9/20 Saturday Post – One Parents’ Response to McMinimee

MLK - Our lives begin to end

Thursday night, WNM+Williams completed another phase in their planned destruction of JeffCo’s teaching corps. The next day, both students and teachers apparently walked out at Standley Lake and Conifer High Schools.  We are still trying to find out exactly what happened, but the situation is confused.

(Any student or teacher from either school who knows what happened, please email us at JeffCoWatch@gmail.com.  All emails remain strictly confidential.)

One thing we do know, WNM+Williams and M2 (McMinimee & Morgan) seemed extremely well prepared, ranging from Julie Williams with a video camera apparently at the Standley Lake parking lot (the wrong parking lot, but that’s our Julie!), to McMinimee having scheduled a press conference, and then posting the following message on JeffCo’s “Chalk Talk” page:

As you may know, two Jeffco schools were closed today, Friday, September 19 because a large number of our teachers were absent. Both Standley Lake and Conifer high schools experienced a significant number of absences on the teaching staff. We felt there wouldn’t be enough adults in the building to ensure an adequate educational environment for students so we made the decision to cancel classes.

I’m not going to speculate on why teachers were absent. I do know that the majority of our educators were in our schools working with students providing the high-quality education that is the Jeffco standard of excellence. We believe passionately in supporting our great teachers and working to ensure we are able to recruit and retain the best for our students.

I can say with pride that last spring the Board of Education approved a compensation package for our employees of $18.2 million; it’s the first increase in compensation our employees have seen in four years. Additionally, last night, the board approved a plan that raised the starting pay for new teachers from $33,000 to $38,000 and set a maximum pay of $81,030. Effective teachers who are at the top of the pay scale (above $81,030) will receive a stipend to reward their efforts as great teachers.

Under this compensation model approved by the Board of Education, 98 percent of our teachers will receive a pay increase. Under the previous model, approximately 400 teachers would not have received any compensation increases. We want to attract and keep the very best teachers for your children and we feel this compensation plan will help support us in reaching this goal.

Additionally, we know that many students and staff members are concerned with the current Board of Education discussion related to the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum. At this time there has been no decision about any changes to the course offering. The board will be putting the topic on their agenda for future meetings.

It’s my hope that there won’t be any further disruptions to our schools because of teacher absences. Losing a day of learning isn’t good for our students or our staff. I think most of us can agree that whatever issues may divide adults, our students shouldn’t be the ones impacted. Our focus remains on student growth and achievement. We will continue to notify parents as soon as possible if we are forced to close schools.

We know that our teachers care deeply about their students and chose their profession because they love teaching. Our compensation plan will now reward the vast majority of our teachers for the fine work happening in our classrooms.

Dan McMinimee's Signature

Gently put, there are more ‘inaccuracies’ and ‘mis-statements’ in this message than you can shake a stick at.  As we prepared to put together our Saturday Post, we were frankly puzzled where to begin.

Then Wendy McCord, a JeffCo parent, solved that problem for us.  Here is the letter she posted in response:

Dear Dan & members of the Board of Education:

I wholeheartedly support any show of solidarity that the teachers & Jeffco staff can muster in these terrible times. And I, for one, hope we see many more disruptions to business as usual, as it has come to be here in Jeffco since last November.

When I read about Julie Williams’ “Curriculum Review” committee, I was quite certain I had traveled on a time machine dozens of years in the past, and probably to the deep south. While I couldn’t be at last night’s meeting in person due to a school activity, I watched as much of it as I could via stream. And though most of the discussion surrounding the “Committee” wasn’t captured via stream, I listened to the audio recording as soon as it was up this morning. I find this communication to Jeffco parents (and staff?) to be misleading, much like Williams, Newkirk and Witt would like for APUSH to be. I believe that you know full well why so many teachers called in sick – and it wasn’t the new respiratory virus. 

