teachers, district staff, classified workers, volunteers, and everyone else who has worked hard to make JeffCo the state’s best school district.

Blog nitty-gritty stuff:  With the summer break over, our posting schedule is going to shift a bit.  With the Board meetings occurring primarily on Thursdays, with some Saturdays and Tuesdays thrown in, the regular Monday-Wednesday-Saturday routine will go away.  We will still try to have a weekly “do list”, but it may come on Tuesdays, as it did last week.  We will try to have reviews of a Board meetings posted within two days of the meeting, but this will probably slip sometimes.  Likewise, we will work hard to have a pre-meeting brief out at least two days prior to a meeting (earlier when we can).  Saturday posts maybe the reflective type or maybe a review of a meeting the previous Thursday.  Our guiding principle will always be the most important and timely news first.  We do have some new ideas we will be trying out and we look forward to your feedback on them.

Monday Do List:

  1. Read the Thursday Prep notes below, then sign up to speak.
  2. Write an email to the Board, asking them to explain something important to you. (board@jeffco.k12.co.us)
  3. Tell at least three friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members, or strangers about what is going on and try to get them to come to a Board meeting (just one time is generally enough for people to see why WNW needs to be opposed).
  4. Put up a sign in car or window, letting people know that you oppose WNW.
  5. Keep Fighting!

Thursday Meeting Prep:

Note:  In an effort to make the posts shorter, we are going to edit down to key information only.  We will include a link to BoardDocs site as well as one to the agenda in a form suitable for printing.

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 (printable version here)

Subject: 1.02 Proposed Model on Compensation
Amy Weber, Chief Human Resources Officer, Lorie Gillis, Chief Financial Officer, Jim Branum, District Legal Counsel
PURPOSE:  To further discuss Board of Education requested information regarding funding of the teacher compensation proposal presented to the Board at its meeting on August 28, 2014.
BACKGROUND: On August 28, 2014, the Board of Education discussed a teacher compensation model changing the method by which teachers advance in salary, and including a component to raise starting teacher salaries.

As the same meeting, the Board adopted a resolution directing staff to provide information regarding funding this alternative teacher compensation proposal as presented and discussed by the Board.

The Board request staff information be presented in the September 4, 2014, work session, if available.

File Attachments: KW comp2014-15 diagram.pdf (28 KB);  KW comp2014 7 points.pdf (43 KB)

Our Comments: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”  This proposal is remarkably sophisticated for something Witt just ‘thought of’.  This makes us very wary.  Ignore the graph.  It is not based on any actual numbers and is simply a marketing gimmick to make you think something really good has been proposed.

There are at least three reasons we can think of that make this a very dangerous proposal:  

  1. It violates the spirit of the agreement between the District and JCEA back in 2012.  JCEA was promised a pay raise without any connection to any evaluations.  This proposal in effect breaks the written verbal contract between the District and the District’s teachers by retroactively tying any pay raise to the evaluations, which are flawed.  
  2. The idea of capping salaries to the ‘market rate’ is badly exposed to mischief and manipulation.  First, it does not define what the ‘market rate’ even means.  Is it the maximum amount that another district will pay?  If so, which district?  Is it the average amount several districts pay for similar experience?  If so, which districts?  There are not many in Colorado with which JeffCo can honestly be compared.  Cost of living alone makes this kind of comparison a faulty equivalence.  
  3. Finally, the whole idea of capping regular salary says to the top teachers, “you need to go elsewhere for adequate pay that will benefit you in retirement, because we will never pay you more than average.

For someone who boasts about running big businesses, Witt has forgotten a cardinal rule:  do not limit the compensation of those who make you successful.  This is a classic mistake IBM made one time.  It limited how much commission a sales person could get, regardless of the amount of sales they generated.  They hemorrhaged their best sales people as a result.

If Jeffco wants to attract and keep top teachers, then it must be willing to pay top salaries, not ‘market rate’.

In short, an analysis of this proposal reveals it to be one that attracts young, inexperienced teachers, and pushes hard for older, experienced ones to leave. That is a recipe for mediocrity.

1.03 Board Attorney Work
Brad A. Miller, board attorney; Dan M. McMinimee, superintendent
PURPOSE: For the Board of Education to discuss the scope of work for the board attorney and past eight months of work with the Board of Education.
BACKGROUND: The Board of Education hired Mr. Miller, of theLaw Office of Brad A. Miller, after a vote of the Board onDecember 12, 2013.  The Board has received counsel from Mr. Miller for the last eight months and in April a request was made to schedule time with the Board to review the scope of work with the board attorney.

Our Comments: So Dahlkemper and Fellman at last get their review of Miller and his responsibilities…eight months and $60,000 (minimum) later.