You speak “with pride” about the compensation model. However, that compensation model flies in the face of the CONTRACT between the District and JCEA. It isn’t what the teachers voted to approve. It also completely disregards findings by the independent fact finder related to the unreliable nature of the evaluation system, and how that system should NOT be used as the basis for determining which teachers are sufficiently effective to warrant a pay raise.  After four years with no raise, and two of those with pay cuts, I’d say any teacher who has been here during that time deserves an increase unless they were scored completely ineffective. 

Dan, you point blank told our board at last night’s meeting that the stipend program would in fact send veteran teachers fleeing this District. Ms. Weber shared with the Board, whose majority members seemed unconcerned, that a stipend had significant financial consequences as compared to a salary increase. Why didn’t you share these important pieces of information with the public in your message below. These are essential pieces of the puzzle for the parents of Jeffco students to understand the direction this Board majority is taking. A teeny stipend, a once a year bonus, taxable at a higher rate, etc. is NOT a reward for great teachers. It’s incentive to get the heck out of Jeffco. So much for appreciating the teachers who make the most difference for our students and younger teachers. How is that holding the teachers harmless for the new, unreliable evaluation system that was implemented this year.

No one with whom I have spoken objects to tying pay raises to performance in theory. But the underlying assessment tool must be predictable across school buildings. There must be better training on how to use the tool so that a “highly effective” teacher at Lakewood H.S. looks the same as a “highly effective” teacher at another high school or a middle school, or an elementary school. And most of all, everyone needs adequate notice to prepare properly for such a significant change in process. 

From day one, this Board majority has made one hasty, ill-thought-out (if at all) decision after another. Hiring a month-to-month personal attorney for three members of the board, then refusing to discuss it further despite promises to the contrary; forcing out a stellar superintendent with education and experience that helped make Jeffco a fantastic school district months before her contract ended (to the detriment of the district); refusing to bargain in good faith with the teachers’ association/union; loaning money to financially-imperiled charter schools without even reading the materials submitted to the board related to such loans; refusing to provide full-day kindergarten to our children most in need, while spending MILLIONS on charter schools that are able to obtain private funding from business sponsors, etc. 

The majority of this Board of Education has completely failed in its fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of Jefferson county students. You get an “F.” You don’t do your homework, rather regurgitating skewed facts and dissembling to the public to mislead people into believing that you even care about our children. You have shown nothing but disrespect for our amazing teachers, who are the ones in the trenches with our children every day – you say you respect them, but your actions decry your words as foul. 

And you, Dan, are going along with them. Complicit in their ill-conceived plans. Be the leader the children of Jeffco need you to be, and start by telling the parents of Jeffco the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This Board of Ed has a lot of warts, and the public needs to see them to be able to think critically and analyze for themselves what is truly in the best interest of our children. I suspect that the reason so many people are so concerned about the “Curriculum Committee” is that our children will learn about US History what you are sharing with the parents about the Board of Education in this email. Half-truths, partial information and lies of omission. 

To Lesley and Jill, I will say once again, as I have said before – thank you, for putting up with the shenanigans of the board majority, who purport to want to improve public education, but who are clearly hell-bent on dismantling it, piece by piece. And they’ve struck at the heart of public education – our amazing teachers. We all appreciate your tireless efforts to improve public education, not destroy it. Your hard work is greatly appreciated.

In conclusion, I want to let you know that I would gladly have my children miss one or ten days of school to ensure that the rest of their public education isn’t destroyed by the cancer that has been brought into our district. I stand up for our kids. I stand up for our teachers. I will not stand up for the dirty business that has seeped its way into our Board of Education. This is the future of our children & our country, not a political platform. 

Sincerely,

Wendy R. McCord, Esq.

The only thing left for us to say is…

Let’s Fight Even Harder, JeffCo!

 


 

13 thoughts on “9/20 Saturday Post – One Parents’ Response to McMinimee

  1. I agree with Wendy except for the comments about Charter schools which are finally getting some of the funding they have been surviving for YEARS without.
    I do believe ANY financial package needs to be thoroughly considered before approval… That being said… do consider this please.

    FYI about those charter schools… The charter schools are taking quite a lot of the heat off of the public schools as far as ADHD, and kids that normally are more targeted for bullying. This is taking a TON of pressure off the special needs staff and # of disciplinary issues at the public schools. Charter schools are usually smaller and naturally handle some of these issues better by just being smaller. Charter schools are serving a HUGE benefit to students that were being Chewed up and spit out in these large magnet facilities. Charter schools are also keeping the pressure on these school boards by doing more for students with less and raising educational standards that the board destroys in the public schools. Right now more than EVER… you need that comparison to prove these changes are wrong for our district. Charter schools will help prove that point and save a LOT of kids already lost in these huge school environments. The percentages of ADHD and “different” kids at our charter school are FAR above the regular public schools percentages. They find a much more safe and tolerant learning environment in a school of hundreds than they ever could in a school of Thousands. I was even told once in public elementary… that the School could not control what bullying happened on the bus ride into the school. That the small bus environment was out of their control. The Charter schools don’t have a bus and are GREATLY serving as a pressure valve, and as a measuring stick for curriculum changes that occur in public schools. In a well functioning educational system… Charter schools would not exist… Jeffco is the epitome of a system that desperately cried, “Fix Me!” all across the country. Teachers and students took off to have important needs met. Teachers took less pay for more work and a dream of some job satisfaction; students took less curriculum opportunities for all sorts of advantages offered. Charter schools typically pay more for lunches, have no busing, no Music or sports teams, we have to earn $ for an art and foreign language teacher. None of this would make sense if the public schools were doing well and serving the good of most. Don’t hate on the Charter schools… place the need/existance of them on the failure of the Jeffco Board for terrible decisions for teachers and students… FOR A LONG TIME NOW. Jeffco is TOO big. That’s how a lot of this inefficiency, lack of knowledge of what the special/unique needs of different areas are, it’s how kids, teachers, schools fall through the cracks. When any town in the USA reaches 250,000 people… violent crime dramatically escalates because of a lack of connectedness in that community… What is that magic # for schools and school systems? When you walk down the hall and can not call students by name or know who belongs there by sight… that’s surely a sign you have exceeded a manageable size. Does that # change between elementary and other age groupings? Charter schools are a direct result of the public schools failing so many teachers and students that they all left the already established system and worked harder to create a new system in hopes of finding success that could not be achieved in the “regular” system. The fact that Sylvan Learning centers exist, Kumon systems exist, Khan Academy… ALL SCREAM That The Needs Are NOT being met on a GRAND scale in classrooms all over this country. This current system is busted…Nation wide… It’s as broken as Congress, banking, wall street, and any huge monopoly is… I do not know how the teachers can stand it everyday… I do not know how the parents can stand seeing the developmental years and opportunities of their children wasted. In all fairness though… every system in our country has lost the ability to apply effective checks and balances.
    Break Jeffco up… get down to sizes that allow a real “feel” for the needs and awareness of results. Get some REAL educators to rehab it and have some financial advisors review/guide the costs. Get rid of tenure… it corrupts everything… An effective “grading” of the performance, rather than exhaustive standardized testing, could be: If most 7th graders can’t hack it in the Middle school… The elementary principle and 6th grade teachers are fired. If the majority of the kids moving into each grade are not prepared for their curriculum… the previous year’s teacher is fired… Each upper level teacher approves of the principle’s appointment of the teacher just below them and communicates what the students need to know to be successful in the next grade. All of the teachers need to approve the kindergarten teacher’s performance as that is the year everyone begins: the student’s love of learning, interaction/expectation with parents, and children’s social interactions/expectations in class as well as the playground are set forth for the entire school. People do need to be held accountable in ALL walks of life… But I believe it starts in school and therefore teachers need to be revered for their success but also accountable when they aren’t. Accountability is one of the things we need to be teaching by example. parents need to be accountable as well… but that IS a pipe dream. Our entire country is in SEVERE need of accountability. We have Lost our way as a society… everyone knows who the great teachers are… all kids know who is best at math, drawing, most popular, fastest on the playground… giving everyone a ribbon of participation, or a “smileyface” sticker instead of a grade is a HUGE part of this problem of accountability. It is ridiculous that after all this time we are getting worse at teaching instead of better. Teachers haven’t changed… kids haven’t changed… this system is failing them all and refusing to be accountable for it. All I can say is Thank God for Google and Youtube…If you really want to know something… you CAN still find it there. And if someone is terrible at something… you can find that video as well. Jeffco has been a meatgrinder for teachers, parents, and most importantly students… and THIS board of directors is going to make it even worse. Get them out. Go beg some old teachers to run things and straighten out this nightmare. Go Get the teachers that most everyone remembers fondly… the ones that kids hugged at the end of the year, the ones that made you cry when they retired, the ones who inspired generations… the ones who taught fair play… The ones with a lifetime of PROOF that they made a difference in our hearts and minds. These people we have running things now… are proven failures who make real educators burn out. Our educational system is so far behind other countries… when will we finally stop the ineptitude of the administrative body? Turn off the TV, the video games… and connect.