There two things about this that we do not like.  First, the issue is brought up in the Study/Dialogue section of the agenda.  That means no action should be taken, just ‘talk’.  Second, the presentation is being made by McMinimee & Miller.  On this point, why is McMinimee, who is not a member of the Board presenting on Miller’s work as the Board’s attorney? Miller does not work for McMinimee. McMinimee is not responsible for Miller’s conduct, scope of work, billing time, nor work product.  Strictly speaking, Miller should not say anything to McMinimee without a specific instruction from the Board in the form of a voted upon and recorded motion…which has not happened to our knowledge.  This does not even address the fact that McMinimee has only been working for the District for two months, so he is in no position to render even a casual opinion as to Miller’s work prior to July 2014.

This is another example of Witt & Miller trying to be clever instead of smart. They think they can slide all of this by us while minimizing Dahlkemper and Fellman’s opportunities to point out how outrageous the whole contract is.  We trust that Ms. Dahlkemper and Ms. Fellman will once again rise to the occasion and point out the foolishness of that hope.

4.02 Public Comment (Agenda Related)
Sign up online here to speak to the Board of Education.  (will be available 10 am Monday).

Our Comments:  For right now, Witt seems bent on limiting comment to one hour and only at regular meetings.  Let’s make it a good hour!  Sign up as soon as you can!  Agenda items you might want to speak on include:

  1. Witt’s compensation proposal and it’s unfairness due to:
    a) breaking the promise to give all teachers a raise
    b) capping the salary of experienced teachers to no more than ‘average’
    c) setting a comp system that will drive away experienced teachers and replace them with inexperienced ones.
  2. Miller’s Review
    a) Why does the Board need legal advice separate from the District?
    b) Why is his billing redacted to the point of being meaningless.
    c) Why did WNW know about this long before Dahlkemper and Fellman (the first of Witt’s ‘surprises’)?
    d) In May 2014, why did Miller threaten Fellman for not voting the way he wanted?
    e) How is what Miller does not able to be done by the District’s law firm?
  3. The two charter school applications
    a) Why were the actual application documents not included in the agenda attachments?
    b) Items about the applications you want the District staff to scrutinize very carefully.

…we could go on, but we are sure that many of you have your own list.

5. Consent Agenda
Our Comments:  
Normally we skip over the Consent Agenda as it generally contains just run-of-the-mill items that need Board approval and do not indicate any specific direction.  This time, however, we found at least two we felt you needed to know about.  

Charter School Application – Golden View Classical Academy (EL-13)
Recommended Action: to accept for study the charter school application for Golden View Classical Academy
File Attachments: CAES Charter App Study GVCA.pdf (340 KB)

Our comments: Golden View is an effort to place a “Classical Education” charter school in Jefferson County.  It is ‘partnered’ with “The Barney Charter School Initiative” which is a ‘project’ of Hillsdale College, of Hillsdale, Michigan.  Hillsdale college was described by the conservative National Review as a “…citadel of American conservatism.”  Hillsdale’s stated mission is to be “…a trustee of modern man’s intellectual and spiritual inheritance from the Judeo-Christian faith and Greco-Roman culture…”.  Their “Barney Charter School Initiative” is an outreach of the College with the goal:

“To advance the founding of classical charter schools, Hillsdale College works with school founding groups of parents and local citizens who care deeply about education, who plan to apply for a charter, and who are interested in an association with Hillsdale. As a relationship forms with a group, Hillsdale will assist in creating and implementing the school’s academic program.”

In short, this is an application from a group that is fronting for an extremely conservative college that has the goal of establishing a series of franchise-type charter schools pushing it’s own brand morality, economics, and social structure.  And they want to pay for it with JeffCo tax dollars.

At this point, we do not know where they plan to try to locate this charter school, nor how many parents have indicated interest (their Facebook has 459 likes, but it is unlikely that all of them would have children to go to the school).

Charter School Application – Alexandria School of Innovation (EL-13)
Recommended Action: to accept for study the charter school application for Alexandria School of Innovation
File Attachments: CAES Charter App Study ASI.pdf (339 KB)

Update:  We have since learned that STEM Ventures is in fact registered with the Secretary of State’s office as a for-profit Charter Management Organization (CMO).  It makes money by providing management for charter schools.  This then would make their efforts to spawn a new charter school in JeffCo just as much a ‘franchise expansion’ as the Golden View application is for Hillsdale.  We have modified our comments below appropriately.

Our comments: The Alexandria School of Innovation would be the creation of non-for-profit organization called STEM Ventures. Their website, while great looking, is strangely absent of hard facts.  There is no “About” hyperlink on the site.  After looking through almost every option, we finally found references to the founders under the “K-12 School” “Staff” tab. From this, it appears STEM Ventures is run by a man named Barry Brannenburg and his wife Judy.  

Of the other people mentioned: Cindy Williams currently is a consultant to mining companies and formerly was a VP with Newmont Mining.  She does not list STEM Ventures on her LinkedIn page. Maureen Moore Roth apparently works for Maptek full-time and part-time for STEM Ventures.  She also used to work for Newmont Mining. Diane Phillip is something of a mystery.  The only information we could find on her is on the STEM Ventures site. Carmel Connolly is apparently the organizations’ administrative assistant.