  2. Kaylyn,
    I agree with you on many points. I have had the opportunity to substitute teach at a few charter schools. I was both pleased and impressed with many of the structures and lessons that were being taught. One very noticeable difference between the charter environment and the neighborhood school is class size. The average class size was generally less than 20 students in the charter school. I also had a teaching assistant in one class who made it possible for students who needed differentiated instruction to get a little more help. If neighborhood schools were able to have these kinds of numbers and support, there could be some amazing results. The basic problem comes down to money. Not specifically in the sense of salary, but more so in the sense of funding. A licensed teacher and an unlicensed teaching assistant could account for nearly $80,000 by the time you consider salary, benefits, workmen’s compensation, retirement, etc… This figure is likely a conservative number as well. Neighborhood schools must accept all comers. The students who are “homeless” are often worried about where they will be staying next week and don’t really care too much about their math and reading homework. The students who are “transient” are afraid to make too many friends because they know that dad will lose his job in 6 months and they will be moving to another school and all this stuff won’t matter that much. Neighborhood schools see kids whose parents dropped out of school at 16 and don’t know what a noun, a verb, or an adjective really are so they can’t help them understand the writing lesson. Then there are the kids whose mom is a recovering meth- addict and the oldest child has to care for the first grader and they third grader in addition to getting their own homework done. You mention that kids today have not changed. I think their needs haven’t changed, but I do believe that many experience things everyday that might make the average person cry. I had a student come to me recently and tell me that, “Mom has a new boyfriend and the old boyfriend is jealous so he comes over and yells at her every night and calls her the worst names.”

    I truly appreciate that charter schools have and continue to do great work with ADHD students and provide alternatives that may be unavailable in a neighborhood school classroom. The more ways to deliver instruction makes for a greater opportunity for reception.

    As for the evaluation system… I believe it should be neutral and unbiased. It should not be based on an observation conducted on one, single day for one single subject. Kids have bad days and good days. I don’t want my whole rating to tied to a 45 minute moment in time. I also want the opportunity to learn how to do something better the next time. Everyone in every job has the opportunity to develop and improve their craft. No teaching year is exactly the same as the last. One year may have a greater number of engaged parents, while the next may not. I don’t want one difficult year to label any teacher as “bad.” That teacher may be dealing with a personal matter, the death of a spouse, a recent cancer diagnosis, a parent with dementia, a child of their own with a mental illness… This doesn’t make them any less talented in the classroom, it just makes them human.

    I want to end with this idea… I think that most all teachers have the best intentions. They don’t choose the profession as a means to live in the upper reaches of the economic hierarchy, but I think all teachers deserve to be listened to, their fundamental needs met through adequate resources and support, and to not be stalked and hunted by those who would seek to “catch them in the act” of some perceived violation.

  3. In opposition to the unreliable evaluative process and the new salary plan, could a teacher deny receiving a stipend, bonus or salary increase?

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