We found no actual teaching experience on any of the staff they listed. The Brannenburgs seem to have no history outside of STEM Ventures. There is no list of Board Members other than one reference to a Walter Berger.

According to an article in the Lakewood Sentinel, STEM Ventures originally applied for a charter for their Alexandria school in DougCo, but DougCo had ‘questions’ that would force them to re-apply next year, delaying the Alexandria project for a year.  The Brannenburg’s did not want to wait, and so they applied to JeffCo instead.

The funny thing is, we cannot find any reference in the DougCo Board minutes of their application or the ‘questions’ DougCo had.  It is very possible we are simply not familiar enough with the DougCo website to locate them.  If anyone can locate the original application and the minutes of the Board meeting where the application was turned back for additional information (STEM Ventures would have had 15 days in which to respond), please send us a link to them.

Another interesting thing is that STEM Ventures takes credit for creating the DougCo STEM Academy in the article, but not on their website.  From people we know in Douglas County, STEM Ventures was removed by DougCo as the administrator for the STEM Academy.  One parent told us that the school was highly disorganized, the teachers underqualified, and much that had been promised remained just promises.

In fact, the STEM Venture website lists no charter schools at all, much less ones that they have created and/or run.  As we stated above, they have no one on their staff list with actual educational background in any professional capacity.

Our reluctant conclusion is that at best STEM Ventures is a well-meaning two-person organization for-profit company that simply does not have the experience or expertise to actually start up and run a successful school.  They were rejected by DougCo (if they indeed submitted an application) and are now trying their luck here in JeffCo with our new “positive atmosphere for charters” or, perhaps, a greater gullibility than DougCo?

Final comments on the Charter applications:  In a sense, we are seeing the two extremes in the charter school movement applying at the same time.  In Golden View, we have a non-profit arm of a politically conservative college trying to extend their franchise reach into our District. In Alexandria, we have hapless amateurs would-be entrepreneurs thinking that earnestness a cool marketing plan is an adequate replacement for actual ability. The ‘choices’ these two bring to JeffCo are political indoctrination or mismanaged highly idealistic optimism business opportunism. How about a third option? Well managed public schools with integral STEM and GT programs that are not focused on extracting profits and leave the political education to the parents?

6.01 2015/2016 Budget Development Process
File Attachments: Presentation Budget Development Process 09 04 2014.pdf (671 KB)

Our Comments: You better stick around for this one. Slides 4 & 5 list “Student Based Budgeting” as something that is going to be explained to the Board. The slides doing the actual explanation are not included yet. But we have done some preliminary searches and found that this is a program/concept from a non-profit called Educational Resource Services (ERS). Here are two links on the subject: SBB Webinar, SBB-guide.pdf. One is a recorded webinar that explains their ideas, and the other is a pdf guide. Watch and read through them, then formulate your questions for Thursday night. The Board will have a study session on Student Based Budgeting on September 18th.

7.01 Colorado Association of School Boards Resolutions and Delegate Selection (GP-1)
Recommended Action: to appoint a member to represent Jeffco Schools Board of Education at the CASB Fall Conference and Delegate Assembly in September and the CASB Annual Conference in December.
File Attachments: 2014 CASB Resolutions.pdf (1,763 KB)

Our Comments: We expect either Newkirk or Witt to be named delegate. Williams has an outside chance, but very small. Witt feels he cannot trust her mouth out of his sight. There is only an infinitesimal chance of Dahlkemper or Fellman getting the position.

9.01 Public Comment (Not On Agenda)
Sign up online here to speak to the Board of Education.(will be available 10 am Monday).

Our Comments: Here is your chance to speak to the Board about anything not on the agenda.  There are plenty of topics.  How about allowing public comment at study sessions, as is indicated in the District policies?

10. Develop Next Agenda

Our Comments:  This one is always worth hanging around for.  It’s when WNW+M3 try to sneak in their next pet project without anyone noticing.

So be around to notice!

11. Adjournment

Sorry for the length, but things are heating up again!  So make your plans, sign up for comment, send emails, tell your friends, and…

Keep Fighting, JeffCo!


2 thoughts on “9/1: Monday Do List & Thursday Prep

  1. As far as I can tell Classical View Academy is being promoted by the same political activists who are behind WNW. Julie Williams “likes” their FaceBook page so she is hardly an objective observer. Should she recuse herself? I think we all know the answer to that question. Will she? We know that answer too.

    The Newmont Mining connection is curious because Witt was employed at Newmont according to his LinkedIn page.

    Hmmm.. There are a few inside connections associated with these two applications.

  2. I can’t get in to Board Meeting sign up. The link isn’t working today. How convenient for WNW + M3 that teachers can’t sign up.

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